Meet McKinsey’s MBA Class of 2021: Alicia Ibaibarriaga

Alicia Ibaibarriaga           

McKinsey Office: Madrid

Hometown: San Sebastian, Spain

MBA Program, Concentration: INSEAD MBA, 20D

Undergraduate School, Major: University of Navarra, Industrial Management Engineering

Why did you choose McKinsey? Firstly, it is difficult to find a place that offers such attractive growth opportunities. This includes helping top-companies solve complex challenges and being exposed to the C-level since the first days at the firm. I was also drawn to the firm by McKinsey people I met in the MBA and during the interviews, and the power of the strong network the company has around the world.

What did you love about the business school you attended? The possibility of attending Singapore and France campus is amazing and was one of the reasons why I chose INSEAD. In just one year, I lived two completely different experiences and each of them was enriching in its own way. From traveling around Asia to living in a 16-people house and practicing bouldering in Fontainebleau Forest, I got to know my classmates deeply.

What lesson or skill did you learn from training (formal or informal) at McKinsey and how has it helped in your role? From the onboarding training in McKinsey, two things stuck to me, and I still use them in my day-to-day: the structured way to do team problem solving sessions and how to give constructive feedback. The last one is extremely useful and a key component to grow and help people grow too.

Tell us about an “only at McKinsey” moment you’ve had so far. I was working on a project and we needed to provide innovative ways to improve operations of an online grocery. The team did not have the expertise on the topic but, within a couple of hours, we scheduled calls with experts around the world who provided us with specific examples of state-of-the-art technology and best practices. This, combined with tools and resources available at the firm, led us to a valuable outcome in a just a couple of days. I had worked in consulting before but the network and resources available at McKinsey are unparalleled.

Tell us something you’ve learned about yourself or something that brought you closer to teammates or clients during the COVID-19 pandemic? I was in Singapore when the COVID started, but had to flight back to Europe at the end May together with other 25 people. What brought me closer to my teammates is what we called “Project Lemonade”. Our classes were held online, and we were afraid to go home and put our families at risk. We decided to rent a few villas in the middle of France and isolate there together. We lived there for two months, filling days with classes that we attended together, sports, food competitions and events. All of it made us become a family. And we made the most out of a tough situation.

What advice would you give someone interviewing at McKinsey? Do not underestimate the importance of your personality. Take it as an opportunity to show who you are (be yourself) and make a difference. Also, think about why McKinsey fits in what you are looking for and prepare the questions to validate that it is the right choice for you.

Who has had the biggest impact on you at McKinsey and how has she/he helped you? It would be Alberto Sanchez, who is an associate partner in Madrid. We met each other years before while working in another consulting firm and he has become a mentor to me since then. He advised me when I was preparing for the interviews with McKinsey, and he has always given me the best advice on both personal and professional development. What inspires me about Alberto is the way he relativizes problems and always takes a pragmatic approach. In addition, no matter how busy he is, he always finds time to give you quality time to listen to you (no matter if it is an after-work beer or a quick call during the day).

My most meaningful achievement (professional or personal) and how it made a difference is…My summer volunteering program in Gambia. It had an educational focus, but I ended up being involved with the whole community, helping to distribute food and other resources to the different families and managing the pharmacy inventory. I became specially attached to one family, helping the oldest kid pass the exam to enter the best school in the town and sponsoring the youngest girl to go to school until she is 18 (she was 4 at the time).

A fun fact about me is…My dream job has always been a basketball coach. I played for ten years and worked as a coach for more than six before finishing university. It is surprising how much of the learnings you get from leading different teams or the communicating skills you developed, can be used in a consulting job!


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