Meet McKinsey’s MBA Class of 2021: Deb Xavier-Grondin

Deb Xavier-Grondin

McKinsey Office: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Hometown: Porto Alegre, Brazil

MBA Program, Concentration: Ross School of Business, Technology and Operations

Undergraduate School, Major: UFRGS, International Relations

Focus of Current Engagement: Transformation project in Uruguay

Why did you choose McKinsey? I was drawn to consulting even before I decided to do an MBA and I even mentioned my “McKinsey plan” in my application essays. I’m passionate about the diversity of projects, the ability to create meaningful impact, and the project-based work model. McKinsey is one of the biggest and most relevant consulting companies, so I knew I would be challenged, surrounded by smart colleagues, and learn something new every day. Since I started at the firm, I confirmed my assumptions that this is the right place for me.

What did you love about the business school you attended? Ross School of Business was the perfect match for me. My classmates were humble and united, and I learned a lot from them. I also love the action-based learning because that’s what works best for me. During the MBA, I provided consulting for Amazon (MAP) and Hyper Island (Design+ Business Club), and both experiences taught me a lot about communications, project structure, teamwork. I had the time of my life during my MBA (even with the pandemic!) and I could develop a considerable skillset and become a more rounded professional. Getting the job I wanted and making friend for life were great bonuses!

What lesson or skill did you learn from training (formal or informal) at McKinsey and how has it helped in your role? I would say communications as a whole. Before McKinsey, I considered myself a good communicator, but the firm gave me fundaments (i.e., structure, process, and broadening my perspective on how to be on point and driving the right decisions and results with my slides, emails, and conversations.

Tell us about an “only at McKinsey” moment you’ve had so far. There are two that come to mind. One of them was our end-year celebration in Brazil, when we had a private concert from a classic Brazilian rock band (Paralamas do Sucesso). I enjoyed the fun night with the co-workers I had previously only met online. The other moment was when I led a mentoring program for women-founded startups (a big thanks to Rogério Campos and Paula Castilho for the opportunity). It’s amazing to be connected to the entrepreneurial ecosystem and to provide mentorship to startup founders. We had many consultants who wanted to volunteer, which shows our commitment to impact and diversity.

Tell us something you’ve learned about yourself or something that brought you closer to teammates or clients during the COVID-19 pandemic? The pandemic taught me how much I need structure to work better and deliver more. In my early professional years, I was a single mother, and my schedule was disorganized since I was trying to handle college, work, and raising my daughter. Because I managed to handle that much, I believed I thrived under those conditions. In reality, I had no alternative. The pandemic happened on a turning point in my life. I was transitioning from an MBA student to a management consultant and starting a demanding career in a virtual environment made me look for hacks and productivity tips. After much trial-and-error, I understood how I work better and, to my surprise, structure and organization didn’t limit my creative thinking as I thought it would.

What advice would you give someone interviewing at McKinsey? Face the process as a learning opportunity. Preparing for the interviews was a chance to learn about structuring problems, to be hypothesis-driven, to develop clear and top-down communication, and so on. Appreciating the process by what it can provide can reduce the stress. No matter the result, if you apply yourself, you can learn a lot from the process and that, by itself, is valuable.

Who has had the biggest impact on you at McKinsey and how has she/he helped you? Mariana Copparoni. She was an engagement director on my first project, naturally became a mentor, and currently we’re working on the same project. Mari is always there to provide actionable feedback; she is a sounding board for my ideas, and helps me see the problems and challenges in a different light. As a senior leader, she identifies my weaknesses and strengths strategically guiding my professional development. Besides the mentoring, I admire the way she balances outstanding leadership skills with being impact driven.

My most meaningful achievement (professional or personal) and how it made a difference is…I like to think about processes because single achievements are normally result of consistent work and don’t happen overnight (at least not for me). However, I’ll use an example I used on my McKinsey interview, when they asked me about a challenge I had overcome. Even though I had not prepared to use this topic on my interviews, I mentioned about how I was able to achieve relative success professionally despite becoming pregnant at the age of 15. Not only I was accepted to a top MBA program, but I also got an offer from McKinsey. Before the MBA I had my own company and worked with Google, Facebook, Dell, and others before selling the brand. My daughter is an amazing young woman who speaks four languages, scored top 1% on her SAT, and got a full ride scholarship to Smith College. This didn’t happen overnight, it happened in the past 10-15 years, and it started with a supportive family that encouraged me to continue studying. To summarize, my biggest achievement was to beat the odds for pregnant teenagers.

A fun fact about me is…I once helped an emergency landing in South Africa. A passenger became sick, and the flight attendants were asking for help, but they didn’t speak Portuguese. Since it was a flight from Brazil to South Africa, most passengers were Brazilians, so they asked for someone who could help with the translation, and I volunteered. I worried about wrongfully “translating” the ounces to milliliters and making everything worse. In the end things were fine. The passenger got help he needed, and I made my dreams come true by using the airplane communication system to broadcast the translated messages.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.