Meet McKinsey’s MBA Class of 2021: Maria Castex

Maria Castex

McKinsey Office: Denver, CO

Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina / Miami, FL

MBA Program, Concentration: Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University

Undergraduate School, Major: Barnard College, Art History

Focus of Current Engagement: Public sector transformation with a focus in behavioral health

Why did you choose McKinsey? I chose McKinsey because I wanted to do challenging and impactful work. Through the recruiting process, I spoke to folks from lots of different firm. I felt that at McKinsey I’d be surrounded by extremely bright and passionate people who were equally motivated by the desire to solve problems and create positive change. I also knew that, outside of client work, McKinsey would help me to grow as a professional – there is such intentional focus placed on development, apprenticeship, and training.

What did you love about the business school you attended? I think what I most appreciated about business school is the sense of community. Johnson is a small program, which I felt created an environment of distinct camaraderie – even through the recruiting process, I felt supported and reassured by my peers. I also fell in love with Ithaca! It’s small and the weather isn’t great for a large portion of the year, but it’s a beautiful landscape and community – it was a wonderful place to live for two years!

What lesson or skill did you learn from training (formal or informal) at McKinsey and how has it helped in your role? I think the most important skill I have taken away from training has been synthesis. It sounds simple enough but is very difficult to do well and it permeates most of the things we do for clients.

Tell us something you’ve learned about yourself or something that brought you closer to teammates or clients during the COVID-19 pandemic? I’ve been lucky that, since I started full-time in July, I’ve been able to co-locate with my teams quite frequently. That’s made a huge difference! One big takeaway from my summer internship, however, is that making a commitment to connecting and spending time together can make a big difference. Our summer class didn’t get a chance to do that in person. When I came back to Denver, I realized that all those Friday virtual happy hours over the summer really helped us develop a strong bond – most of those folks have become my closest friends.

What advice would you give someone interviewing at McKinsey? Whenever I talk to prospective candidates, I give the same three pieces of advice:

1. Focus On Your Strengths: You should have as comprehensive an approach to prep as possible, but I found the most value in deliberately working to enhance my strengths than trying to improve my weaknesses. There’s a lot of research out there on the merits of a strengths-based approach. For me, it was quite simple – I knew I could really impress folks in certain parts of the interview, and I simply didn’t have enough time (or energy) to become good at the things I struggled with the most.

2. Don’t Neglect The PEI: Take inventory of your personal and professional experiences and identify a handful of stories that are important and exciting to you. Practice telling your stories with both people familiar with the McKinsey interview process and people who are not (I found the latter usually provided better feedback!)

3. Be Yourself: As I was preparing for interviews during my first year of business school, I struggled a lot with confidence. I realized this was because I was constantly comparing myself to my peers and putting a lot of pressure on myself to be something I simply wasn’t. Before I walked into my final rounds, I decided that I was going to let go of the weight of the pressure of competing against others; I focused on being the best version of myself and highlighting the things I thought made me special, even if I’d been told by others that those qualities weren’t good enough to make it in consulting.

Who has had the biggest impact on you at McKinsey and how has she/he helped you? I’ve been incredibly lucky to have met and worked with a few colleagues who have had a big impact – people who have opened doors for me, or listened when I was struggling with something, or gave me feedback when I needed to hear it. If I had to choose one person that stands out is my buddy! When I re-joined the Denver office last summer, I was assigned a buddy – another associate who is about a year ahead in tenure. That person has had a huge impact on my experience so far; they’ve become someone I can trust and turn to for advice on several things, including staffing, developing my toolkit, and getting more involved at the office. It’s been incredibly helpful to have someone I can be honest with about my concerns and bounce ideas with, and they’ve really become a key source of support for me.

My most meaningful achievement (professional or personal) and how it made a difference is…I helped launch a women’s network at my previous employer. There was a real need for change, and we were able to do a little bit of that. What made me feel most proud was hearing from other employees who felt excited about having a space to share experiences and raise issues for the first time. We put on a lot of great programming and got folks (regardless of gender-identity) engaged in productive dialogue and by the time I left we were standing up other ERGs.

A fun fact about me is… As a junior in college, I interned at MoMA for a semester – walking into that building for work each day was unreal!


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