McKinsey Office: Chicago
Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria
MBA Program, Concentration: University of Chicago, Business Administration
Undergraduate School, Major: Illinois Institute of Technology, Chemical Engineering
Focus of Current Engagement: Automated Guided Vehicles
Why did you choose McKinsey? Choosing McKinsey was not hard. It’s a place where I could quickly learn to build a very useful set of business skills, both broad and deep, which would position me to succeed in any career I ultimately choose. Second, its global brand would allow me to work on impactful projects across the globe. Lastly, and I think most importantly, the reason I chose and continue to choose McKinsey is its people. I was fortunate to meet brilliant and exciting people during the recruiting process. I connected with them and realized that I found a semblance of a tribe. If I was going to work on challenging projects, sometimes with pressing deadlines, I wanted to do it with people I like.
What did you love about the business school you attended? Going to Booth was a very rewarding experience for me. I valued Nobel Laureate professors and the rigorous analytical approach to business problems, but the people I met made this experience complete. It’s cliché to say, “It was the friends we made along the way”, but I really enjoyed being around people who were smart and thoughtful. They had the intellectual horsepower to understand international finance and complex derivatives, and the humility to admit their ignorance in certain areas.
It was an honor to be around these folks I’m lucky to call my colleagues. There is a sense you get walking around Harper center that some of these people are going to change the world for the better and it’s surreal to know that you were there at the beginning.
What lesson or skill did you learn from training (formal or informal) at McKinsey and how has it helped in your role? There are two main things I learned at the firm. The first is asking “so-what?” It’s great to have a good slide and a beautiful model laid out in an Excel spreadsheet, but everything ultimately needs to justify its existence. What does this mean for the client? What does this mean for the problem we are trying to solve? How does this get us closer to the solution?”
The second is an amalgamation of the first. All the “so-what’s” must be orchestrated into a compelling narrative. It means gathering facts, extracting the “so-whats” and then communicating a unified grand vision of how our clients can perform better and further galvanizing them into action. McKinsey taught me that while good leaders are story tellers, they have the facts with them, just in case. I’m going to borrow and then bastardize Roosevelt’s quote “Speak softly but carry a big stick”. At McKinsey, I have learned that business runs on narrative, but narrative without facts is dead. We build the story bottom up, and communicate it top down, and I’ve found that to be very powerful.
Tell us about an “only at McKinsey” moment you’ve had so far. I had just joined an engagement and was just getting up to speed with the materials and in one of our problem-solving sessions, the partner offered their thoughts on a problem and then asked me “Tell me why I’m wrong”.
There is a culture of obligatory dissent at the firm. It challenges everyone to challenge everything. It forces us to have a perspective rather than just going along with what someone said, simply because they have more tenure than you. I am grateful for it.
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 reminded me how fragile life can be. And it impressed upon me the urgency of connecting with people on a level that’s more than transactional. Being behind a laptop screen has made it more important to find creative ways to connect. The teams I have been a part of have ensured we all found ways to get to know and meet the person behind the employee number. That may mean connecting in person (where safe and possible) and going to a standup comedy show or an improv show or organizing happy hours on Zoom where we talk about anything but work. I’ve learned about different colleagues this way – I have learned about different cultures, learned about family traditions, learned that one of my colleagues is a bodybuilder and classically trained pianist and one is a children’s book published author. It’s easy for all these to get lost but it’s what makes showing up to work enjoyable.
What advice would you give someone interviewing at McKinsey? It’s worthwhile to remember that doing well in the casing interview is a skill and not a talent. It’s all very learnable and it’s okay too to be anxious at first. I certainly was.
More tactical advice is to understand the components of the casing process and to ensure you are mastering each component. Track your progress on each of these components and know where to focus. Practice with people who have done this before, so you learn good habits.
Do not forget the PEIs. Think about the stories where you demonstrated entrepreneurial drive, leadership, and personal impact. Interrogate those stories. Make sure they are genuine, and you understand the actions you took, how you felt during, and the results that followed. It’s important you understand it because you will be asked probing questions.
It’s important that the interview process is challenging, not just from its content but also by mere logistics. There are a lot of competent individuals, including yourself, vying for limited spots. Remember that interview processes don’t need to be perfect. If you do not get into McKinsey, please do not take this as a referendum on your competence or self-worth. There will be other opportunities for you to make an impact wherever you end up.
Who has had the biggest impact on you at McKinsey and how has she/he helped you? I’ve been lucky to have leaders who have made a big impact. My second engagement manager, Udit Anand, was very helpful to me. As a new hire, I had an interminable list of questions and made some mistakes along the way. He handled it with grace and patience. He helped me see beyond the neophyte I was (and still am), to the professional I could be. I’m still on the journey of developing the complete toolkit, but he has helped set me up for success by giving me tips on how to solve some of these problems and how to ask the right questions of myself – the most important one being “Is this the best I can do with what I have?”. It’s important to ask yourself that before you send an email, or page or analysis and that has elevated the quality of my output.
My most meaningful achievement (professional or personal) and how it made a difference is…surrounding myself with a robust and resilient support system that saw me through Business School, the recruiting process and my first few months at a rewarding, yet demanding job, such as McKinsey.
A fun fact about me is…I love watching TV shows and I plan to write one in the future. For now, I’ll continue with my unpublished blogposts!
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