Meet McKinsey’s MBA Class of 2021: Sofía Araya

Sofía Araya

McKinsey Office: Santiago, Chile

Hometown: Santiago, Chile

MBA Program, Concentration: Chicago Booth

Undergraduate School, Major: Universidad Catolica de Chile (PUC), BBA

Why did you choose McKinsey? It was because of McKinsey people I met at business school booths. When I decided to apply to consulting, they were very supportive during the whole recruiting process and showed me in person how the McKinsey culture works. Additionally, McKinsey has the biggest presence in the region with more than eight offices through Spanish Latin America, allowing me to work in different types of projects and geographies.

What did you love about the business school you attended? It was the flexibility to take the path I wanted to pursue. Booth has a flexible curriculum, which allowed me to take more advanced classes in subjects I was interested in, like entrepreneurship, VC, and machine learning. Having a background in business this was very helpful and allowed me to develop my interests furthers. Also, no less important, the city of Chicago is amazing!

What lesson or skill did you learn from training (formal or informal) at McKinsey and how has it helped in your role? While at McKinsey, I have learned to structure problems and it’s very helpful whenever I confront a new project. When you start a new engagement, you don’t always know the industry or topic, so knowing fundaments of how to approach and structure the issue is key to deliver a good solution. I also love that this way of thinking is not only useful at work, but at personal life too!

Tell us about an “only at McKinsey” moment you’ve had so far. It was the Values Day we had last December. We went to help an educational nonprofit here in Santiago, where I had the chance to talk in front a class about purpose and the importance of setting goals. It reminded me of the time when I was a teacher. It was an enriching experience and that connected my work at McKinsey with social purpose and with my colleagues.

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 learned that you can still have meaningful connections even if you don´t see each other physically. During my first project in Ecuador I met the client exclusively online because of the Chilean travel restrictions. I was helping them implement agile methodology; we had daily meetings and talked frequently. At the end of the project, they were very grateful for my help and told me how impactful my work had been. I felt appreciated and realized that, although it’s harder, it is still possible to make an impact in a virtual setting.

What advice would you give someone interviewing at McKinsey? Try not to be too nervous, as I believe the biggest advantage is to be yourself. Practice cases so you can feel comfortable in the setting and try to relax so the interviewer can see who you really are. When we feel more relaxed, we tend to have better ideas and I believe that´s key when solving complex cases.

Who has had the biggest impact on you at McKinsey and how has she/he helped you?  When I did my summer internship, I was assigned a “buddy”, a person who would help me navigate the firm during my summer. I was assigned Flor Moreno, who is one of the female associate partners in the Santiago office. She is also part of the Digital practice. She helped me feel welcomed and more comfortable in the firm, even though all my internship experience was online. Now that I’m working full-time, I still talk to her. Even though we haven’t had the chance to work together, she has been supportive and helpful in my growth in the firm.

My most meaningful achievement (professional or personal) and how it made a difference is… I think my most meaningful achievement has been deciding to become a teacher for two years. I had this urge to do something with social impact and I changed the trajectory of my career (I was working in consulting at the time) to pursue my motivation. Those two years as a teacher made a difference in me not only in a personal way but also professionally. After spending two years in front of a classroom, I can empathize better with clients and people very different form me and can communicate my ideas better and adapt rapidly to changing situations.

A fun fact about me is… I have a sister (not twins) who is very similar to me, and we use the same gestures, so everyone confuses us. On one of my birthday parties, some friends even congratulated my sister instead of me.


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