Meet McKinsey’s MBA Class Of 2021

McKinsey does not operate out of a headquarters. Instead, it boasts offices in 133 cities in 67 countries,


Indeed, McKinsey has carefully fastened together a safety net to help new consultants easily transition to the role. “When you come in, there is a whole network of experts you can go to and a whole database of work we have done,” Kristin Altenburg explains. “This is knowledge that we have built as well as human experts that you can ring up any day on a study when you need someone to weigh in. That expert network is global and it’s huge. A lot of people who have come in say, ‘Wow! This has really helped us be able to do our jobs.’”

And there is more support than that. McKinsey maintains a visual graphics team to spiff up presentations and a data analytics team that frees up time for consultants to do  deeper analysis. And McKinsey has even added client training to its mix, adds Altenburg.

“We not only bring the strategic knowledge to our clients, but also bring a ton of capabilities and solutions like physical software or capabilities. For example, we have our McKinsey Academy, where we train executives or teams on how to think about leadership style or how to run an organization. These capabilities and solutions are something we are able to bring to our clients in conjunction with our consultant work. That’s just a nice complement to not just think about a different strategy but also how you implement it and how you bring people along in that journey.”


You could say that McKinsey is hierarchical in structure and flat in spirit. Sure, you’ll find associates, analysts, engagement managers, and even partners on case teams. At McKinsey, there is a fail-safe that places every team member on equal footing: Obligation to Dissent. In essence, everyone has a voice — and expected to speak up when an engagement may be headed in the wrong direction. That represented a serious curve ball for Moyosoreoluwa Orekoya, who was stunned when a partner asked him, “Tell me why I’m wrong.”

“There is a culture of obligatory dissent at the firm,” Orekoya points out. “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.”

This Obligation to Dissent symbolizes something deeper: McKinsey’s trust in their hiring decisions and embrace of differing perspectives. That’s one reason why they aren’t afraid to toss new hires into the proverbial deep end early in their tenures.

“In my first engagement at McKinsey, my team designed and ran a workshop for our client, a Fortune 100 company,” explains Tre Tennyson. “I was asked to co-lead one of our small groups, which included our client’s global leadership team as well as the partner and senior partner from our McKinsey team. Despite having only been at the firm for less than a month at that point, I was trusted to be a full participant in our discussion, sharing my own insights and building towards a solution alongside our clients and leadership. It was during that moment that it really hit me – I’ve been afforded the opportunity to do extremely meaningful work in support of our clients and their objectives.”

McKinsey was founded in Chicago in 1926, making it the oldest of the MBB firms


Of course, this confidence also stems from McKinsey’s coaching culture. Here, partners and managers look out for less seasoned staffers who work on their engagements or in their offices. In Moyosoreoluwa Orekoya’s case, his guardian angel became Udit Anand, his second engagement manager.

“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?’.”

Tre Tennyson found a similar role model in Tara Azimi, a partner who ran his first engagement. “I was very inspired not just by the depth of her expertise, her relationship-building with clients and colleagues, and her deeply people-centric leadership of our team, but also by her commitment to leading by example. She was with us every step of the way: building slides in PowerPoint and synthesizing analyses in Excel. Tara modeled at all turns what excellence at any given point in our project could look like. With the apprenticeship model being so core to people development at McKinsey, this has been such a major contribution to my time here.”


That development cycle is set to repeat itself. In 2022, McKinsey is expected to hire 7,000 people into consulting roles, with roughly 20% being MBAs according to Kristin Altenburg. She also anticipates that this will be the company’s largest and most diverse class. In terms of internships, the firm is projected to bring in 900 students, with 500 being MBAs.

“Once you’re into the process, we have a well-structured interview process,” Altenburg explains. “It really plays out based on how they do in the assessment.”

What can MBAs do to increase their odds of getting an interview? Altenburg emphasizes that McKinsey has historically sought “excellent problems solvers, strong leaders, and people who make a difference.” And she adds a few more qualities to the list: “Just incredibly curious, resilient, collaborative, and have a set of values that they think about.” When it comes to interviews, she urges candidates to demonstrate those attributes in personal stories. On the case side, she encourages candidates to come at the exercise from a more creative mindset.

“Of course, the framework — being able to do that mental map — is important too. That still exists in what we do today. It is more exciting for us to actually see people say, ‘Here’s how I think about it.’ ‘Here’s my framework but here are some crazy ideas I’ve been thinking about?’  ‘Have you thought about this?’ That’s really exciting for us.”

McKinsey operates its own think tank, McKinsey Global Institute, to conduct research on global trends. It was founded in 1920.


In fact, Altenburg recently interviewed a candidate who followed this approach. “I said, ‘How would you think about the problem to start?’ They said that they’d think about these different bucket and they were the natural things where you’d want to start. Then they said, ‘Having experience in this area and being a consumer of this, here are the other things I might think about.’ They showed how their experience played out there. Having that personal angle, it was really cool to see how they might tackle a problem differently than another student. Bringing your whole self to the interview and being courageous to share that piece of it stood out to me.”

The Class of 2021 shared similar nuggets when it comes to the PEI (Personal Experience Interview). Maria Castex counsels candidates to practice their stories with loved ones, noting that people outside the b-school bubble often provided better feedback. Moyosoreoluwa Orekoya offers a different take.

“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.”

For Ikrame Bahhar, the trick is digging down into “second and third level insights.” “Don’t focus on the result of your quant answer or the obvious elements in the exhibit only but think thoroughly of the so-what (i.e., what are the causes and the potential consequences for such results).”


Looking ahead, what can MBAs expect from McKinsey & Company? Kristin Altenburg believes the firm’s newly rolled out parental leave policy will appeal to MBAs looking to start families in the near future. 

“Now, birth parents can get between 21-26 weeks of paid maternity — 21 weeks are fully paid and you can get up to 26 weeks with your time off and vacation. For non-birth parents, it is anywhere from 11-16 weeks with a similar model. And then there are additional weeks that can be added on if you have twins and premature babies. That is an increase over what our parental leave policy used to be. We continue to support people on fertility coverage and your health benefits as you go through your pregnancy are pretty much fully paid for. This is especially important for MBA students. There are a lot of students who are thinking about that.”

At the same time, Altenburg adds, McKinsey has expanded the number of schools where it recruits. The firm now recruits from 30 HBCUs, along with several Hispanic-Serving Institutions. The firm has also established a rotational program with the New York Public Schools — SUNY and CUNY —which just hired a cohort of 25 fellows. In addition, McKinsey is ramping up MBA recruiting at several programs, with Altenburg listing Minnesota Carlson, Washington Olin, Vanderbilt Owen, Notre Dame Mendoza, Texas McCombs and Georgetown McDonough by name.

“We realize that when we create a firm that is more diverse, we’re able to bring to our clients more diverse teams than ever who will ultimately come up with the best answer,” Altenburg adds. “To enable that, one thing we do on the recruiting side is going out and recruiting from the widest range of schools than ever before…It’s not that traditional schools will have less opportunity. We’re truly growing, so we want to create diverse classes.”

MBA Graduate McKinsey Office Hometown MBA Program
Sofía Araya Santiago, Chile Santiago, Chile University of Chicago (Booth)
Ikrame Bahhar Casablanca, Morocco Morocco INSEAD
Izulman bin Telimik Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Yale School of Management
Maria Castex Denver, Colorado Buenos Aires, Argentina Cornell University (Johnson)
Nanditha Chandrashekar Abu Dhabi, UAE Mysore, India London Business School
Erison Hurtault New York City, NY Aberdeen, NJ New York University (Stern)
Alicia Ibaibarriaga Madrid, Spain San Sebastian, Spain INSEAD
Kara Limchiu London, UK Metro Manila, Philippines INSEAD
Priyanka Misra Sydney, Australia Sydney, Australia Cambridge Business School
Raunak Mukherjee London, UK Kalyani, India London Business School
Mariel Nakashima Lima, Peru Lima, Peru IESE Business School
Moyosoreoluwa Orekoya Chicago, IL Lagos, Nigeria University of Chicago (Booth)
Tre Tennyson Washington, D.C. Richmond, VA University of Virginia (Darden)
Deb Xavier-Grondin Sao Paulo, Brazil Porto Alegre, Brazil University of Michigan (Ross)

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