Meet McKinsey’s MBA Class of 2022: Alexander Schurer

Alexander Schurer

McKinsey Office: London, U.K.

Hometown: Cape Town, South Africa

MBA Program and Concentration: Cambridge Judge Business School, entrepreneurship

Undergraduate School, Major: University of Stellenbosch, Industrial Engineering

Why did you choose McKinsey? I was drawn to McKinsey during my undergraduate studies due to the appealing nature of management consulting. The profession’s project-based work, intellectual variety, and limitless opportunities to explore new topics aligned perfectly with my curiosity and interests. Additionally, every interaction I had with McKinsey professionals left a positive impression on me. The combination of kindness, acuity, and genuine interest in the topics discussed made McKinsey stand out as a special place for me.

What did you love about the business school you attended? Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge offered a tightly integrated experience that went beyond just the MBA program. The enriching experiences across various aspects, such as college life, the business school, the MBA cohort, and the broader university made it a unique and appealing choice for me. Interacting with people from diverse academic disciplines, including professors, PhDs, and undergraduate students, enriched the intellectual atmosphere. Moreover, the 800-year-old university’s rich history created a truly special environment in which to spend a significant period in my life.

What is your most meaningful accomplishment/professional accomplishment prior to your current role? As an MBA student, my team received a Directors Award for the best Global Consulting Project (GCP) on the Cambridge MBA program. The GCP serves as the capstone project and allows MBA students to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world scenarios. While this achievement was a collective effort, it provided me with a tremendous sense of validation among my peers. The experience boosted my confidence and solidified my decision to pursue a career in consulting.

When you think back to the different elements of the McKinsey assessment: the digital test (i.e., Solve), the Personal Experience Interview (PEI), and the Problem-Solving Interview, what stands out? What do you think made you successful and what advice would you give to other MBAs going through McKinsey or another organizations’ process? I say the same thing to every candidate who asks for advice. It is very difficult to excel at the firm if you are not genuinely excited about it. If you don’t enjoy preparing for case studies for a few hours a week, you are unlikely to enjoy living that life day-to-day. Personally, I was excited not only about the prospect of joining the firm, but I found the cases genuinely fun to solve. I think that excitement shone through, and I can see it immediately in the candidates that I now interview. My advice would simply be to try and enjoy the interview process as an intellectual game as opposed to a hurdle you need to overcome.

What was an assumption you held—either specifically about McKinsey or the management consulting profession as a whole—that was proven wrong once you began working in your role? Why did you hold the misconception and how was it refuted? Prior to becoming a management consultant, I questioned why CEOs would seek advice from young professionals like myself. However, once I joined McKinsey, I realized that our role is not to be the sole source of knowledge, but rather to integrate expertise from various areas within the firm. We act as “integrative consultants” who channel collective knowledge to clients and connect them with experts across the organization. This realization challenged my initial misconception and gave me a deeper understanding of our role in providing valuable insights to clients.

McKinsey talks a lot about partnering with its clients to “accelerate sustainable, inclusive growth.” What does that mean to you and how have you seen it in action? At McKinsey, partnering with our clients means collaborating closely to drive positive change that benefits all stakeholders. We are dedicated to helping our clients achieve their growth objectives while ensuring long-term viability, considering environmental and social impacts. One example of this in action was with a global supply chain and logistics player whose business model centered around the issuing, recovery, and re-use of their assets. We partnered with them to help improve and scale their circular business model to become one of the largest worldwide, which not only had clear business impact but also social and environmental benefits too.

Who has had the biggest impact on you at McKinsey and how have they helped you? A partner based in our Brussels office has had a profound impact on my journey at McKinsey. Their belief in my potential, particularly when I sought to transition into the Life Sciences industry, was pivotal for my career growth. By taking a chance on me, they not only provided opportunities in the sector, but also became a dedicated mentor and coach throughout the years. Their empathetic and humble leadership style served as a true inspiration and played a significant role in shaping my success as a consultant and an individual. I am deeply grateful for their mentorship and guidance.

Describe an “only at McKinsey” moment. In July, I attended Cambridge College (A coincidence that I also studied here, but I am always happy at the chance to revisit this amazing place). Here, we had a week-long global learning and development program for engagement managers and equivalent roles. It is an immersive program attended by more than a thousand colleagues who are at similar points in their careers, and it presents a fantastic opportunity for formal learning from firm experts and to expand your network and learn from peers. The cost to the firm of such a program is immense in terms of opportunity cost when they take such a large cohort of colleagues away from studies. But the benefits far outweigh the cost and seeing the firm invest so much in its future leadership was to me, an “only at McKinsey” moment.

What’s next? It could be within McKinsey or beyond. How/In what ways do you think your time at McKinsey will prepare you for your next step? During my early years at the firm, I had the typical generalist experience of getting exposed to a variety of sectors, clients, and geographies. This was a hugely beneficial time as the exposure to such a wide range of problems helped hone my consulting toolkit. I am now being more purposeful in where I direct my energy and focus and going deeper on a narrower set of topics at the intersection of Digital topics (e.g., advanced analytics) and Life Sciences. I am spending more time investing in people and the topics I want to be aligned to in the long run, not just the next 12-24 months.

A fun fact about me is… One fun fact about me is that I once shared a packet of Jelly Babies with the Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I have been asked what his favorite flavor was and, in truth, I don’t recall. However, I like to think he would not have had favorites.


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