What has been your journey to where you are today in McKinsey?
Although most of the accent is now long gone, I grew up in the north of England and went to school in Bradford, one of the United Kingdom’s most multicultural cities. I had always been interested in politics and economics, but it was while studying at Oxford that my interest in the challenges facing governments really took shape.
I spent the summer before my final year at university as an intern in McKinsey’s Dubai office, and then went off to Harvard for two years to get an MBA before joining the firm’s London office.
At McKinsey, I have been able to pursue my passion for the public sector. Relatively early in my career at the firm, I had the chance to spend 12 months in Washington, DC, as the chief of staff at the McKinsey Center for Government—the firm’s think tank on public-sector issues. I now have the privilege of serving governments in Europe and the Middle East on some of their most pressing challenges.
What can McKinsey bring to addressing societal challenges?
One of the reasons I get so excited about working for public-sector clients is the opportunity for impact at scale. People at McKinsey typically have a laser-like focus on impact, and in the public sector this means that your work has the potential to affect the lives of millions of citizens.
McKinsey can make a unique contribution in the public sector by offering experience and best practices from different ministries, private and social-sector organizations, and other governments across the world. This is a perspective that governments themselves, by their nature, rarely have. Even across ministries and agencies within the same country, the flow of people and capabilities is often limited.
I have served more than ten different government departments across several countries in the past year alone. We have distilled insights from a large number of public-sector projects and, of course, from our private-sector experience, which we can bring to help our government clients solve their toughest problems.
Is there a project that you are particularly proud of?
One of my recent clients was a government ministry responsible for vocational education and training in a Middle Eastern country. The government was committed to turning around the system—a change it saw as critically important to help young people find work and support the future health of its economy and society.
We worked with employees of the ministry to design and implement a turnaround model for the sector, building on their own experiences and those of leaders in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany. Our work has the potential to have impact on the vocational education of 50,000 students, helping them to find meaningful careers. And this is just the start of the transformation of the country’s vocational-education system.
Closer to home, over the past 12 months I have worked with a European Ministry of Finance to build its capabilities to better understand government spending at a detailed level in areas including education, healthcare and policing. This will enable the government to make more informed public spending decisions and identify potential savings. Together with ministry employees, we have reviewed over €15 billion of government spending and built a unit of people within the ministry who can conduct these reviews independently— an important and enduring capability.
Finally, I am proud to be one of the people within the firm driving forward our knowledge of how to transform the public sector. Together with colleagues around the world, I have written a number of articles and reports on key challenges facing the public sector, outlining our perspectives and the approaches that some governments have taken to address these challenges. This investment in knowledge, through the McKinsey Center for Government, is an important part of what we do as a firm to make a contribution to society.