I was working as a doctor in South Africa and hadn’t ever heard of McKinsey. But the more you specialize as a doctor, the more you tend to see the same kind of conditions over and over again. I wanted to do something new that was challenging intellectually. A friend of mine told me McKinsey did a variety of amazing projects, and without knowing much about it, I applied. I went to London for an interview and did really interesting case studies in strategy and redesign. After I got my offer, I met a few doctors who were consultants in the office, and we talked about work they had been doing in public health and the social sector. I was particularly drawn by the chance to work on completely new challenges with new people every couple of months.
From Doctor to Consultant
As a doctor I was trusted with so much—particularly in South Africa, where I was given a lot of responsibility very early on. Then I arrived at McKinsey, and found myself at the beginning of a steep learning curve again. It was definitely a challenging transition. There’s a completely different way of working, with very open feedback and collaborative team work, which took some getting used to. Fortunately, there's a big community of doctors in the London office, and I became good friends with many of them so have had a lot of support since I’ve joined. We also organize dinners for all the doctors every couple of months to catch up.
As most doctors, I tend to be pretty good with people; I’ve learned through training how to interact and have difficult conversations while also getting things done. I am trained to be proactive and to have a structured way of thinking about problems. Applying those skills are slightly different here, but I think doctors can do very well at McKinsey. Also, when working on healthcare projects, physicians really do respect me from the beginning.
I'm a bit of a perfectionist, which is good when you're a doctor, but you can end up working too much and too hard. The same is true at McKinsey. I have to create strong boundaries. I try to turn off my blackberry on the weekends and leave work by a certain time each night. It’s hard to say no but it can actually be really empowering, and not only help me manage my lifestyle but also allow me to focus on the areas that really count. For my last project I was a pro bono study with an NGO (non-governmental organization), and we had to emphasize boundaries quite a bit because they weren’t clear themselves what they wanted us to do. In doing so we managed to focus on the areas that were their main priorities and thereby to have a more meaningful effect.
Culture of Support
My whole family is in the medical profession, and they tend to have a negative perception of the corporate world, mainly due to the fact that we had never really been exposed to it. So it was a bit of a surprise to start working here and meet so many lovely people! It's definitely a performance-driven culture, but at the same time it’s really supportive—everyone wants you to achieve the best of your ability. There are several people I can call at any time, some of them very senior, and know they'll make time for me, even if it’s just to chat about how I’m doing.
Diversity in Health Work
I’ve gotten to do quite a few incredible projects in public health, the social sector, and pharmaceuticals. In one we helped to reconfigure an entire healthcare sector in London to enable them to deliver high quality care in a way that is sustainable. It was rewarding to work with clinicians who were so passionate about quality of care. On another project with a pharmaceutical company I got to go to some amazing places—Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rio, and Mexico—a really cool perk! Other healthcare projects I’ve done have ranged from developing a strategy for a small local hospital to designing a survey and training program for junior doctors on patient safety.
|University of Cape Town
||MBBCh (MD), Medicine, Surgery