Once I graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from the Université Catholique de Louvain, my Fulbright scholarship allowed me to pursue an additional engineering degree in the United States. As, at the time, I already had a thing for “green” technology I opted for an advanced degree in chemical engineering at Stanford University, California. As this was the high-point of the dotcom boom, I need not to tell you that I have experienced some exciting times in Silicon Valley.
"Some 10 years back, McKinsey took me for what I was: a trained engineer with an interest in innovation and sustainable development but no business background. My mentors encouraged me to be an entrepreneur in the firm and further explore my passion for green technologies while giving me the best on-the-job business education I could dream of. Today, I am able to put my accumulated knowledge and skills to use in projects I feel are truly important."
After I obtained this second degree, I was still a bit unsure about my career perspectives. As I recall it, a friend of mine described McKinsey as a professional services firm that set the standard in many fields and would allow me to build my own career track. No sooner had I sent my application than I got the chance to get up close and personal with a particularly inspirational McKinsey consultant. I was about to board the plane that would get me to my first interview, and I found myself bumping into a McKinsey partner. We were both on the same flight in order to partake in recruitment interviews, only he was going to ask questions whereas I was supposed to answer them! Our flight was delayed so we had plenty of time to get to know one another and we immediately got along.
What struck me most about that initial encounter was the openness McKinsey displayed towards potential new recruits. I really felt that the person I was talking to was interested in who I was. As I had no prior business experience, I felt a bit insecure about the whole idea of becoming a management consultant. However, he assured me McKinsey would be more interested in my intrinsic skills than in the experience I still needed to develop.
He turned out to be right. Throughout my career, I have learned that indeed McKinsey is all about developing talented people and helping them to acquire the skills they need to be successful in their field. After having worked in many sectors, including power and oil & gas, my mentors in the firm encouraged me to further explore my passion for green technologies while giving me the best on-the-job business education I could dream of.
Today, I am able to put my accumulated knowledge and skills to use in projects I feel are truly important. I help governments throughout the world to think about how to reduce their carbon footprint through low-carbon growth plans or forest protection strategies and support various industry leaders in finding new growth opportunities in the biotech and bioenergy area. With the help of some other partners and colleagues, we recently created the ‘Sustainability and Resource Productivity’ special initiative, one of the very exciting initiatives in our firm these days. At the same time, I get to coach younger colleagues who want to develop a career following their own passions and interests.
It takes some discipline to reconcile an exciting international career with a fulfilling personal life, but the rewards are great and many
Life as a management consultant can be very demanding at times, especially when it involves a lot of international travel. There are many ways, however, to reconcile your professional and personal life at McKinsey. I myself have developed a set of rules allowing me to strike the right balance. Thus, for instance, I take good care of not planning too many subsequent trips to far-off places and I try to keep in contact with my clients and colleagues around the world by making the most of modern communication technologies such as the internet and high-definition video conferencing. I also make a rule of not letting my work interfere with the really important breaks I need to recharge my batteries (in my case, family time, yoga, or gym sessions) and I try to include at least one fun activity on every far-off business trip. In fact, I would be lying if I said I do not occasionally enjoy the fact that my job allows me to discover many remote locations all over the world.
Something for the mind, the body, and the soul
I try to lead a balanced life and to enjoy it to the fullest. When I am not working, I like to cook and taste different types of wine and I try to get some physical exercise as well. I enjoy surfing and going to the gym and I have recently developed an emerging passion for yoga.
||MS, Chemical Engineering
|Université Catholique de Louvain
||MS, Mechanical Engineering