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McKinsey Q&A: Eric

Eric

– Eric, the West Coast (U.S.) regional managing director, has a hard time standing still. Whether he’s downhill skiing, moving across the country to lead a different office, or helping develop innovative ways to serve clients, he’s always moving – and can’t imagine life any other way. Read about his journey from business analyst to director.

Interviewer: Describe your McKinsey journey.

Eric: I joined as a business analyst (BA) in Stamford, CT and spent 15 years there. I joined hoping to use my operations research and financial engineering degrees to do tech work, but spent the first two years working across industries, including insurance and healthcare.

As a second-year BA, I was serving a client that made eyeglass lenses. My team came up with an idea for a business-to-business (B2B) exchange to change their industry. It was amazing, working with a McK partner to outline the idea and presenting it to senior clients in France. They loved the idea, and I was given the opportunity to jump from BA to engagement manager (EM) to spend 18 months as the COO of this new company. We got millions in funding, some from Fortune 500 companies. It was a crazy. For 12 months, there was no CEO, just the McK partner and me. That was life in the dotcom era, and I’ll never forget how, with nothing more than the business plan, we had several banks valuing the company at $400+ million.

Then the bubble popped, and suddenly I was a late-tenure EM who needed to rebuild his base of clients. A partner in my office gave me a chance to serve an aerospace client (something I had no prior experience with). I worked with an amazing senior associate, Jason, who was a former Navy helicopter pilot, and he taught me everything about the industry and exemplified how to be a caring and humble leader. I served that client until after I was partner, along with other tech clients.

Interviewer: What has been a highlight of your career?

Eric: One of my privileges was leading the Stamford location. I grew up in that office, and the people in it were part of my family. So many of my mentors led the location before me that it felt surreal when I was asked to do it. I’ll never forget the day I told my Stamford colleagues I was moving west. We were in the backyard of a partner’s house celebrating Values Day. I had to keep my sunglasses on because I couldn’t say anything without tearing up.

Interviewer: What is your favorite new thing about McKinsey?

Eric: I love our focus on innovation. It has become a big part of our work on the West Coast in particular. For example, we are creating new ways to serve fast-growing, pre-IPO tech companies. In order to serve tomorrow’s large scale innovators well, we need to build relationships with them while they are young. At the same time, our large tech clients outsource R&D to these small companies, so to remain relevant to our traditional clients, we have to know this fast-paced ecosystem of VCs and small tech. And, it is an amazing space that excites a lot of our people.

To serve these companies, we set up a hub where one team serves two to three clients simultaneously. The model works because startups are lean and nimble; you don’t need a big change management work stream or lots of time to implement. The executives tend to be very analytical, so we typically need one associate to work closely with the CEO and his team on quantitative analyses to drive big decisions. It’s a great way for associates to get a view of what a CEO does.

We are in the process of scaling this model across sectors (e.g., med tech, clean tech, ag tech) and regions (e.g., UK, Scandinavia, Israel, India, China).

Another example is something we call “Innovation Bootcamp.” We get eight to ten phone calls a month from executives around the world who want to experience Silicon Valley. We built this service line to help teams of executives understand how Silicon Valley companies think about innovation and disruption. We have done 25 or more of these sessions in the last year, and they have been pretty magical. One client described the experience as ‘a perfect launching pad for digital and innovation initiatives.’ You can read more about them in our New at McKinsey blog.

Interviewer: What McKinsey traditions are you most proud of?

Eric: Perhaps it’s not surprising given all the time I spent playing team sports growing up, but to me, our partnership makes McK special. Some of my greatest highs come when a small group of leaders gather and dive into a challenge. Magic comes out the other side. And the friendships I’ve forged here are amazing. I don’t believe there is a city in the world where I don’t have a wonderful friend I’ve made through McKinsey.

Interviewer: What keeps you up at night?

Eric: As a parent, it’s usually the kids. From a firm perspective, I worry most about the people side of our mission – how well are we living our mission on mentorship and sponsorship? How do we strengthen our meritocracy and continue to make our firm an unrivaled place for exceptional people to succeed. We need to recognize and celebrate our diverse profiles even more.

Interviewer: Where do you most like to spend your free time?

Eric: In Tahoe skiing with my family. My wife, our three kids, and I go most weekends in the winter. There is something really special about driving with the family for a few hours – where the kids have to spend time with Lauren and me. There’s also nothing better than being out on the slopes with the kids.

On the golf course in the spring and summer is a close second. I’m teaching the kids to play since my wife doesn’t. I need them to play if I stand a chance of getting out there with any frequency!