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McKinsey Q&A: Pavleen

– After a “loathsome” interview at another consulting firm, Pavleen questioned whether she still wanted to keep her early morning interview with McKinsey. When she remembered our local Gurugram office had a swimming pool, she decided to go for it. Her interviews quickly convinced her there was more to McKinsey than aquatics; she fell in love with our culture, people and opportunities. Three years later, she’s enjoying her time as an analyst in the Gurugram Knowledge Center.

Interviewer: You interned with two banks before you came to McKinsey. What led you to consulting?

Pavleen: When I was a student, a job in the finance sector sounded very exciting to me and I imagined myself as an ambitious banker. Working with the banks was interesting, but I realized the amount of creativity I could put into my job was limited. That’s what attracted me to consulting—the opportunity to work in multiple industries and functions and do different things every day.

Interviewer: So, what made you interview with McKinsey?

Pavleen: The McKinsey office where I would be working had a beautiful swimming pool and I could totally envision myself going there for a break during the summer. Also, my dad worked in the public sector at that time, and his company had partnered with McKinsey many times. He told me McKinsey people were some of the smartest he’d ever met, and that stirred in my head.

Interviewer: I understand you almost didn’t go the interview.

Pavleen: That’s right. I applied to a couple big consulting firms; one of them made us wait until midnight to interview because there were so many students on their list. When my turn finally came, they only seemed interested in grilling me to find out what I already knew. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.

The following morning, I was supposed to take McKinsey’s written exam. I definitely thought about sleeping instead – I even thought I was probably wasn’t cut out for this type of job after all. Then, I remembered the pool and decided to give it a shot. It turned out I loved McKinsey’s recruitment process. It was intense, but the McKinsey interviewers were extremely pleasant and pushed me to think logically to solve problems, while focusing on my strengths rather than my weaknesses. It felt like a team effort right from round one.

Interviewer: Did you ever use the pool?

Pavleen: Yes, I checked it out a couple of times, then we moved offices.

Interviewer: After your first year at McKinsey, you discovered procurement. What drew you to that field?

Pavleen: If you had asked me in my final year of college what procurement was, I probably couldn’t have answered. I joined McKinsey as a generalist, and fell in love with procurement during my first engagement in the area. I did a lot of research into our approach, our specialists, and our experience and worked with a team of great people to understand how we could help clients with their operations. When the McKinsey Capability Centre opened here in India, one of the directors I had worked with asked me to give a couple of two-day workshops for clients. I was really impressed by all the McKinsey partners and experts who attended; their enthusiasm about procurement rubbed off on me. I had only been at McKinsey for ten months and didn’t think I’d be specializing yet, but I was very passionate about it. The leaders saw that and gave me a chance to work with procurement on a rotational basis. After that, we just made it happen.

Interviewer: You’ve said McKinsey is all about the people. What did you mean?

Pavleen: I have a lot of really bright friends who work in different industries and companies. We swap stories and two things about McKinsey always surprise them: the caliber of people here and our obligation to dissent. It means I can call anyone in the firm, no matter how senior or junior, to ask for their advice or share my opinion.

From the day you join, McKinsey teaches you to consider everyone equally because doing so bolsters the problem-solving process. It allows us to generate more creative solutions to challenges we’re asked to address with our clients and it helps us all to grow as individuals. It’s very liberating.

Interviewer: What are you passionate about outside of client work?

Pavleen: A friend of mine at McKinsey got me involved with the McKinsey for Children initiative in Germany and Switzerland. We raise money to support organizations around the world focused on child uplift. I’m in discussions about bringing the fundraising model to India because we have a lot of colleagues who would be very excited to contribute to something like this.

I’m also learning to play the violin. It’s a very difficult instrument and I’m not the most musically gifted person. Still, I’ve always liked listening to the violin, and once I joined McKinsey, I thought it would be a good a good channel for my energy over the weekend. I feel very peaceful when I’m playing it; I’m not sure my flatmates feel the same way.