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Building one of McKinsey’s newest ventures

Nancy started two companies in Africa before finishing her undergrad degree and coming to McKinsey. Now, she is in a role in McKinsey New Ventures that lets her leverage her entrepreneurial skills.

Startups in Africa

I dropped out of college during my junior year to start up my own company in South Sudan. At the time, civil war had just ended, and there was an incredible amount of human need. It was an once–in–a–lifetime opportunity to be a part of rebuilding a new nation. I became one of the first suppliers of emergency medical supplies to the Ministry of Health in South Sudan, at a time when the health infrastructure was very poor. After that, I stayed to build a second startup – this time in tech in Kenya. My team used basic SMS technology to mobilize and place large numbers of low–skilled unemployed workers in jobs.

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I ended up staying in Africa for seven years to build these two companies. Then, the pace of my personal development plateaued. I learned a tremendous amount through trial and error as an entrepreneur but I craved the mentorship and coaching my peers received through a more formal education in a corporate environment. I felt ready for a new challenge. I wanted to better understand how more mature markets and industries approach business problems.

Returning to Canada

When I became pregnant with my daughter, I returned to Canada to complete my senior year of college. I had worked with several entrepreneurs and leaders in Africa who came from McKinsey. When the firm came to my school during recruiting season, I was eager to explore opportunities because McKinsey had produced such awesome people. The firm seemed like the perfect place to get the education and mentorship I sought.

Entrepreneurship within the firm

I joined the Boston office nearly two years ago as a business analyst. Around the start of this year, I saw an amazing opportunity on our staffing log (a list of projects that are looking for consultants). It was with a team that had just won the New Ventures Competition, a semiannual event intended to jump-start innovation within the firm by offering money and resources for the best new ideas. The team was Digital Small Commercial Insurance (DSCI). DSCI is an online sales platform that combines a digital interface with machine learning analytics to transform the way policy & claim agents write small commercial insurance policies.

I am very interested in digitization and leveraging analytics and automation to add value to businesses. Doing this in a startup environment within the firm seemed like a ton of fun. I joined as a business analyst, but when my engagement manager transitioned off the team about a month later, I stepped up to lead the project, with the full support of my leadership team. I drove and shaped the work we did to create a new product. It allowed me to leverage the skills and experiences I had from building early stage companies to push new boundaries within the firm. I worked with legal and risk councils to help shape the firm’s perspectives on our intellectual property, multiple implementation partners (analytics, systems integrators, designers) inside and outside of the firm, and my clients to bring this product to market. It is uber–exciting to push our boundaries.

This experienced made me realize two things. I have a deep love for creating new ways of doing things, for pulling together groups of people to bring a product or service to market. Secondly, the firm is a very special place, filled with extremely smart people who, together, can think of 1000s of ways to solve a problem. It’s a place with leaders who are willing to bet on their people and invest in their people to help us succeed, especially if we’re trying to do something new and different. I can’t wait to see where this wild journey leads next.

Find roles like Nancy’s here.

About Nancy

Nancy is an engagement manager in McKinsey’s Boston office. She has her undergraduate degree in economics and environment management from the University of Toronto. Prior to McKinsey, she founded Fulda Group Limited and Mobi Kazi Limited in South Sudan and Kenya respectively. She’s a member of the board of the Tujuane Children’s Center, M–Changa, and Innovation for Africa Fund in Kenya and fluent in Chinese. In her free time, you will find her salsa dancing or doing science experiments with her 3-year-old-daughter.