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Falling in love with the firm

– I was born and raised in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. I come from a large family – with 32 first cousins. I grew up believing I would be a physician, like my father and grandfather. Then came my teenage years. In my real first act of rebellion, I decided to go to college abroad. At 17 years old, I moved to Montreal to study finance and economics at McGill University.

Paula R inline

During my freshman year, I met Gustavo, a dashing Brazilian who had been living in Canada for many years. We married in 2000, and have since lived in New York City, São Paulo, and Boston (well, sort of - while I was at HBS, Gustavo would fly up from Brazil to see me every other weekend). Now we’re at home with our two daughters – Sofia and Olivia – in Short Hills, New Jersey. If you can’t tell, we love to travel, and I must confess that my irremediable weakness for historical novels influences a lot of our destinations. We’ve recently traveled to Egypt, China and Cambodia; Russia and Scotland are next.

So how did McKinsey fit into this journey? When I walked into the São Paulo office in April 2003 as a new business analyst, I had the sense that joining McKinsey was an important step. I could not have envisioned what a pivotal choice it was on a professional and personal level. I grew up in the São Paulo office. I met great friends, mentors, and sponsors there. Gustavo and I had our daughters while I was an associate and engagement manager. The commitment, understanding, and flexibility the firm allows me to make it all work has been life changing, and hallmarks of my path. Since our first daughter Sofia was born, I have participated in and helped start many of our flexibility programs (you can learn more about some of them here if you scroll down to the middle of the page).

While I was pregnant with my first daughter, that I met Tracy Francis who was also expecting her first baby. That friendship led to another defining element of my path at the firm. Together, we started the pharma and healthcare practice in Latin America. Over the last few years, as pharma emerged as my true passion, New Jersey became sort of a second office home to me because so much of the work I was doing was there. My family and I recently decided to transfer so I could serve some new clients while keeping many of my existing ones. Although we miss Brazil at times, we’re all excited about this new phase and very happy in our new home.

In my time with the firm, I have experienced many “only at McKinsey” moments – achieving client impact, receiving amazing mentorship and taking advantage of the firm’s flexibility and mobility programs. For example, a couple of weeks ago, a group of colleagues and I were in a high profile client situation. Five of us came together – and I had never directly worked with any of them – and “the McKinsey magic” happened. We collaborated well with each other to deliver a great answer for the client and we had great fun in the process. I remember stepping back and thinking this is the kind of experience that makes me fall in love with this firm all over again.