– Hey everyone, it has been a whirlwind since I returned from maternity leave in July. The kiddos are almost a year old, and I can't even believe it. It has been a fun return to work, including bringing the twins with me! So far we have taken them to the office on Fridays, the office Halloween Party, women's night, and our Mid-Atlantic Office retreat.
I gave birth to twins in December, and they're the loves of our lives. I took six months off to be home with them, which was incredible. They went from being voracious little blanket burritos to real little people. They were born small, so the doctor discouraged sleep training them until they were six months old. They needed to wake up every few hours to eat enough to grow. It was an exhilarating but long six months without consistent sleep. It wasn't until we all slept through the night for a couple of weeks that I even started to feel human again, let alone ready for work.
I kept imagining myself as the mythic Babylonian hero Gilgamesh during those sleepless months. Gilgamesh must complete several tasks to achieve immortality. His last task is to stay awake for seven consecutive days. When I read this story as a kid, I scoffed. I was a weirdly nocturnal kid anyway, staying up late to read under the covers with a flashlight, so sleep deprivation seemed like no big deal. I thought Hercules had the much better tasks: slaying a hydra, slaying the Nemean Lion, capturing the Cretan Bull.
But now that I've had infant twins, I'll tip my hat to Gilgamesh. I'd rather slay a lion than stay awake for seven days. At least I can train to battle a lion. I'd wager a few new mothers out there might make the same choice. In any case, I'm so glad that uninterrupted sleep is a part of all of our lives again. Now that I'm fully awake to appreciate the twins, they're even cuter.
As I was coming off my sleep-addled months, I joined our All In team for a rotation. The All In initiative seeks to expand diversity and inclusion at McKinsey. Our team examined McKinsey's parental leave policy in the U.S. and how we could improve our support of consultant mothers. The first rule of consumer research is to never assume that you're the consumer. It was funny to work on something so recent and personal and to resist the temptation to overlay my own experience. In the end, McKinsey expanded its parental leave policy in the U.S. to 16 weeks for new mothers, and 8 weeks for non-birth parents. There's so much research on the importance of early bonding with babies translating into closer relationships years later. It's a move that helps attract and retain incredible parents, plus it is just the right thing to do for McKinsey families.
After my stint with the All In team, I led a team on three different pro bono engagements for the Philadelphia office. Every year, most offices will do a pro bono project; this year, the Philadelphia office had three great finalists, so we decided to help all three: researching the state of middle market companies (<$10M-$1B) in Philadelphia, rethinking the five-year vision for a major Philadelphia event, and helping a local school think through enrollment. Plus, I had a chance to work with a dear friend and former McKinsey colleague who is now president of a Philadelphia non-profit. Hilariously, he kept asking me if he was now the "client from hell." Matt, if you're reading this, you're not, don't worry. You're amazing, and it was a total blast working with you and your team.
I loved being back in the team room, and I loved the impact, the team, and just the sheer joy of doing good work in our local community. I would put this experience up there with my all-time favorites.
Mid-Atlantic Office retreat
Every couple of years, our larger office complex goes on a retreat to build community, take a break, and celebrate our time together at McKinsey. This year, the Mid-Atlantic Office (Philadelphia, DC, New Jersey) had planned to go to Mexico, but concerns about the Zika virus postponed the retreat. The retreat was rebooted as a trip to Disney World, with special programming from the Disney Institute. This was truly one of the best training events I've attended at the firm, which is saying a lot since the firm's trainings are world class.
We learned about Disney's keys to a great guest experience: safety, courtesy, staying in character, and efficiency. All are important, but there is a clear prioritization where safety is first, courtesy second, etc. This may seem self-evident and blindingly obvious, but it provides a simple north star on how to manage difficult situations. For example, the Disney team led us through a thought exercise where a man with crutches was gumming up the line to the Haunted Mansion. If you were to tell people behind him to just go around him, you would be prioritizing efficiency over courtesy. If you were to pop out of character and help him up there, you'd get low marks for show since he becomes the show and all the other guests stare at him. And so on. It was a brilliant explanation of how a simple set of prioritized principles empowers cast members to do things the Disney way even in unexpected situations. That retreat has also kicked off a new push in the Mid-Atlantic Office to think through how we create a great client experience. And it would be a wonderful world it would be if working with McKinsey were like a trip to Disney World!
Beyond the transformative professional programming, Emily, Clara, Jack and I also made time to visit Animal Kingdom. The twins were surprisingly tolerant of the mouse ears that we insisted they wear for photo ops. I'm sure they won't remember riding "It's a Small World," but I hope they'll remember the joy of the weekend as part of a thoroughly happy childhood.