Working for McKinsey can be whatever you want it to be: endless options, diverse challenges, high-impact work and inspiring teams.

Before I joined McKinsey I was an engineer specialising in water and wastewater management. One winter’s day I found myself standing in snow shouting at someone on the site for not wearing a hard hat and thinking, “There must be more to life than this.” I signed up for an MBA to broaden my options, and a careers adviser at my business school suggested I apply to McKinsey.

Image versus reality

Consulting wasn’t on my radar, so I did some research. At first I wasn’t convinced it was for me: I pictured people in pinstripe suits sitting in darkened rooms processing facts and figures like robots. Fortunately the reality was nothing like that. Before my interviews I met some of the McKinsey Dublin folks and they were dynamic and fun to be with. One good piece of advice I was given was to bring my personality and way of thinking to the interviews. They weren’t as scary as I’d expected; the interviewers seemed to be trying to help me shine rather than catch me out.

When McKinsey offered me a position as an associate, I took a while to decide because I’d also been offered a job in an industry that would have been more in my comfort zone. What tipped the balance was thinking where I’d like to be in ten years’ time. I wanted to expand my horizons, experience new sectors, try new things and move along the career track. Even if I didn’t stay with McKinsey that long, I knew it would give me a springboard into careers I hadn’t thought of before.

Making adjustments

It took me three or four months to adjust to moving from an engineering to a consulting environment. The pace of work is fast; I sometimes feel I achieve as much in a day as I would in a week somewhere else. People joining from other industries get a lot of support from McKinsey’s professional development specialists, and we are constantly encouraged to take part in courses and workshops and online learning to get up to speed for the next challenge. Our team-based way of working is very supportive too; there is no one-upmanship and we all help one another to do the best job we can.

There are plenty of opportunities to use my engineering background: I’ve just been applying my knowledge in the developing-world, on a water-risk assessment in Ghana and Ecuador. On the other hand, I’m not pigeon-holed: I’ve worked in energy, beverages and consumer packaged goods, and helped with organizational change and a strategy overhaul. My current project is the most exciting yet and really inspiring: a pro bono effort to shape the future of a city. I’m working with local business and community leaders to find ways to improve economic development and quality of life over the next 20 years.

Feeling I belong

One of the best things about my job is being part of the Dublin office. We may be travelling from Monday to Thursday, but we always try to spend Friday in the office and have lunch together around a big table. The Dublin office gives us all the advantages of being part of the wider McKinsey network coupled with the personal support you get from belonging to a small office community.

Another bonus is that there is much more flexibility here than I expected. If I decide to make a move, there are plenty of opportunities to transfer to another office.

From a lifestyle point of view, I definitely work hard, but the work is exciting, the teams are generally good fun and the day flies by. Teams recognize that you’re not a machine and you have a life outside McKinsey. I’ve never worked at weekends; to bring your best to your work, you need to take time out for yourself.

Working for McKinsey can be whatever you want it to be: endless options, diverse challenges, high-impact work and inspiring teams.