As for the work, it’s been more varied, rewarding, and impactful than I could have imagined.
Richard trained as a biologist, and went on to earn a law degree and work as a litigator before pursuing an MBA. His disparate skills prepared him well for a wide range of client work.
A winding path: biologist, lawyer, consultant
I’ve followed a fairly winding path to the firm. I studied Biological Sciences as an undergraduate, before tacking toward law school and a career as a litigator in London. Five years in, I knew I hadn’t quite got it right, so I headed back to school to get an MBA. While studying in the States, I spent three months in McKinsey’s London office as a summer associate. I was hooked by the experience, and I returned to the firm upon completing my MBA. What has surprised me is how the skills I learnt from the seemingly disconnected fields I studied before coming to the firm—like applying the scientific method in conservation work, or drafting water-tight witness statements—have been so valuable in the work I’ve done over the last two years at McKinsey.
While at business school, consulting appealed to me as a chance to accelerate my understanding of business and put my new theoretical skills into practice. As a fairly blinkered lawyer, I was also attracted to the firm by the chance to experience such a vast array of functions and industries. As I researched the options, McKinsey stood out from the crowd for its range of clients (including those within the public sector) and the authenticity of all the people I met before joining.
From pharma to fintech
Over the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to experience an extraordinary range of projects—from designing a marketing plan for a pharmaceutical company, to building the strategy for a fintech, to helping public sector organizations become more efficient.
One of the most memorable projects I’ve worked on was pro bono. We worked alongside a collection of UK business leaders to build a national movement to improve UK productivity. We conducted detailed analytics that brought new insights on the drivers of corporate productivity, and built a free web tool to help small business owners improve their businesses. Some of my personal highlights included donning branded t-shirts to promote our tool at trade shows, listening to the Chancellor of the Exchequer make reference to our work in his party conference speech, and fielding questions from a room full of FTSE100 chairmen and chief executives.
Your opinion matters
I have never come across a place that so values every opinion. From your first day as an analyst to your 25th year as a senior partner, your opinion is trusted and sought out in every problem-solving session. Working at McKinsey means working collaboratively.
What does this look like in practice? It’s a problem-solving session to discuss how best to present our new findings to a client’s board. In the room is the core team: the project manager, two analysts, and a junior client team member who has been embedded with us. The partner has joined by video conference, and our office managing partner has just dropped in, as she’s taken a keen interest in our work. Everyone’s talking, everyone’s sharing, and the junior client—new to the McKinsey way of working—is challenging the managing partner on her proposals. The result is an approach that combines everyone’s views and that all agree is better than any individual proposal.
The people I work with
In my time with the firm, I’ve found that McKinsey people are genuine, with an enormous variety of backgrounds and stories. For example, my colleagues have included an ex-maths teacher—who has encouraged me to become a governor of a school—and an ex-Navy fighter pilot, whose two-year-old daughter plays football with my son on the weekends (I’m being generous in my definition of “playing football”). As for the work: it has been more varied, rewarding and impactful than I could have imagined—oh, and all conducted at an exhilarating pace!