For Jeff Berg, his Navy life began at birth—he was born at Balboa Naval Medical Center in San Diego, California to a father in the Navy. Two grandfathers and a great uncle had also served. As Jeff says: “The Navy’s always been in my blood.”
These days, Jeff is a partner based in McKinsey’s Southern California office, still living in his Navy duty station of San Diego where he co-leads our firm’s West Coast Veterans group and global Customer Care service line within the Operations Practice. He finds himself frequently tapping into his seven-year naval service knowledge when helping clients develop and implement competitive operating strategies. After graduating from the Naval Academy with a degree in systems engineering—a mix of mechanical and electrical engineering—Jeff was selected for the Navy nuclear submarine program.
Following a year and a half of nuclear training—and after living in Florida, upstate New York, and Connecticut, Jeff was assigned to the USS Bremerton, a Los Angeles-class nuclear-attack submarine homeported in San Diego. While on the Bremerton, he completed two six-month deployments to the Western Pacific and an assignment with the Navy’s submarine rescue assets. He fortunately never had to exercise any rescues but was able to pursue an MBA at night at San Diego University as he was planning to start a family and contemplating a civilian career.
Just one day after ending his Navy service in 2004 and one month after the birth of his eldest son, Jeff joined McKinsey’s Lean Manufacturing program as a business analyst and the program's second submariner hire. “I knew very little about the firm prior to joining except that I had an aunt who was a business analyst in New York in the early '80s,” he says. Working through a headhunter who told Jeff it was a highly competitive position—and to not get his hopes up—reaffirmed for him that McKinsey was “exactly the place I was looking to start my post-Navy career.”
“When I started, I was surprised by how quickly I could apply the deep knowledge I had gained in the Navy to client situations within operations,” he says. He attributes the combination of his engineering background and leadership and managerial experiences to being able to advise clients across areas like planning and scheduling, supply chain optimization, and frontline performance transformations.
Similarly, Jeff appreciated the firm’s focus on its values. “Just as the Navy’s mission is to protect our citizens,” he says, “McKinsey has a similar sense of commitment towards our clients and people. That was evident to me from day one.” For his first two years at the firm, he held onto that deep sense of commitment by serving as an officer in the Navy Reserve.
For Jeff, assuming expanded leadership roles at McKinsey came naturally. When promoted to the engagement manager role, Jeff reflects on having “felt the same kind of focus on development and welfare for my colleagues as I had for my sailors and what I had seen from my mentors in the Navy,” he says. He talks about bringing the same tightknit spirit shared among officers in the wardroom to the team room. “A detail like knowing the first names of each team member's families—spouses, significant others, kids—is really important to me,” he says. “You spend more time in the week with your colleagues than you do with your family, and I think for a leader to know the non-work side of employees is crucial for understanding them holistically.”
Elsewhere, in an effort to create a sense of community for the growing number of Veterans@McKinsey, Jeff helped set up the West Coast Veterans group six years ago. With a focus on onboarding and mentorship for these colleagues, he describes this group as a way for people from common experiences and background to come together and know they have others like themselves here.
“Whether you’re sitting inside a metal tube for six months on end or working long hours and traveling during the week to solve other organizations’ complex problems, the level of personal sacrifice I’ve seen for the greater good between my fellow sailors and McKinsey colleagues is like nothing else,” Jeff says.
Read more profiles of our veteran colleagues here.