The power of the pack

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It’s tradition at McKinsey to pen a goodbye email when leaving the firm. While writing two farewell emails in two months is unusual, the support and care Akshay, an associate in Chicago, received from his colleagues along the way is commonplace.


Tomorrow is my last day at the firm. Actually, I’ve said that before – only two months ago. It is a long story, but one that needs to be shared.

My last two years at the firm have been professionally rewarding and exciting and personally tumultuous. The year 2016 was one to forget for many people; for me, it was abysmal. I had a recurring health problem with kidney stones. I had to have surgery twice; I missed three to four months of work; and, I had to drop a couple of engagements halfway through just to manage my health.

Through this all, the firm and my team members stood by me. My engagement manager stayed an extra night at the hotel to check on my health. My teammates helped me manage my workload through doctor appointments and treatments. Local colleagues I’d never met came to visit me in the emergency room. The firm never let my health issues affect my staffing. In fact, I was staffed on a local study for six months in 2017 to minimize my travel.

Akshay inline
Akshay inline

When I finally decided to look for opportunities outside of McKinsey, my mentors and friends at the firm provided all the necessary contacts, resources, and counsel I needed to successfully find a new role. With their help, I received an offer to become the Director of Strategy at a social sector organization in the US a few months ago.

I was happy to have put all of my health issues behind me and was excited to start a new chapter in my life with a new organization in a new city. My wife applied for graduate school. We terminated our rental lease and scheduled movers. I drafted my first goodbye email to my colleagues. Then BAM! I got a call from my to–be employer a week before I was to join them saying they had to withdraw my offer.

It was a big, big shock. I had no home, no job, and I could only stay in this US for 60 days without employment. Literally, all it took was a couple of calls to McKinsey leaders to partially resolve this crisis – no exaggeration. When I announced I was leaving the first time, I had forfeited the time McKinsey typically gives its consultants to find other opportunities; McKinsey offered to give me back two months and provided me with all resources (e.g., alumni website, career counsellor) that I would have normally had. Some of my colleagues suggested a few internal positions and alumni from what seemed like every nook and corner of the globe were responding to my emails. Hundreds of emails and phone calls, tens of interviews, expedited HR processes completed in days – in a matter of about four weeks, I had my first offer in hand. Given the large support system I had, it is no surprise that today I have multiple offers to contemplate.

The people at this firm – the people who sat next to me (my colleagues and clients) and the people who once sat where I was (alumni) – they have helped to make this possible. As the Lady of Winterfell said in the “Game of Thrones” finale: “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.” McKinsey has proven to be a pack that not only survives, but hunts down that lone wolf and ensures his survival, too. It is this pack that I truly thank today. People who helped me through my health issues, mentored me through my career decisions, and guided me through my search. As for what’s next – I’m still deciding, though you’ll likely see me in the high–tech industry driving topline growth.

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