From a master’s in Public Policy to an impact-driven consulting career

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Ben on campus
Ben on campus

I joined McKinsey in Greater China as a summer intern, during my studies toward a master’s in Public Policy at Harvard. After graduation and attending school for eight years in the United States, I returned as a full-time consultant in 2018.

The semester before my graduation, I talked with peers who were planning to work in governments or for non-profits – something I believed I would be doing when I applied to school. I started to doubt myself: was I betraying the purpose of my public policy education by entering a private sector job? Would my skills and experiences be applicable to a management consulting career? Could I derive a similar sense of meaning as my peers going into the pubic and social sector?

In the year-and-a-half I have spent at McKinsey, I came to three conclusions:

Working at McKinsey still advances public purpose. I worked on a team to design the mid-term strategy for the metro operator in a major city. We recommended ways to make the metro system safer and more convenient for passengers and outlined efficiencies in public spending for construction and developing the surrounding real estate. The advice we provided could improve significant infrastructure serving millions of people.

My non-MBA educational background is very applicable in consulting. At Harvard, I took a course about the regulation of autonomous vehicles. This experience prepared me for a client engagement for an automotive parts supplier looking to design an autonomous driving product. On my team were seasoned consultants who knew the market dynamics and PhDs who understood the technology. I contributed by explaining the influence of policy. More broadly, success at McKinsey does not depend on business experience; it requires the strong structural thinking and communication skills I built through my education.

Consulting careers are meaningful and they drive change that matters. At Harvard, my most transformative experience came from a series of leadership, negotiations, and communications courses that went beyond empirical analysis to analyze the role people and behavior play in creating functional governments and organizations. At McKinsey, I found a group of similar-minded consultants in our Organizations practice. This year, I am learning about their efforts to help clients improve products and sales, transform people and cultures and have a lasting impact on the organizations we serve.

The motto of the Kennedy School is “Ask what you can do.” I believe I will be able to do justice to my degree, and I am grateful McKinsey enables me to learn, grow, explore, and be at my best.

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