Finding comfort and flexibility during personally challenging times

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Camil sitting on green bench in park
Camil sitting on green bench in park

Family comes first

In April 2020, after I’d been with the firm for three months, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I received the news that my father has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a horrible disease that will eventually fully paralyze him. Ultimately, he won’t be able to lift a finger or speak, and this disease typically becomes fatal within a year or two from onset. To make matters worse, when I heard his diagnosis, the whole world was in lock-down, and I had no idea when I would be able to join my father where he lives in China to help him and spend our last precious moments together. I was devastated.

The engagement manager on my team noticed a significant change in my performance, and reached out to ask how I was doing. As soon as she heard about my father’s situation, she told me, "You are taking a leave of absence, effective immediately, for as long as you need. Don’t worry about the client or our team. We’ll manage. Take care of yourself and of your father first."

The next day, I received a call from the partner leading the client project. He spent more than an hour on the phone with me. He wanted to see how I was doing and also insisted I have zero worries about taking time off amid these times of economic uncertainty. This gave me a real sense of safety and reassurance.

After being stuck in Morocco for four months while my father’s health was rapidly deteriorating, I miraculously found an opening to join him in China. Again, McKinsey showed me an unparalleled degree of flexibility: I could stay on leave or start working again, either remotely on assignments in similar time zones or through a temporary transfer to the Beijing office. I chose to stay on leave for the time being.

With all that time, comfort, and flexibility, I have been at my best helping my father with his devastating disease. I’ve spoken to dozens of neurologists around the world, navigated the extremely complex processes of obtaining rare treatments from clinical trials, read all I could about the disease, participated in forums, handled administrative tasks, spent countless days and nights at the hospital, and fully taken care of my father from getting him dressed in the morning to the most trivial things such as waking up at 3:00am to scratch his ear or adjust his hand. I’ve never been very good at using words to demonstrate affection; in this case, I have been able to show my father how much I care about him and how grateful I am for everything he has always done for me. McKinsey has given me the space and the support I need to do that.

One-firm model offers a vast realm of opportunities

Something quite special about McKinsey is our one-firm model, which means that no matter where your home office is, you can work on McKinsey projects all over the world. Indeed, by the end of my first week at the firm, I saw people flying back from Japan, Thailand, Nigeria, Kenya, Australia, the U.A.E., Senegal, France, and the U.K. (of course, this was all pre-COVID 19). Two weeks later, I started my first assignment in Morocco with a team of colleagues from five offices. I also saw several colleagues seamlessly transfer to other offices for professional or personal reasons. McKinsey really offers a vast realm of opportunities to shape your life and career.

In my case, this one-firm operational model allows me to focus on my country Morocco and Africa, while remaining connected to other places that have special meaning to me (I’ve lived in eight countries) and continuing to engage in new enriching experiences. I cannot think of another place that would offer me such a complete combination of opportunities.

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About Camil

Camil Mekouar is a graduate of Harvard Kennedy School, with a Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID). Prior to McKinsey, he also worked for five years with Bechtel in Gabon, Oman, and the United Kingdom. During his time with Bechtel, he held several types of positions, including Nightshift Construction Supervisor in Muscat (managing a team of 200 construction workers), and Business Development Associate at the company’s headquarters in London. Camil also has two Master of Science degrees from Columbia University, one in Civil Engineering, the other in Operations Research, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Duke University.

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