Connecting the military and McKinsey

In honor of Veterans Day in the US, we interviewed three of our colleagues who served in the military – two of whom are still serving as reservists today. Below they share what led them to McKinsey, how our Veterans@McKinsey network has helped them feel comfortable here, and more.

Want to learn more? Check out Three Reasons Why Veterans Succeed at McKinsey and meet more of our Veterans through their blogs: Tabitha, Erin, Kirk, Amy, Kelemwork, Jeff, and Matt.


William: I'm an associate in the Washington, DC office. I served for 15 years in the US Navy before coming to the firm. I was an FA team pilot and instructor, and I supported combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. On my staff assignments, I worked in the White House on military detail for the National Security Council and office of the vice president. I’ve also continued my service in the US Navy Reserve while working at McKinsey, including a year-long deployment to Djibouti, East Africa.

Sanjiv: I'm an associate partner, based in Silicon Valley. I joined the US Air Force Reserve within the medical corps in the EMEDS group, which is an expeditionary medicine group. Remember the old Army MASH show? That's effectively what we do. We go into the field to set up hospitals within 24 hours in austere environments.

Geneviève: I’m a partner in Toronto. I joined the Royal Canadian Navy at the age of 16. I went through our College Militaire Royale (Royal Military College), where I received my bachelor’s in engineering. I was commissioned as a naval engineering officer and served for a total of seven years. I was one of the first women to serve in a combat role. On some ships, I was the first woman officer on board, and there weren’t even dedicated heads (aka bathrooms on ships) for women. My whole experience shaped how I think about inclusion and diversity – work I still focus on at McKinsey.

What brought you to McKinsey?

Connecting the military and McKinsey - Sanjiv
Connecting the military and McKinsey - Sanjiv

Sanjiv: I joined McKinsey after completing my MD at the University of Michigan and my PhD in epidemiology at UC Berkeley. I was a clinical researcher and practicing clinician at UC San Francisco for several years and still maintain an appointment there (in addition to practicing medicine as a Captain in the Air Force Reserve and consulting for McKinsey).

I came to the firm to continue doing meaningful, impactful work, but at a faster speed and on a larger scale than I could in academia or medicine. I wanted to see the difference I was making in real time. A lot of what I had been doing was important but would take several years before it resulted in positive change.

Now that I’m here at McKinsey, I’ve also learned to value the opportunities I have to grow. I’ve pushed myself and explored areas I may not have otherwise, such as finance, advanced digital technology, and strategy – all things I learned at the firm. There’s a broad array of things to do. It has been fun and exciting to pick different pathways, try new things, and learn.

Geneviève: I joined McKinsey four years ago as a partner. I had been leading the public sector practice for another big consulting firm. I approached McKinsey to partner on a large transformation and worked with McKinsey teams for a couple of years. Through that process, we got to know each other well. I was so impressed with all the work McKinsey was doing, its values, and its focus on holistic impact, that that I decided to join.

William: I joined McKinsey for many of the same reasons I joined the Navy. I wanted to be part of an organization that was values-driven and that had incredible colleagues who put service first. We have some of the most interesting people on the planet at McKinsey. They are committed to professionalism and excellence and they are very diverse and inclusive. In many ways, the community here feels like a natural evolution of the service.

I also joined McKinsey to make a difference for those who serve our country on a bigger scale. We get to address some of the world's toughest problems in the public and private sector. Veterans bring the skills we need to tackle those challenges. For example, I'm especially proud of the work we’ve done to help stand up the PREVENTS task force, supercharging the US government's suicide prevention efforts, especially among veterans.

How has the firm supported you in your continued service in the military?

Connecting the military and McKinsey - Geneviève
Connecting the military and McKinsey - Geneviève

William: The firm is incredibly supportive of its colleagues in the Reserves. It identifies the value of the leadership we get from serving in uniform. McKinsey was especially supportive when I was recalled to active duty and mobilized to Djibouti. My colleagues rallied behind me, as a source of strength when I deployed and when I returned, helping me reintegrate.

Sanjiv: The whole time I've been at McKinsey – going on five-and-a-half years now – I've served in the US Air Force Reserve. Last year, I deployed to New York City as part of the COVID-19 response, and my colleagues overwhelmed me with encouragement. It was my first deployment, and there were a lot of unknowns. There were no treatments for COVID. There were no vaccines. There was a massive shortage of PPE. We didn't really know how long we would be out there or what we would be doing, but we volunteered to assist. The outpouring of support I received was amazing. Some colleagues sent me a coffee maker so I could drink it while deployed; others sent notes or texts to see how I was doing and make sure I was okay. It was a powerful reminder of the support network we've created here.

How has serving in the military helped you in your career as a consultant?

Connecting the military and McKinsey - William
Connecting the military and McKinsey - William

Sanjiv: There’s a tangible application for my experience in the Reserves in client settings. For me, it's helpful to understand how health care is delivered in multiple settings. The military has its own healthcare system and my knowledge of how it works is helpful to clients (and vice versa). Additionally, the military taught me how to solve very difficult problems on the fly with whatever resources we have available; that mindset has been valuable to me as a consultant. In both roles, I’m expected to work with a diverse set of people and lead. The skills I’ve learned in the Air Force and McKinsey have been translatable.

Geneviève: I learned a few things in the military that have molded me into a good consultant. The first is servant leadership. Most would say the military is very hierarchical – and that’s true. You need some hierarchy to keep order. At the same time, troops follow leaders who inspire them. No one is going to take a bullet for an officer that they don’t respect or admire. Though the situation is less life-or-death at McKinsey, we still value, seek, recognize and praise servant leaders.

Another skill that has been essential to me at McKinsey is teamwork. There’s a saying in the military that nobody goes to war alone. And in the McKinsey world, it's the same thing. We serve clients as teams. Collaboration is crucial to our ability to deliver impact.

Finally, it's the resilience. Similar to the military, what we do at McKinsey can be demanding. We tackle big, meaty, urgent problems, and McKinsey colleagues always pull through.

What is one of your favorite Veterans@McKinsey moments?

William: One of my favorite moments was working with a colleague who was an Army veteran. I knew he served in Afghanistan around the same time I did, but it wasn't until we finally got a coffee together midway through our project, that we discovered we served in the same area and I provided close air support for him while he was on the ground. We talked to each other on the radio in our past life, and then, there we were, working together again to solve a problem at McKinsey.

Sanjiv: For me, Veterans@McKinsey has been about the interpersonal relationships I've built and the opportunities that have been created for me because of this kinship. Through this community, I’ve met several partners and senior partners who are veterans. We’ve bonded over shared experiences, and they’ve invited me to work with them on client engagements and knowledge development. Participating in the network has opened doors for me.

Geneviève: I’ve been privileged to work with many McKinsey veterans throughout my career. One colleague who serves in the Army Reserve really inspired me. Shortly after the beginning of the pandemic, our long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec faced severe COVID outbreaks. Our healthcare system could not handle the situation, so the Army was called. My colleague, who has two young children and is married to a healthcare worker, stepped in to lead the regiment and the turnaround effort to stabilize the care facilitates in Quebec. He was isolated from his family and lost a few people to this terrible virus while most of us were working in the comfort of our homes. People like him who put their lives at risk to keep us all safe are good reasons and reminders to thank veterans on Remembrance Day.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Veterans@McKinsey, please visit our website. Read more stories from our veterans here.

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