From summer intern to McKinsey designer

I went to SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) in 2019 to research and network for my master’s thesis, which focuses on food systems and sustainable consumption. I attended McKinsey partner Ben Shephard’s talk on the Business Value of Design, a presentation of McKinsey’s study of the design practices of 300 publicly listed companies over five years in multiple countries and industries. Prior to the show, I received an invitation to a tech meetup at McKinsey’s Austin office.


As a recruit, I appreciated the personal touch and opportunity to meet with tech practitioners at McKinsey in a more casual setting. After SXSWi 2019, I was excited to receive an offer to join McKinsey that summer as a design associate and at the end of the summer, I accepted McKinsey’s offer to join full time as a UX designer in the New York office after my graduation.

Design–centered leadership

I felt like a valued part of the team from day one. I worked with a diverse group, in terms of both expertise and experience level. We had generalists, agile coaches, engineers and designers collaborating on projects.

Coming in as a designer, I was eager to work alongside leaders at the partner and associate partner level who had been practicing designers themselves. This brought my mentorship to the next level, and I could lean on them for technical design expertise as well as business and soft skill training. This was a huge advantage for me, because in my previous work experience, none of the higher–ups had design background, so designers were under a lot of pressure.

The strong feedback culture at McKinsey helps me to learn quickly, and I found formal and informal mentors around every corner. The team made everyone feel comfortable, and hosted fun events like a trip to Yankee Stadium and a cruise around Manhattan.


Integrating design into our work

Through my work that summer, I saw that design as a discipline within McKinsey plays a double role. First, as designers we help our team understand the importance of design and implement design throughout the project, often using Sketch and Sigma to build mockups and prototypes. Second, we help clients understand how good design can make their business more human and can improve their products and services, during our project and beyond.

When I return to McKinsey full time, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the people I’ve already met and working with designers around the world as part of McKinsey’s 4.5K+ global tech team. I applied to McKinsey because of the firm’s reach and impact, and I can’t wait to continue learning, shape strategy and create meaningful change.

Advice for recruits & new joiners

My advice to design recruits and new joiners to the firm is be open to teaching their team and clients what it means to be a designer and how to implement design methodologies in their own practices. See things from a non–designer’s perspective and communicate in a non–technical way so people in other roles understand. Our work at McKinsey is a great opportunity to implement excellent design, teach others about it and create change that matters.


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About Ema

Ema is a UX designer joining McKinsey’s New York office after completing her master’s in design for interactions at Carnegie Mellon University. She was a summer design intern at McKinsey in 2019 and a senior consultant at Deloitte Digital from 2014–2018. Outside of work, Ema enjoys exploring new cities through food and wine–she even has a certificate from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Upon moving to New York, Ema is looking forward to getting involved in the city’s community gardens and food co–ops.

For more information on McKinsey’s design career paths, visit

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