Emerging Scholars: Nancy, Tuck School of Business

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The Emerging Scholars program enabled Nancy to build lasting friendships with people who inspire and motivate her every day. Now, she wants to help you succeed in your application for the program. If you’re starting business school in the US this fall, read Nancy’s tips and apply for Emerging Scholars by May 17.

My first job out of college was teaching sixth graders math. The principal inspired me so much that I nearly changed my teaching certification to follow him when he was promoted to oversee a nearby high school. He shaped how I saw myself and how I saw the world, and since then, I’ve always wanted to work with great people.

When I flew to Chicago in the summer of 2015 for the Emerging Scholars event, I found an incredibly diverse group of people. They came from the military and medicine; they were passionate about grassroots activism and art history. One talked about running a start-up in Africa; another about being mom to a hilarious and spunky four-year-old. I laughed a lot and was awed by the people around me.

During my summer internship as an Emerging Scholar, I worked with an engagement manager who used to be an attorney and a senior associate who came from healthcare. Our different perspectives shaped how we approached the problem we were helping our clients solve, and seeing how my teammates drew insights and crafted stories was a huge learning for me.

The team events we shared also brought us together. Highlights included a TRX class in which I got hopelessly tangled in the set-up and an astonishingly honest team dinner during which I asked the senior partner on my study if he ever doubted himself. I’ll never forget his reply: “All the time. That’s why I lean on the people around me.” I saw people lead with very different styles, which made me believe there was room for me and my style, too.

Inline Nancy
I’m the one on the far left, pictured here with my teammates Carina and Cathlene. They are demonstrating how we ring a gong to celebrate wins, big and small, with our clients. This small act has been hugely motivational for all of us.
Inline Nancy

What ultimately convinced me return to McKinsey full-time after graduating with my MBA was the vibrant people. It’s a place that invites each one of us to be our best selves. During the recruiting process in business school, I remember feeling a little pressure from my classmates, career services reps, and company representatives to conform, to speak the consulting lingo, to project what I thought was expected of me. It wasn’t terribly exciting. What I found exciting was talking about the exhilarating highs and lows of teaching middle school math and solving problems in ways that felt natural to me, even if my structure didn’t include exactly three buckets. And that was celebrated at McKinsey.

So, here’s my advice: as you get to know McKinsey, try not to get intimidated by peers who tell you they’ve done 50 cases. We all have our own approaches to learning and preparing for interviews. And simplicity – not complexity – is impressive, so try to avoid over–complicating the problem or throwing in a bunch of jargon. The best way to enjoy McKinsey is to be unabashedly yourself, from the time you apply, going forward.

More about Nancy

Nancy studied Chinese politics and literature at Harvard, then graduated from The Tuck School of Business in 2017. Before McKinsey, Nancy worked in K-12 education and spent a short stint at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska as part of the National Park Service. Nancy is an enthusiastic – if not entirely skilled – baker and enjoys drawing and Netflix documentaries.

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