Gracie initially joined McKinsey in Silicon Valley as a business analyst in 2011. After two years, she left to spend a year doing strategy and pre-sales work for big data analytics SaaS solutions in the utility sector, then earn her MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business. After school, she spent three years with PG&E, entering as a corporate strategy analyst and leaving as a PMO manager in Clean Energy Transportation. She returned to McKinsey as an engagement manager in San Francisco. This time, due to COVID-19, her onboarding experience looked a little different. It was entirely virtual. We sat down (virtually) with Gracie to learn more.
What brings you back to McKinsey?
I’m passionate about climate issues and liked working on renewables and clean transportation at PG&E but missed working with clients, driving change relatively quickly and working on really thorny issues. There’s never a dull day, and I am always with good people. I’ve come back as a generalist, so I can work in a range of industries and functions, though I plan to stay close to the energy and clean tech sectors.
How were you feeling leading up to virtual onboarding?
Overall, I was confident McKinsey would make thoughtful decisions about the experience and program and be clear about what I needed to do. I was more nervous about the social side of things, uncertain how I would make friends in my peer group and worried it would be a lonely couple of weeks getting ramped up.
What were the events leading up to your first day?
Receiving my technology was amazing. It came in a big, beautiful, blue box with my name and firm identification number on it, and clear instructions and a welcome letter inside. It felt symbolic that McKinsey was excited to have me back and would give me the resources I needed to be successful, even in these complicated and uncertain times.
What was your favorite moment? Any funny moments or mishaps?
One of the leaders of my Embark class – our one-week intro to basic consulting skills – has a young daughter named Gracie. I thought people were commenting on how adorable I was, before I realized they were talking about the cute little girl.
Do you feel you were able to connect with your peers?
Yes. Zoom has a great breakout feature that made it easy for us to move into small groups throughout Immersion and Embark. It was fun to get to know the individuals in those small groups, hear about their backgrounds and their quarantine lifestyles, and work on our projects together.
How was your overall experience with this virtual format? Any similarities and/or differences to your first onboarding experience?
It was great! The content was helpful and engaging. I met lots of new people and feel like I’m getting back into the swing of the McKinsey community and way of working.
The training materials worked well in a virtual environment. They leveraged great visuals, including well-produced videos that introduced parts of the company that were new to me, like design, agile, and advanced analytics. Working on case studies in small teams kept the virtual training engaging; we could be in virtual breakout rooms in small groups to roll up our sleeves to tackle a problem, just like we were in the team room together. Once we were in the small break-out sessions, the types of questions we were working on, the skills we were learning, and the dynamics didn’t feel much different from the in-person training I remember in 2011.
I will say the quarantine happy hours had a slightly different vibe – most of us in pajamas drinking tea. But that’s a nice way to get to know colleagues, too!
What is next for you?
I’m staffed on a client project evaluating opportunities in the electric utility sector. I’m not worried about being virtual, because everyone else will be too. My team has fun and informal virtual coffee breaks each week to get to know each other better. I’m a little concerned about my dog howling or my cat attacking my feet during a client call, but everyone has something like that, and we’ll take it as it comes. I’ll learn to be speedy with the mute button.
Share one thing about yourself that may come as a surprise to people.
The last social activity I did before quarantine began was to get together with close friends who live in my neighborhood – who all happen to be friends from my 2011 McKinsey business analyst class. That includes my boyfriend, who now leads customer growth at a fintech start up, as well as friends who have gone into healthcare, finance, and others like me who have come back to McKinsey.