A twisty path from researcher to partner

Before McKinsey, I earned my degree in international relations and worked with think tanks and not-for-profit organizations. However, my career path deviated once I joined the firm’s Pharmaceutical Practice—now known as the Life Sciences Practice—in 2015.

I joined pharmaceuticals because I’d worked with not for profits in the healthcare industry, I liked the content, and it was a natural fit. I started as a researcher, providing McKinsey teams with information, access to experts, data, and case studies. I would research authoritative sources, find answers, and then hand over my findings to client-service teams and clients. At the time, the firm didn’t have digital and analytical expertise at scale in the pharmaceuticals industry.

Raising my hand to tackle tough challenges

Josh Sternberg
Josh Sternberg

On one of my projects, I helped conduct a series of analyses to understand insurance coverage for some pharmaceutical products. I realized McKinsey needed people to build solutions that would speed up these analytics. I raised my hand and said, “I’ll help you make that process faster.” I shifted out of research and into building solutions for our firm to use with clients.

I had always been interested in data, but I didn't know how to code, so I taught myself how to use Alteryx and Tableau, using a combination of YouTube videos and firm-learning programs. We went through a trial-and-error process of finding and licensing data sources, building analytical pipelines and dashboards that would let us analyze and transform the data, and stitching it all together. I spent the better part of two years building sets of analytics and directly iterating on them with more than 50 clients.

For example, one of our analytical solutions provides clients with insights on insurance coverage for their prescriptions. The rules are complicated, based on the patient and the circumstances. In the United States alone, there are more than 7,000 different insurance plans. Before we built our solution, we had to go online, download PDFs from each source, manually search them for each drug name, and then enter the coverage into a spreadsheet. We built a proprietary solution to turn this six-day exercise into an hour-long process. The output was the same for clients, but it saved McKinsey teams so much time—time they could then spend focusing on higher value-added activities, such as brainstorming implications for clients, working to build consensus around our recommendations, or building capabilities for clients to execute the strategy.

Becoming a go-to person

At the same time, the area I focused on—market access—became a top priority in the life-sciences industry. We began to serve a large volume of clients on the topic. Suddenly, the expertise I built was in demand because this area of pharmaceuticals is highly technical, so I began to expand the time I spent on this topic.

We grew our team, and I started to manage it. Now, we have a variety of experts including data scientists, managers, integrated consultants, and experts. As a partner, I lead the firm’s work within the Life Sciences Practice, which focuses on value and access, largely consulting life-sciences companies on how to increase access to their products.

Enjoying a variety of work under the pharmaceutical umbrella

Josh Sternberg
Josh Sternberg

Becoming a partner was a milestone, but it hasn’t changed the reason I’m with the firm. I'm still motivated to change how the US healthcare system approaches pharmaceuticals. At McKinsey, I get to come at that challenge from many different angles.

For example, on the market-access side, I worked on a project for a manufacturer. There were three products in the market--our client’s product was the cheapest, but the least well covered. We were asked to help our client get broader coverage.

I also worked with a client who has several launches planned in the coming years. They needed a standard way to assess risks so they could make stronger investment decisions.

The variety of work I do and clients I serve keeps me motivated.

On being a diversity and inclusion leader

I lead the diversity and inclusion efforts for our Waltham Client Capabilities Hub. I am a cis straight white male, so I’m not what people think of as diverse, but that doesn't mean I can't try to make a difference for my colleagues.

I also want to broaden our definition of diversity and inclusion. It goes beyond ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation to diversity in expertise, background, and skills or knowledge. Those are also critically important to our clients. Within McKinsey, we recognize there isn't just one way to serve and help our clients.

Growing at McKinsey—and helping others find their path

Josh Sternberg
Josh Sternberg

The beauty of McKinsey is people can choose—and rechoose—their own paths. I am a prototypical example. I have taken six different paths and held ten different titles. My deployment model has changed several times, and I’ve explored my specialization from several angles. I had to learn all of it, but because of hard work, the firm’s goals, and some persistence, I’ve had opportunities to try new things and tackle new challenges. That entrepreneurial spirit has helped me discover what I wanted to do, again and again.

One of the lovely things about getting elected partner is that my goals can shift over time. I get to ask, “What do I want to build over the next ten years?"

Part of that focus is paying it forward and acting as a catalyst for other people to take similar journeys at McKinsey. I have a duty to do that because of the people who helped me shape my own path.

I am very involved in the mentorship program in our Waltham office. I encourage members of our office to build their personal networks and find people they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, aspirations, and challenges with. I gain a lot of energy from hosting fireside chats, panels, and other initiatives that help colleagues connect to one another, find the support they need, and create a space for them to feel secure knowing we strive to make our office an inclusive, welcoming place.

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