Fuel for the road ahead

“I vividly remember listening, as a teenager, to elders in my church recount experiences in which they were forced to sit at the back of the bus or train or offered janitorial roles after they had earned college degrees in the 1930s and 40s.” These stories shaped Judson into the leader he is today.

A humble upbringing leads to a commanding presence

Fuel for the road ahead
Judson with his wife and mother
Fuel for the road ahead

Growing up during the post-Civil Rights era in the US, Judson recalls how his parents and other Black Americans were denied employment opportunities until the mid-1960s. Judson’s parents were raising his older brothers in the 1950s and 60s, and they were always willing to share their experiences. For example, the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and the groundswell of change led from the Federal Government towards private industry were make-or-break moments for their livelihood.

This perspective of their experiences shaped him tremendously. It helped him understand and embrace diverse points of view that have only become more multifaceted in the current era we are navigating as a society.

“I always valued the opportunities to do things my parents did not have a chance to experience,” he explained. “I was well-aware they were limited in their educational and work opportunities for decades. I observed when they and many others felt like it was finally their shot, and it shaped my ability to create and stick to goals. I was appreciative of the doors that were in many cases, recently opened to me.”

Like many other young people, Judson saw the military as his best option for a college education. Forty years prior, his father, as a 17-year-old with a sixth-grade education, had enlisted and served in a segregated US Army. Judson never took this lightly, often using the lessons from his father and other elders to guide him through the Naval Academy. After graduating, Judson served as a US Navy Lieutenant for six years.

“Becoming an officer was a tremendous boost to my confidence,” he said. “[It] felt like many things came together in a meaningful way. I could draw from so many of my experiences. I had more lenses to apply to problems, particularly with people, than many others did. I also recognized from day one the great responsibility I was given as an African-American officer at a time when the enlisted Navy was composed of nearly 50% people of color but the officer corps was no more than 5%. Almost daily I was approached by a shipmate who shared that they had never met a black person who had a college degree and wondered how that was ever possible. I saw my father in many of those people, including white shipmates from highly underprivileged backgrounds, and poured myself into their success. Little by little, I saw their fear transform to confidence and several did go onto college. That offered me in my early 20s a glimpse of what a platform could be and do for others. I learned to understand people from different backgrounds, which is one of the great things about the military. The stories we hear these days about the extremism pain me because I will always value the opportunity the military offers to bring together people from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Building a career with meaning

Fuel for the road ahead
Fuel for the road ahead

After his time as a commissioned Naval officer, Judson went to business school. He chose to go into the technology sector for a few years, then found himself gravitating towards the public sector. He built his career for a little over a decade in that space, helping Fortune 100 firms and small businesses grow in public sector markets. This diversity of experience helped him, along with a small group of colleagues, craft a new role focused around helping the firm navigate the complexities of developing and serving clients in the regulated public sector.

The first few years meant working closely with client service teams, partners, and practices to ensure McKinsey consistently brought the best of the firm’s experience with private sector organizations to public sector clients in ways that tied most to their missions.

“The journey itself has been rewarding in watching us scale impact and create growth opportunities for colleagues across the many functions it takes to successfully serve public sector clients. Creating opportunities for others was impressed upon me from an early age because there have always been talented, hardworking people. Some lack opportunity. I’ve always kept in perspective that, yes, I've worked hard, but in a larger part, I've had opportunity that many people close to me did not have for themselves. You can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don't have boots.”

Judson believes that public sector organizations can make a big difference in the lives of citizens in the US and around the world. “We’re at a time where generational changes are taking shape – similar to the era I referenced from my childhood. Public sector leaders have an enormous role, and it’s an unprecedented time for McKinsey to be able to help clients tackle these issues.”

Mentorship in action

Fuel for the road ahead
Judson with his wife and son
Fuel for the road ahead

Judson’s involvement at McKinsey goes beyond the public sector. For example, Judson says participation in the McKinsey Black Network was essential for his development.

“It's always been powerful for me to recognize that I'm part of something much bigger, and it has very much motivated me to open doors for others. That, to me, is a way of repaying the debt I owe to those who certainly, with a lot more risk, laid it on the line for me.”

The mentorship Judson has provided has allowed the firm to bring in more Black talent by looking at things more holistically. For example, the network has become more inclusive of diverse, experienced profiles.

What’s to come for this partner?

As he gains his footing in his partner role, Judson plans to make an even greater difference.

“I'm grateful that the firm, over the course of my career, has increasingly made itself a place where diverse, experienced profiles can thrive. [McKinsey] gave me the confidence to build better sponsorships and mentoring relationships, which helped me find my voice as a leader.”

While he may be a new partner at McKinsey, Judson is looking forward to celebrating 20 years of marriage with his wife, Shawndre, this year and their son Chase’s graduation from high school in 2023. Cultivating even stronger, deeper relationships with clients and colleagues is also a focus for Judson in reflecting on what’s to come in his new role.

No matter your focus or level of experience, Judson advises: “McKinsey has proven to be a place where having endurance and being adaptable are rewarded. These are important characteristics for success in life.”

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