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Why I’m glad I came to McKinsey before earning my PhD

Kai, a fellow with our Supply Chain Management practice in Cologne, describes how his McKinsey experience is helping him in his PhD research.

I applied for an internship with McKinsey in 2010 to figure out whether I wanted to work as a consultant after university or stay in school to write my doctoral thesis. During my internship, I worked with a German grocer to improve its supply chain. It was an awesome experience. When I received an offer to return, I eagerly accepted. This decision was made even easier because McKinsey gives its consultants the opportunity to obtain an advanced degree after working for two years.

I joined McKinsey’s Supply Chain Management practice in 2012 (learn more about my role) and was based in Cologne. Since 2014, I’ve been on educational leave working on my PhD. Interestingly, the project manager from my internship in 2011 is now my doctoral supervisor; he left McKinsey to become a professor. When I’m not studying or researching, I’m usually playing volleyball or basketball, reading, cooking or barbequing with friends, or word working.

Now that I’m back in school, I miss several things about the firm – like the amazing team dinners. My waistline is for the better, though. At McKinsey, I learned to structure my work and prioritize my activities; skills that are helping me considerably in my research. One of my favorite engagements was helping a medical device manufacturer improve its quality management, then roll out the new processes to sites across North America and Europe. It was fascinating to see how cultural differences led people to tackle the same problems completely differently.

If you are considering a career in consulting, go for it. If you’ve already applied and been invited to interview: have fun with it. Of course, a certain degree of nervousness on interview day is normal and helps you focus. Don’t worry about making mistakes; use your interviews as a chance to get to know people and learn about interesting cases.