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Risk and reward

Surprised by how valuable her military skill set was in the private sector, Kelemwork found a home in McKinsey’s Risk practice and is learning and growing more than she thought possible.

I believe there are two types of military veterans – those who know how valuable their experience is and those who have no clue. Prior to McKinsey, I was part of the latter group. It took putting myself out there (e.g., on LinkedIn and in networking events) to get my career to take flight. Recruiters liked the leadership experience, teamwork, and problem-solving ability I had from my time in service. Initially, I thought these skills were common, but there are many companies searching for people with these qualities – and McKinsey is at the top of that list.

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Since joining McKinsey’s Risk practice in 2015, I have helped six of the world’s leading companies solve some of their toughest problems. I’m based in New York, but I’ve worked in five countries.

I definitely had to shift my mindset as I transitioned from the military to McKinsey, a truly non-hierarchical firm. From day one as a business analyst, I was expected to prepare and present materials for C-suite executives, challenge conventional problem solving (one of our values is the obligation to dissent), and drive portions of each engagement forward. In a way, these first two years have been like boot camp for the rest of my career, whether I decide to stay at McKinsey and advance as a leader, start my own business or move into a leadership role at another company.

I’ve never felt like I’m doing it alone, so these challenges have helped me grow and develop in ways I didn’t think I could. Many people have supported me in my journey, especially the members of the Veterans@McKinsey and the McKinsey Black Network. Before I interviewed, both networks served as a prep resource, sharing tips and tricks. Now the colleagues in these networks are like my second family. One of my favorite things about participating in these groups is the opportunity to pay it forward by helping candidates and new hires succeed at McKinsey.