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Kelsey’s work, her way

San Francisco-based partner Kelsey tells how she combines client work with leading our West Coast Gender Initiative and making it to Soulcycle.

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Kelsey, a partner in San Francisco, helps consumer-facing companies achieve their growth goals in marketing and sales, focusing on digital marketing, e-commerce, and customer acquisition and personalization. Kelsey also leads our West Coast Gender Initiative and is a co-author of our recently released Women in the Workplace report, written in partnership with Lean In. Learn more below on her and how she combines client work with leading our West Coast Gender Initiative and making it to Soulcycle.

Where are you right now?

Seat 4E at 36,000 feet, en route from New York to Los Angeles.

Give us one word that best describes how you work.

Agile. Even if I could have more than one word, I’d still go with Agile.

Describe your problem-solving strategy in a sentence.

I try to put myself in the customer or shopper’s shoes to identify what does not feel right and find the holes in our logic to help our team come up with new answers and solutions for our clients.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done for work?

There are SO many possible answers to this, so I’ll give you two:

• Present to company leadership teams about the future of retail and the impact of digital competitors on their business
• Shop for skincare on a work trip to Seoul at 10:30 p.m. local time

Give us an example of a client impact story that makes you feel proud.

When I was an early-tenured engagement manager (~two years at McKinsey), I served a client for more than 10 months. The two of us went to lunch together as our work was ending. She expressed how much it meant for her personally to have worked with me and with the firm, beyond the business impact we had driven together. She talked about the learning curve she experienced with real emotion. It was a defining moment for me. It was the first time I saw a deeper level of impact at the individual level, and I knew I had to continue helping leaders along their personal and professional journeys.

What can you just not seem to master?

My teams will tell you I am pretty focused on staying in shape–from Barry’s Bootcamp to SoulCycle to yoga–but I can’t seem to master pull-ups.

In a single tweet (140 characters), give a first year associate your best advice.

Be open to new experiences and sectors, solve for people, and learn the toolkit. Expand from there.

How do you relieve stress when you can’t leave the office?

I turn on Spotify or I post a photograph on behalf of my dog to his Instagram account (@gusthesammy). Gus pays me a decent social-media manager commission.

Kelsey inline with dog

What’s one thing readers might be surprised to know about your career?

In high school, I tried to balance art and science; my favorite classes were art and calculus. The first career I considered was architecture, and I spent a summer during high school in the Cornell studio drawing and building models. In the end, architecture was too much art and not enough science, though the combination of left and right brain activities has been something I have striven to maintain throughout my career.

What do you listen to while you work?

I have a running playlist every year where I add my favorite new music throughout the year. Here’s a picture of the latest songs I’ve added to my “Seventeen” (2017) playlist.


Finally, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Maintain perspective. The work we do at McKinsey is so important and high profile, but we each get one precious life so it’s important to celebrate small and big things inside and outside of work. I am lucky to have great reminders of this perspective:
• My mother always reminds me not to lose perspective even when work and life seem stressful or overwhelming
• My husband is the most incredible supporter and partner I could imagine. He makes me laugh in times of stress and reminds me we have a great life whenever I get frustrated
• Just the other day, a stranger in an elevator reminded me of this when I asked how he was doing. “I am doing GREAT,” he said. “I’m breathing, and that means I am IN THE GAME. What more could you ask for, ma’am?”

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