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Keeping in touch

The support of her colleagues led Kerry on a journey she didn’t expect, all the way from recruiter to director of recruiting for the Americas.

I walked into McKinsey for the first time as a recruiter in 2000. If you had told me I would still be here in 2018, four children later, and that I’d be the director of recruiting for the Americas, I would not have believed you. All these years in between have been a journey I’d like to share with you, but if you’re looking for the CliffsNotes, mentorship and passion have been key.

I was introduced to the firm by a friend who was in recruiting. In the middle of my first interview, I realized the role at hand was in recruiting communications, not recruiting. It sounded very exciting, but I wasn’t skilled in communications. My background was in banking. I had made a pit stop at a start–up and was looking for a larger training ground to learn recruiting.

I paused my interviewer. I said, "I love what you are saying about McKinsey and it sounds like an amazing place, but I think we can both agree that I am not the right person for this role." My interviewer, Eileen, laughed and agreed. She said, "let’s keep in touch." I remember thinking, "well, that’s that. I will never hear from Eileen or McKinsey again."

I was wrong. A few months later, Eileen called me and said, “I have the perfect job for you.” She was right. I interviewed again and was hired onto our first team focused on recruiting experienced professionals. Before I even walked in the door at the firm, I had the ability to:

  1. Be direct and transparent in a way that was well received, admired and reciprocated
  2. Learn that when we say, “keep in touch,” we mean it, and it works

After I joined, that openness continued to be a theme. I had so many people who took the time to teach me things –about recruiting, consulting, problem–solving, etc. I focused on recruiting experienced professionals and grew to minor in assessment and policies, then women’s recruiting. I loved it.

Then I hit a bump. When I started my family, the firm offered little flexibility. Things have changed now, but at the time, the firm was a different place. I left so I could focus on my new daughter.

Kerry 3
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A few years later, a former colleague called. He said, “We need you. Dave (another co–worker, who led recruiting for the Operations practice) is in his final stages battling against cancer. The firm wants him to spend time with his family, and he won’t step away until we find someone he trusts to take his role over. The only name he has mentioned is yours.” Of course, I returned, I was so moved and honored. I was also impressed the firm would be so supportive of Dave and his family.

I said I would just stay for a little bit to help – working part–time and from home. I loved the Operations practice so much, I stayed. I grew in my role, mostly thanks to my manager Heather. She enabled me to work on anything that benefited recruiting and captured my interest, as long as my day job was going well.

Fast forward several years. Heather is promoted to a new role, and I received her role managing recruiting for the Operations practice. Again, I was supported by an incredible group of professionals who are also my personal friends. I would not be where I am today without them.

When my current role as director of Americas recruiting was posted – it was a very sad moment for me. I was very close to Elisabeth, the women in the position before me. When she called me to tell me she was stepping down, I was devastated. She too had been battling cancer for years and it had become bigger than she was. I did not think about the job, just about her.

Kerry 1
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Then something odd happened. My phone started to ring and my email blew up with supporters encouraging me to apply for the role. I had never thought about it. I reached out to a few mentors. I hoped they would tell me what to do, but the best mentors are sounding boards; they helped me think things through but ultimately the decision was mine. I thought about what would happen if I did not apply for the role and how I would feel. That’s what ultimately pushed me forward. I held a family meeting and my husband and I spoke with our kids and shared what I was thinking about –what it would mean for them –and that if I had their support, I would move ahead. They gave me the green light.

We have so much talent here, I didn’t expect to get the job. I never set out to be a manager, I just worked hard, loved it and tried to make a difference. Part of me wanted to apply for the director of recruiting opportunity to show my children how to put yourself out there, and that even if things don’t work out, you will still be ok. You need to try and give it your all.

Of course, I was thrilled when I received the good news that I was receiving the offer for the role. The best moment was when I shared the news with my family; they were SO EXCITED and proud they nearly tackled me with hugs. My McK family was the same. I recall the moment I shared the news with my team; they screamed with delight and were cheering for me. Then the cheers turned to tears, since it meant it would no longer be their direct manager. That moment was so moving for me – it made me feel so good about all I had accomplished and so encouraged about my path forward. The support I’ve received since has blown me away –emails or calls to let me know people are feeling good about my leadership or make suggestions about ways we can continue to grow and excel.

I never could have predicted this path, and I am so grateful to work in such a stimulating environment with the best, most caring people. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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