PhD propelled exploration

What brought you to McKinsey?

Marcelo Bassalo
Marcelo Bassalo

My background is in biotechnology and synthetic biology. I have a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Brazil, a PhD in molecular biology from University of Colorado Boulder, and I did my postdoctoral research at MIT. During my journey as a scientist, I always had an appetite for developing new technologies. I worked with several companies and startups, and I was fascinated by how they transformed themselves and the world through innovation and tech development. I wanted to work on topics with real-world impact, and helping companies transform through innovation was top-of-mind.

When I learned about McKinsey, I wasn’t sure how well my PhD would fit in an environment that, I thought, valued only business backgrounds. Then, I attended a McKinsey event called Global Connect in Washington DC in 2019. It was a transformative experience. I was immediately drawn by the diversity of backgrounds of people at the firm, the broad impact of the work, and the incredible opportunity to develop myself.

Since joining McKinsey, I realized my PhD was excellent training for the work we do as consultants. PhD candidates develop resilience and they are curious, analytical problem-solvers. I see so many parallels between scientific research and solving problems with clients at McKinsey.

What do you like most about working in tech at McKinsey?

I am surrounded by incredibly smart people who care about my development and teach me new things every day. I push myself out of my comfort zone to learn about new industries, which is an opportunity I don’t think you can get anywhere else. Through that exploration, I realized I am quite interested in the mining industry. Overall, the breadth of experiences and exposure I’m getting here is unparalleled.

Marcelo Bassalo
Marcelo Bassalo

Describe one of your most meaningful engagements.

One of the most exciting projects I’ve done included developing a full Internet of Things (IoT) innovation roadmap for an energy company in Brazil. Our client developed an IoT energy meter, and our goal was to expand the concept to a full suite of applications, including energy demand management, smart meters to monitor utilities networks, predictive maintenance and automation.

Our team was composed of digital and generalist consultants, and we extensively leveraged the global network of experts at McKinsey. Our collective effort allowed us to build a roadmap of use cases our clients could gradually implement and to outline the required capabilities they needed to transform.

In the end, our clients no longer saw themselves as a utility, but as a tech platform player. It was extremely rewarding to see how excited and motivated our clients were about what they could achieve through innovation.

Marcelo Bassalo
Marcelo Bassalo

What advice would you give someone interviewing at McKinsey?

Have fun! Interviewing at McKinsey is an incredible experience. It’s fun, engaging, and relaxed. Just picture that you already have the job and pretend the interview is actually you and your team trying to solve a client problem. Engage with your interviewer, work together, and be yourself.

A fun fact about me is…

I really enjoy being in the mountains, a love I developed while living in Colorado. I enjoy hiking in the summer and snowboarding in the winter. While I can’t get much snowboarding here in Brazil, I am excited to make a snowboarding trip when it’s safer after COVID.

Marcelo Bassalo
Marcelo Bassalo

McKinsey offers an excellent flexibility program called Take Time, which allows colleagues to take additional unpaid vacation days to support their hobbies and passions. I enrolled in this for the first time this year, and I’m already planning to use some of these days to travel and hike in Brazil. To me, reconnecting with nature is essential to reenergize myself, so the fact that McKinsey is flexible to allow me to do that in between projects is amazing.

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