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From a PhD in public health to consulting in retail

Mariana was surprised and excited to find she could apply the skills and tools she learned in grad school to be at her best at McKinsey.

Mariana, an associate in New Jersey, had a few pleasant surprises when she joined McKinsey. Learn how the firm helps her be at her best every day.

Working in retail?!

Mariana inline
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After finishing my PhD in public health at Columbia, I joined McKinsey. I expected to serve clients in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, but my first client was an apparel company (note, this doesn’t always happen. New hires are often staffed in industries in which they have experience). I was excited and a little nervous. I had always been curious about the retail industry, and I liked the idea of working with brands I loved, but I wasn’t sure how I could apply my knowledge outside of healthcare.

A few surprises

I was surprised to find many of the skills I developed in grad school were relevant to the questions we were helping our clients answer. My role was working with engineers to make better shelves and displays that were more consistent with the brand and more cost effective. While they brought the technical know-how, I worked with clients and did the analysis to determine total potential savings. My comfort with data and ability to communicate were the keys to my success – two skills I developed during grad school.

At my best

Since then, I’ve worked almost exclusively in retail, and I have continually pushed myself to find ways to creatively use my training. For example, I recently I helped another apparel retailer understand its customers’ journeys using survival analysis (something I never thought I would use outside of healthcare!). The results helped the clients understand when and why potential customers were leaving stores without making a purchase, identifying the biggest opportunities for improvement.

That’s what’s so cool about being a PhD at McKinsey: my training helps me bring a different perspective to teams and, together, we’re able to arrive at innovative answers. I never feel like there is one right way to do something at McKinsey. Instead, I’m pushing the boundaries of my own creativity and flexibility.

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