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McKinsey is like a high–performance sports team

Marieke, a former professional swimmer in the 2004 Athens Summer Games, now associate in the Public Sector Hub in Sydney, explains how.

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Ever since I was six years old, I knew I wanted to compete for Australia. Over the years I realised swimming was the sport I did best and loved the most, and I dedicated a fair chunk of my school years to churning up and down a black line at our local swimming pool. I loved it. I loved racing, I loved the friends I developed through the sport, and I loved that I got to work towards my goals daily. Although I made a lot of sacrifices, I was so passionate about swimming I didn’t mind at all.

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Later, when I was swimming fulltime and studying for a bachelor of arts part-time, I was exposed to ideas in politics which excited me. I was studying in 2008 when the Australian goverment first tried to implement a carbon trading scheme and before the global financial crisis. It was the peak of climate action and it seemed we were on the verge of doing something important. I realised I had a passion for positively impacting my community through public policy. During the last few years of my swimming career, I chose to balance my sport with a master’s in public policy and work at a think tank, the McKell Institute, as a policy and research officer. Finding something else I was passionate about helped me transition smoothly from professional athlete to full–time professional researcher.

Although I loved some areas within policy more than others – like education and innovation – I found a range of topics interesting and meaningful. Good public policy can make a huge difference in people’s lives. I didn’t want to specialise in one area; I wanted to work across a range of policy portfolios.

McKinsey made that variety possible. In the Public Sector Hub , I have worked at the state and federal levels in areas ranging from education to health, social services and treasury. Additionally, I have contributed to internal research on interesting topics that stretch my thinking and help me to bring new insights to our clients.

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The part of the firm I enjoy most is the people. Growing up in an environment where everyone on my team was dedicated to and passionate about the same goal – swimming faster and representing Australia – I didn’t realise how uncommon that sort of environment is outside of sport. However, McKinsey is very much akin to a high-performance team: people are dedicated to self-improvement, passionate about making a difference to clients and our community, and down to earth. When I got to know my colleagues, I felt I had found “my people” again. We work hard, we have a huge amount of fun, and we’re connected by our desire to have a positive impact.

I feel incredibly lucky to work at a firm that allows me to follow my dreams and work with amazing people on interesting topics daily. Although I don’t represent my country anymore, the regular intellectual stimulation I get with my work far outweighs the irregular satisfaction that comes from winning gold medals. Plus, I don’t miss those 5am starts!

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More about Marieke

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Marieke grew up in Brisbane, Queensland. She competed in the 2004 Summer Games in Athens and represented Australia for more than 10 years after that. In 2009, she won the world championships in the 50m Butterfly and she broke two world records during her career in the pool.

Now she lives in Sydney is an associate within our Public and Social Sector practice. She is a member of her local surf lifesaving club, and is the current president of the Australian Swimmers’ Association. In her spare time, she likes to read and binge on TV shows with her husband Jason and cat Avalon.

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