How McKinsey has helped me make life work

I joined McKinsey in January 2016 as an expert within our Petroleum Asset eXcellence (PAX) new venture, following 20 years working in oil & gas and chemicals. I came to the firm because I enjoy challenges and get bored easily; starting a new engagement every few months and being in an environment that prioritized my growth and development sounded amazing.

Fast forward 18 months or so, and it was time for me to attend Cambridge College, a week-long McKinsey training programme centered around leading project teams. I was tremendously enthused about attending. Everyone said it was a not to be missed opportunity to connect with and learn from more than 1,000 colleagues from all over the world. I was also excited to return to my old undergrad haunts; I hadn’t been back since I emigrated to Australia in 2010.

An unexpected, personal challenge

About three weeks before I was set to go, my wife, Sarah, experienced the re-occurrence of a disk injury in her neck. She needed surgery, and it was scheduled for the week before Cambridge. Her prognosis for recovery was good, but Sarah wouldn’t be able to drive or look after our very active five–year–old and his baby brother for several weeks.

I told Sarah I was pulling out of the training but she encouraged me to see if there was any way to make it work. We discussed options; with the full time help of a very kind friend, the baby would be manageable, but both children would be too big an ask.

My team’s creative solution

I duly informed my professional development lead at McKinsey that, with deep regret, I would have to pass on Cambridge. His response was,“I seem to recall most of your family are in the UK aren’t they?” Yes, they were. He continued, “Why don’t you take your oldest son with you to stay with your sister and her family while you are in Cambridge. The firm would cover the airfare for your son under the circumstances, and I am sure he would enjoy getting to know his cousins.”

I never would have considered that as a viable option. As I started to make phone calls, I could feel the sense of disappointment lifting and the tingle of great excitement return. The plan quickly came together after that. I got to attend the best training event I’ve ever experienced and build new relationships with colleagues from around the world. My family in the UK was thrilled to spend some time with my son, and after getting over Daddy leaving him (which took all of 10 minutes), he had a blast. He regularly asks me when we can go back and stay with his cousins again.


Support from McKinsey

On returning from this great adventure, I took several weeks off to care for my wife, who has now made a full recovery. During that time, I received a great deal of support and encouragement to take as much time as I needed even though I had only been employed by McKinsey for 18 months. I can’t imagine another organization that would give its people so much leeway and support, or a company more earnest about developing its people. I am looking forward to whatever comes next.

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About Mark

Based in Perth, Australia, Mark is an expert with Petroleum Asset eXcellence (PAX) by McKinsey, a new venture within our Oil & Gas practice. Prior to McKinsey, he worked as a senior facilities engineer with BHP’s petroleum and engineering group. Mark holds a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Cambridge.

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