Growth is not linear

Professional headshot of Mayowa
Professional headshot of Mayowa

It’s easy to think of personal growth as a series of linear decisions – a process of taking one clear-cut step after the other, in a predictable and sensible way. People like Mayowa remind us that growth doesn’t have to be linear...

“Where I am today hasn’t been one big reveal,” she told us over a Zoom call. “It’s been a gradual process of external stimuli and internal resolve. It’s been a set of micro-decisions that have brought me here.”

Before becoming a partner, Mayowa was already a renaissance woman. Growing up in Nigeria and moving to the UK when she was 16, she’s lived an international, multidimensional lifestyle. After her undergraduate degree, she found herself drawn to McKinsey for the first time. It was here she worked as a business analyst for two years after encouragement from friends who said she had the “personality for consulting”. She worked out of McKinsey’s Lagos office, which was brand new at the time and allowed her to wear multiple hats and be involved in the building process.

Shortly thereafter, Mayowa decided to take a year off to reroute and live somewhere new – something she says has become a habit in her life. After spending time in Australia and finishing business school, she found herself at another crossroads that compelled her to stop and reflect on where she wanted to be. Where could she go to plant herself in stable ground that would still allow her the freedom to make her own path?

On finding her path

Mayowa made the decision to return to McKinsey in October 2015. She says while it was ultimately the people she worked with and her passion for her work that drove her to return, McKinsey’s commitment to driving impact and the global nature of the firm is what sealed the deal.

“We had an atlas and a globe when I was growing up, and we'd always think about all the places we would be,” Mayowa said. “For me, that’s one of the reasons I love my job, it enables me to live out a dream I've had since I can remember.”

Mayowa and her path serves as a reminder that the best things in life—and often, our biggest career moves—aren’t always those that come after a predictable series of events. Sometimes it’s a matter of following your passion and giving yourself the space to make decisions in your own time, which is what getting plugged into McKinsey has helped her do.
Mayowa with friends on the beach
Mayowa with friends on the beach

On settling down and leveling up

But what exactly is it about McKinsey that has kept Mayowa here for the past six years?

“I have so many different interests, and I’m able to follow my interests in various ways in the firm,” Mayowa said. “I keep getting inspired year after year. I see how much my colleagues and I pour ourselves into addressing the problems our clients bring to us. It’s an environment that has kept me happy.”

What Mayowa will only humbly admit is that she made partner in just five years, which is no small feat. During that time, she has become the leader of McKinsey Africa’s Financial institutions practice and McKinsey’s Women’s Initiative in West Africa. She says she owes her success to something greater than her tenacity, inner wisdom and willingness to learn. 

“What people don’t talk enough about – and I’m very passionate about this – is the role other people had in getting me to where I am today,” Mayowa corrects. “I always talk about the fact that it really does take a village. And I attribute my success to the village that brought me here.”

Like many of her Black senior colleagues, the McKinsey Black Network has had a tremendous impact on Mayowa’s success and ability to transition into new roles along the way. McKinsey’s Black Network, she says, helped her realize there was a whole community of people who feel the same way and could support each other. Beyond offering professional support, Mayowa says many people she’s met through McKinsey Black Network have become close friends and confidants.

On staying grounded

Community is key for Mayowa. Any time she speaks about her successes and highlights, she brings gratitude back to the people who paved the way and stood alongside her. Aside from making time every day to check in with people who bring her energy, Mayowa cites exercise and good food as two things that help her stay grounded.

Looking at Mayowa’s story from a bird’s eye view, one thing is abundantly clear: she’s the type of person who appreciates the power of the present. Her story is a reminder to make intuitive choices about where you want to go, and to plant yourself in places and among people who will support that calling.

Mayowa on the beach
Mayowa on the beach

“I wasn’t the type of kid who had a set answer when adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she says. “I’ve always been willing to learn and make that decision every day.”

Reflecting on her time with McKinsey, she offers her younger self these words of wisdom about her journey:
“Put the work you do into perspective. The more relaxed and in flow you are, the better consultant you will be. This firm is a wonderful place that gives you an amazing platform to do whatever you want to do. The clearer you are about what you want to get out of your time here, the more fulfilled you’ll be, and the better colleague and counsellor you’ll become.

On her bright future

So what’s next for Mayowa? After accomplishing so much in so little time, where does she see herself next? Her answer embodies the sort of confident curiosity you might expect from her.

Mayowa with her mother as a child
Mayowa with her mother as a child

“When I was younger, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. I think now, in hindsight, one of the beauties of being a partner at McKinsey is that it gives me time to really think about what I want to build, even if I don’t yet know the complete answer to the question of ‘what’s next.’”

With clients across the globe and a strong support network throughout McKinsey (and beyond), Mayowa is excited to continue serving clients in Africa and create more opportunities for the next generation of McKinsey leaders for Africa. She hopes to do so by mentoring incoming partners as well as working on initiatives that help build the capacity of the continent’s public sector. 

“I feel like people tend to anchor on a lot of big moments in life,” Mayowa reflects. “But life is more a set of little decisions you make every day.”

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