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McKinsey Q&A: Alison

– Meet Alison, an associate in our Denver office. She joined McKinsey over the summer after completing her Ph.D. in medical sciences at Harvard University. Here she shares her experiences learning about the firm, interviewing and on-boarding.

Interviewer: Why did you apply to McKinsey?


Alison: I applied on a whim. I already had a couple offers for post-doctoral degree fellowships when I went to an informational session about McKinsey. I learned about the work others with PhDs in biology were doing with the firm. The opportunity to leave the lab excited me; the impact I could have at McKinsey felt much bigger.

Interviewer: What were your interviews like?

Alison: I didn’t have any business experience, so I was sure I wouldn’t succeed. However, McKinsey provided lots of coaching to help me know what to expect. I tried not to over-prepare. I wanted to be familiar enough with the format of the interview to be comfortable. As I progressed, I enjoyed the experience more and more; during my final round interviews, I was having too much fun problem solving and talking with them about their work and their lives to be nervous.

Interviewer: What kind of support did you receive in your first few weeks at the firm?

Alison: The on-boarding process was really fun and informative. Starting with a cohort of other new people was really valuable because it gave me an instant support system. And there are so many places within the firm to turn for help with anything from computer problems to career planning.

Interviewer: Tells us about your first client engagement.

Alison: I felt incredibly lucky to get staffed on an international project working on vaccine development. My Ph.D. focused on similar research and when I walked into the office of my main client – the Vice President of Research and Development – he had a copy of one of my papers sitting on his desk. I loved interacting with my clients to understand how they made decisions and feeling like I had something valuable to contribute based on what I’d learned from my previous work.

Interviewer: What are you passionate about outside of work?

Alison: I enjoy making things. I love to cook, bake, knit, garden, and work on remodeling our 120-year-old house (I don’t recommend doing this without professional assistance unless you have a very experienced, recently retired dad who’s willing to help). I also enjoy motorcycling and exploring the beautiful state of Colorado.