When I first joined McKinsey, I was pretty certain I wanted to focus on clients in the Pharmaceutical & Medical Products practice. Since I was so sure of that, I thought it would be interesting to try something different in my first year or two. The random walk took me on a journey from designing the digital strategy of an engineering and construction company to supporting a leadership change in an advanced electronics firm, but deep down, I thought I would return to the pharma practice.
As a second-year associate, I joined an engagement to transform the research administrative operations of a flagship public university, and my career plan went out the window. I loved the work, clients and, of course, my team. I learned to embrace challenges which led to tremendous professional growth. For example, my perception of leading a three hour client workshop changed from a daunting task to an enjoyable forum of collaboration and co-creation. It was especially rewarding when I saw the sustainable impact our team made and my client’s professional growth. The team’s leaders became my mentors and we stay in touch to this day.
Building a supportive network
Like most Advanced Professional Degree candidates, I was nervous when I first joined. I lacked the business experience MBAs bring on day one. However, through trainings, social events, and formal engagements I met people like me who had joined with advanced degrees outside of MBA. I learned there are lots paths to success when I met one of the West Coast pharma practice leaders who has a PhD in music, many design team members with engineering backgrounds, and one good friend and colleague who has a PhD in economics and now leads large scale transformations with clients such as video game companies and theme parks.
Beyond all the diversity I’ve seen on my client teams, I am part of the Equal at McKinsey community, McKinsey’s LGBTQ+ network. Some of my closest friends are part of Equal at McKinsey and I have had many memorable experiences connecting with colleagues or supporting communities through pro-bono projects with this network. My most memorable experience with this community was at the global Equal at McKinsey conference in 2018. This was the first event Kevin Sneader attended as McKinsey’s global managing partner so that was quite special. The conference included a panel of non-McKinsey executives from The Alliance who shared personal experiences of how they have struggled leading companies while keeping their identities hidden. Their stories were very moving and it was incredible that these leaders would share their stories with 300+ attendees at the conference. The Equal at McKinsey women who attended the conference had dinner one evening and I connected at a deeper level with colleagues from all over the globe.
At McKinsey, you often hear the phrase “bring your whole self to work” and I can attest our firm stands 100% by this statement. I was initially hesitant to share my identity with colleagues, let alone clients, but I became encouraged when a friend off-handedly mentioned his partner in a team dinner and everyone continued on like it was normal. While this would have been seen as a big deal in some other companies, people barely bat an eye at it. I was struck by how accepting everyone was and this enabled me to open up to both my teams and eventually clients. Speaking about my identity has opened up more doors for me and allowed me to connect with colleagues and clients on a deeper level. I feel incredibly lucky to be in this position and I do not take it for granted that I can take a random walk to explore, can change my focus areas and can bring my whole self to work.
Are you an advanced degree student looking for career opportunities post-graduation in 2021? At McKinsey, you often hear the phrase “bring your whole self to work” and I can attest that our firm stands 100% by this statement. Monatrice has a PhD in Chemistry and transitioned to consulting to become an engagement manager in our Silicon Valley office and a member of Equal at McKinsey (McKinsey’s LGBTQ+ network). Apply by July 12 to follow in her footsteps.