Living simply and embracing sustainability

I am a product manager and innovation expert for McKinsey’s internal tech incubator and funding vehicle, and a back-to-basics homesteader. In my rural home in Canada, I’m just as likely to be canning my own food as advising colleagues on incubating or scaling a marketing & sales tool. The contradiction isn’t as severe as it may seem; it’s about focusing on what’s important.

What did you do before joining McKinsey?

I came from an economic development background, and my last job was working for the City of Toronto. There, I focused on building a thriving local economy in which Torontonians could prosper. I took pride in writing the city’s startup ecosystem strategy and founding a spin-off organization called Digital Main Street, which helped get mom-and-pop stores online. Another was working on land use policy that resulted in creating an urban light manufacturing incubator called Factory 6.

It was a special role, because I really grew to understand the community of entrepreneurs in Toronto, their aspirations and pain points. I also got to leave my mark on a city to which I immigrated with my family, grew up in, and still love.


What do you do now?

Now, I’m a product manager with McKinsey. We are responsible for incubating and investing in client-facing tech and data products. One recent example was a forecasting tool that allows banks to track cash in real time. You can think of us as an early-stage internal accelerator that funds and advises practices on tech strategy, incubation, investment through build, and scaling. The solution leaders we work with are essentially entrepreneurs within McKinsey. It’s an exciting path to take at the firm.

To learn more about the types of innovations and tech McKinsey supports, you can read the article about Power Solutions and Markdown Advisor.

How does an innovation and technology professional get interested in homesteading?

The homesteading thing is relatively recent. I started in the past year or so, but I’ve thought a lot about how it weaves into my story and purpose. Part of it goes back to my family’s roots in agriculture. My ancestors from India were brought to the Caribbean as sugar cane farmers and had to rely on subsistence farming to survive. My parents were the first in their family to get an education and move away from agriculture. We moved to Canada when I was young, and my parents became entrepreneurs in order to start a new life. I grew up valuing self-reliance and innovation. The other side is my desire to live more slowly and sustainably in our fast-paced, tech-driven world. It’s a discipline and balance I like in my personal life.


How did you get started?

I’ve always grown food – in window sills, backyards, wherever I can. I have been an active conservation hunter and fisherwoman for a few years now. After my husband got re-assigned to a military base in a rural part of Ontario, we moved and I decided to more intentionally pursue a sustainable lifestyle.

I started mapping out what we wanted to do to sustain ourselves – the percentage of food we could grow, hunt, trap, or fish per season. Our house is on about four acres of land, which backs onto a farm. For things we can’t grow, we sometimes trade with our neighbors, most of whom are fourth-generation farmers. Some things I get from the store. At the height of growing season, I grow 80 percent of the food we eat. My garden is two plots that grow a variety of lettuces, bell peppers, cucumbers and cantaloupe, to name a few. I learned to pickle and preserve food from online videos and a tutorial at a farm.

Next year, we will do more. I’ve already drawn up a site plan. For vegetables and wild game meat, we have a dehydrator and an extensive freezer system, so nothing goes to waste.

What does a day in the life look like?

Each day looks different, but all mornings start with dog walking and training. I have a blue tick coonhound and a pocket beagle. They are licensed hunting dogs that only work during the appropriate hunting season. Otherwise, they are my pets who have made many appearances on Zoom calls, but have not yet graced the McKinsey Dog Blog.


Evenings in the spring, summer, and early fall are busy with either garden chores, harvesting, or preserving food. On Sundays, I usually trade something for fresh eggs from my neighbor’s coup, which we use for breakfast through the week.

My work days are dramatically different and mostly focused on business building and tech incubation. I can spend multiple days with a tech team facilitating a concept sprint, cracking go-to-market challenges or working with partners and senior partners on their investment proposals.

As a homesteader, do you have an unusual outlook on remote work and the pandemic?

At the start of the pandemic, we had these assumptions around our work – that our teams couldn’t deliver value or make as big of a difference if we were working remotely. It has been difficult but, it has also been an opportunity for me to innovate on our team's incubator model and demonstrate that collaboration in a virtual environment can have an impact.

In terms of the pandemic, my emerging lifestyle of self-sufficiency has been a saving grace. I don’t have to worry about getting what I need at the store, because we have most of it right here. I have always marveled at how nature provides. Now, I get to harness that and benefit from it first-hand.

Find a job like Nirvana’s

About Nirvana

Based in Toronto, Nirvana is a product (portfolio) manager, supporting the development of McKinsey’s proprietary client-facing products/solutions. Prior to McKinsey, she worked in economic development in Canada, Switzerland and the Philippines. She holds a bachelor’s in urban & regional planning from Ryerson University, and a master’s in local economic development from the University of Waterloo.

For more information on McKinsey's product management career paths, visit

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