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Thriving as a female leader in technology

A leader in the Technology & Digital function, Petra discusses finding meaningful work as a data scientist and being surrounded by colleagues who are both experts and friends.

What was your path to your current role?

I studied applied mathematics and data science during my university years. I have a bachelor’s degree in economics, but when writing my thesis, I decided to focus on more than theories. I wanted to reject or approve the hypothesis with data evidence. That’s when I shifted to applied mathematics and quantitative methods. Before McKinsey, I worked in advanced analytics for more than five years. My experience spans management consulting at KPMG, private investment banking at Goldman Sachs in London, and the European Central Bank in Germany.

In 2016, I joined McKinsey as a data scientist on the emerging Product Insights team. Our work was having clear impact, so I soon began building a bigger team focused specifically on data science. I currently lead the Data Science portfolio within the Technology & Digital (T&D) function. Our goal is to use data and smart algorithms to enable our internal technology teams with more intelligent products and decision-making.

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What made you decide to join McKinsey?

For starters, I loved the job description. And even though my interview was years ago, I still remember how positive it was. I didn’t feel under pressure, I enjoyed the process, and one of my interviewers was a woman leader. At the time, I couldn’t know how inclusive McKinsey’s environment truly is, but that was a good clue. 

I’ve spent most of my career here for good reasons. I am surrounded by some of the smartest experts in the industry who are energized and love their jobs. My colleagues are my friends, and I couldn’t wish for a better team. What I love about my role is its variety, the ability to connect dots and reuse components between projects, and converting what we learn into strategy. My work is meaningful.

You arrived at McKinsey highly skilled. What growth opportunities have you taken advantage of since joining?

I’ve taken courses to develop soft—but critical—skills such as problem solving and giving or receiving feedback to evolve into a stronger leader. My team also organizes many knowledge-sharing sessions to keep our technical skills sharp. However, the greatest learning opportunity is that McKinsey enables us to connect with experts across the globe. That knowledge sharing leads to exponential growth for all of us.

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What has been your experience being a woman in technology?

McKinsey offers an inclusive and non-hierarchical environment that comes from the top. We have many women leaders in technology, which makes it easier for other women to join and feel included.

I’d been in leadership positions previously, but hadn’t experienced such inclusion – with regard to both gender and age – like I have here. I feel heard by leadership and empowered to speak up and challenge a decision when I think it’s necessary. And I get to work with some of the brightest people in their domain who trust me to lead them.

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More about Petra

When Prague-based Petra is not helping product teams and leadership make stronger, data-driven decisions, she is doting on her 12-month-old son. She is passionate about encouraging other women to work in technology. “I believe diverse personal and cultural backgrounds lead to more efficient problem solving as everyone brings different perspective to the table.”