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Finding variety and support in a career

After working as an engineer in oil & gas, Rachel wanted more variety. At McKinsey, she got that and a whole lot more.

My experience as a young engineer in Alberta was dynamic, and took me from oil sands mining in Fort McMurray to business planning and capital management in Calgary. I loved the work, but felt the deeper I got into my career, the longer I was expected to stay in one role. I started craving the variety of my earlier work experiences and decided to pursue an MBA to increase my options going forward.

Didn't know what to expect

I knew very little about consulting before I started my MBA at the University of Calgary. My career counselor introduced me to this path. After initial meetings with her, I started reading career blogs to get more color about the industry. McKinsey stood out among my research for having some of the best opportunities to help solve challenging business problems, receive amazing mentorship and training, and advance within the firm. After reviewing the available positions, the implementation job in mining and metals felt like a great match for my experience. I applied.

I knew the work would have the variety I sought, but I didn't expect the level of support and depth of resources available.


For me, joining the firm was a little intimidating. There were rumors of a highly competitive environment where people worked thousand-hour weeks. However, once I started, I quickly realized that wasn’t the case at all. While hours are longer than industry, the environment is set up for me to succeed, and the people are super personable and welcoming. I was especially surprised by how many opportunities I had to interact with leaders. The working model is non-hierarchical, which means even as a new hire, my opinion and perspective are important and considered when solving client problems.

Additional resources

No matter how tricky our problem is, we are never starting from scratch. We have access to firm experts around the globe, which means we can take the best-in-class solution and tailor it to the needs of our client. On my last strategy project, we connected with partners multiple times a week who had more than 20 years of industry knowledge to help guide our team.

There is also an internal database of research we can leverage to avoid wasting time re-doing work someone else has already done. As part of a procurement engagement, for example, I could use frameworks, procurement workflow processes, benchmarks, and negotiation levers to efficiently complete my work.

Growing as a professional

Not only is there support for the content, everyone really cares about my development. There is continuous support from leadership to develop new skills. The partners with whom I work have actively instigated conversations about my aspirations and put me in touch with the right people to get staffed on engagements that align with my goals. My previous engagement manager, for example, put me in touch with three people within the firm who all specialize in renewable capital projects, a space I want to explore.

The feedback culture at McKinsey has also been extremely beneficial. Going from annual feedback sessions in the industry to weekly or bi-weekly meetings at McKinsey has allowed me to quickly learn and adapt to my working environment. I started receiving feedback from my first engagement manager within two weeks of joining the firm, and after about six months, I could clearly layout my strengths and opportunities on our leadership development model. I receive clear examples of things I’ve done well and ways I could improve, including how to engage leaders on problems they can help solve as opposed to providing them with status updates and how to be entrepreneurial within the firm by contributing to practice documents.

The Calgary office

The best part of working in Calgary is I get all the benefits of a small office, while having access the full suite of McKinsey resources. Even working remotely this past year, we have virtual office events almost every week to connect over pizza, cocktails, escape rooms, or guest speakers. Then I head to the mountains after work on Fridays.

Jumping in

Before making the switch to consulting, I had a hard time getting line of site into a typical day. I wanted to make I’d like the day-to-day work before making the jump from industry. Was it all Excel, PowerPoint, meetings or something else? Now that I am here, I realize why the answer was always, “It depends.” I have a better appreciation for how broad the problems are that we help to solve. My procurement implementation projects, for example, were a mix of Excel analysis, internal problem solving and client engagement, whereas my strategy study was a mix of client interviews and blue-sky thinking with my internal team.

Joining McKinsey has really made me think about what gives me energy in my day-to-day work, and given me the opportunity to work on projects that include those types of tasks. For anyone on the fence about consulting, I say apply and give it a shot. Once you get here, you can make your own path and seek out what interests you alongside driven colleagues who want to support you.

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