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Building Wave 2

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My journey to McKinsey was an unusual one. My background is in software engineering and development operations, but my real passion is for startups. I found myself drawn to early and growth stage companies where disruption, innovation, growth, and ultimately impact were intrinsic.

From mobile games to McKinsey

Before coming to McKinsey, I spent four years in the gaming industry, beginning at a 10-person Vancouver startup with a lean approach to building games. My role was to build out the cloud-based platform to rapidly innovate our games, although, since my team was small, our work often overlapped. After multiple failures and only enough left in the bank for one more roll of the dice, we built and released a game in six weeks. Four weeks later, it had accrued more than a million users. For the first time, I recognized we were at an inflection point where technology had removed the traditional barriers required to turn creativity, determination and smart organization into success.

After returning home to Ireland from Canada, I spent some time applying what I'd learned on a bigger scale. I led the back-end and development operations (DevOps) teams for a mobile multinational games company moving to the cloud. While this was challenging and interesting work, my heart was set on leading from the front, forging my own path and leaving a greater mark. I left to set up my own company to build mobile and cross-platform games. Raising venture capital, building and publishing games on multiple platforms and growing the team was an amazing journey. The experience was some of the hardest fun I’ve ever had.

A “no brainer opportunity”

The truth is, mobile games is a tough business, and after a two-year roller coaster ride, the company failed. After a short startup hangover, I found myself as the executive architect at a leading software consulting company in Ireland. I was searching for a way to drive change while still nourishing my passion for early stage businesses. It was in this role I started consulting for Wave by McKinsey, a proprietary web-based program management platform that's one of firm's 50+ New Ventures startups. I helped build on the success of Wave by redesigning the software to be faster, more collaborative, and intuitive. The result, Wave 2, reinvented how impact is delivered to our clients.

Nothing in my previous working life prepared me for the Wave team’s ambition, insistence on quality, or dedication to client impact. Joining McKinsey full-time as our software engineering director to shape the direction of Wave was the role I had been looking for: meaningful and entrepreneurial, with a world-class team.

Celebrating my passions

I started at Wave in a bit of an unfortunate predicament. One of my passions is performing in the theatre – from operas to plays and everything in between. The week I joined McKinsey full-time, I was performing in a musical that required I sport a full-blown horseshoe mustache. It definitely raised some eyebrows during my first week, but it also opened the door for some interesting conversations. I quickly discovered my love of theater was welcomed and celebrated here.

Rory inline 2

Looking to the future

When I started at Wave, we were collectively challenging what it meant to deliver enterprise software, continuously finding ways to iteratively improve and optimize our solution. If we didn’t feel great about a process or decision, we spoke up. The team objectively assessed the situation and supported each other as we made the necessary adjustments. This gave us courage to move from quarterly software releases to weekly ones, providing clients with the latest features as quickly as possible. That sort of change doesn’t happen without collective commitment to client value.

Rory surfing

Now, after nearly nine months here, I continue to gain energy from my team of 25 software engineers and developers from more than 15 countries (including the UK, Lithuania, Thailand, and South Africa). We’re a close-knit group that works seamlessly and tirelessly to make sure Wave 2 supports our hundreds of clients, so we effectively track the impact of their transformation programs. We work in a post-agile environment, which helps us attract strong technical people who are comfortable taking on multiple roles and focused on delivering value.

I’m so inspired by the talent and dedication of our team. I can’t wait to see where the next wave of Wave takes us.

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About Rory

Dublin-based Rory serves as a global software engineering director for Wave by McKinsey, one of firm's 50+ New Ventures startups. Prior to McKinsey, he was an executive architect at a software company. Rory holds a master's in communications software and a bachelor's in applied computing from the Waterford Institute of Technology. He is married to a beautiful wife and has two young children who fill his days with joy and laughter. In his spare time, Rory likes to surf, sing opera, and occasionally perform on stage.

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