How feedback, trust and autonomy helped me to grow

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I joined McKinsey as a business analyst and have been serving both private and public sector clients, primarily in Africa. Now, as an associate, I am starting to specialize in Infrastructure and Capital Excellence which is a service line within McKinsey’s Operations’ practice.

How did your journey with McKinsey start and develop?

I attended a McKinsey careers event in 2013 whilst at the University of Cambridge. Quite a few of my classmates were applying for consulting roles then. Interestingly, I left that event almost certain I could not get in, not because of what the facilitators said, but because all my classmates kept talking about how hard it was to get in.
I finally decided to apply after speaking to my brother’s friend, who was quite knowledgeable about the consulting industry in Nigeria. This was a couple of years after I had first heard about McKinsey. He convinced me there was no better place to be a consultant given the high-impact projects the firm was doing in Nigeria and the flexibility it gives you to forge your path. In hindsight, my one regret is not applying sooner.

Now I am an associate and my role is to own and deliver a part of the wider client problem on a project. This means working with the rest of the team and experts within the firm to ensure the client gets the best support.

Sadiq with partner in front of Victoria Falls waterfall
Sadiq with partner in front of Victoria Falls waterfall

How has McKinsey helped you to be at your best?

One example is the feedback I received from my manager during a project building a new digital bank. I was leading the piece of work on customer acquisition. The client had just recruited two creative and digital marketing agencies to drive on-the-ground work, and I was to lead the onboarding of these agencies, sharing McKinsey’s perspective of how we thought the client should generate business. I felt overwhelmed at the thought of presenting to the leadership teams of these agencies. I had only been working on customer acquisition for a few weeks; these agencies had decades of combined experience. As a result, I caveated many of my statements with “but you are the experts.” My manager did not interrupt my presentation but, after he shared what he thought went well and ways in which I could do better. He highlighted that the team’s perspective on customer acquisition and the areas in which we wanted the marketing agencies to plug in were the recommendations of the team and the firm. We had spoken to multiple experts who had tackled similar problems for other clients, one of whom had led customer acquisition for a Fortune 500 company. The plans and requests weren’t mine alone; and I was supported.

What is your favorite part about working at McKinsey?

My favorite part of working at the firm is the trust and autonomy. I remember working on a client engagement supporting a national government in developing content for a strategy retreat. The team had many people to speak to in a short period of time so we divided the discussions. I soon found myself alone in meetings with heads of government agencies and cabinet-level appointees, discussing their work and their priorities going forward. It was a great experience and I my confidence soared knowing I had the trust and support of my team.

Sadiq sky diving
Sadiq sky diving

What do you like to do outside of work?

I spend my time learning Arabic and supporting a friend with work on a not-for-profit to increase Africans’ access to education. One thing I have been surprised by is how much time I have been able to create outside of work. The trick has been making the decision that my interests outside of work are priorities for me.

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About Sadiq

Sadiq is an associate in Lagos. He studied chemical engineering at the University of Manchester in the UK and manufacturing management at the University of Cambridge. He also earned his MBA at Stanford University - Graduate School of Business in the United States.

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