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Transitioning from foreign policy to McKinsey

Tristan was nervous to leave his role as a US diplomat, but he couldn’t be happier with his decision to join McKinsey.
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I’ve spent much of my career chasing adventure across the globe and doing my best to make an impact.  As a US diplomat in Hong Kong, Indonesia, and South Africa, I worked on foreign policy and loved every minute. In Washington, I worked in the White House Situation Room and later on North Korea policy at the State Department. I learned about McKinsey years earlier while studying at Harvard’s Kennedy School. I always wondered whether the skills I learned in international affairs would be relevant in consulting.

My decision to join McKinsey

The decision to join McKinsey was a big one – maybe the biggest career decision I’ve made. As my family and I talked it over (and over), I was nervous to leave a public service career and wondered if I could continue to steer change in the same meaningful way from the private sector. I wanted to be sure my work would help create a lasting, positive impact. What came next at McKinsey was an incredible surprise.

My first client project

I’ll never forget my first day at my first client. After an 8am flight, I arrived at our client with my laptop and a blank notepad, excited to get started. During those first few hours, my team met to sketch our goals and strategy for the project. I totally expected to see MBA-style frameworks scribbled on a whiteboard. Almost immediately, the team coalesced around the idea of “helping our client improve the lives of millions of people” it served. It was our first order of business and the first note I jotted down in my notebook.

I knew in that moment I’d found my tribe. Within a matter of weeks, our team helped our client completely reimagine the way it provided services to millions of people, including the most vulnerable groups.

Even now, I often flip back to that first page of my notepad as a reminder of how lucky I am to be a part of our purpose-driven family.

An exciting future

As I approach my half-year at McKinsey mark, I couldn’t be happier I joined. Every day, McKinsey gives me opportunities to drive positive impact with a group of colleagues equally committed to that cause.

These days, whether helping recruit talented students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities through the McKinsey Black Network or thinking through how to provide services to disproportionately affected populations during the COVID-19 pandemic, McKinsey allows me to translate my life experiences into a useful tool that can improve the world around me.

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