When I was 8 years old, my family moved from Inglewood in Los Angeles to a very conservative town in Louisiana. I didn’t realize culture shock could be a thing for an eight-year-old, but I was wrong. In my tiny Southern town, I was one of the few people who looked like me, and it’s that experience that shaped the patterns and values that I’ve brought with me into adulthood.
Prior to joining McKinsey in 2015, my career journey started at Louisiana State University, where I studied chemical engineering. Though I worked in that field for a couple of years after graduating, I realized quite quickly that it just wasn’t for me. I love working closely with people and bouncing off of their energy and thinking collectively, and chemical engineering wasn’t providing that. So I went to Georgia Tech to get my PhD in chemical engineering, but this time with an emphasis on research and education.
That path led me into an adjunct teaching position at Spelman, where I discovered how passionate I was about giving minorities access to STEM education and building the awareness that allows them to do so. In fact, this position very serendipitously led me to McKinsey.
Honestly, I never imagined myself working in consulting—before I learned about McKinsey, I didn’t have the best perception of what consulting looked like. When I started at Georgia Tech, I was dead set on the idea that consultancy wasn’t my calling – yet my friend made me go to a McKinsey informational session with him anyway.
After 30 minutes of hearing from consultants about their experience at McKinsey, my mindset totally shifted. It made me realize that oftentimes, we make decisions based on our understanding of situations when we don’t really know the full story or the full context.
I chose to base myself out of the Dallas office when I decided to apply to McKinsey (and ultimately accept an offer) in order to be nearer to my brother. At the time, I was one of only three other black people in the office. Don’t get me wrong: there were many non-Black colleagues in my office who helped me settle in. But it’s always great to have someone black who can help you navigate those things.
That’s a huge reason why the McKinsey Black Network (MBN) meant so much to me. I always say MBN has “family reunion energy.” It’s that feeling of being around your people and feeling like you’re safe, you’re home, and you’re not alone. That feeling becomes the battery in my pack and gives me the fuel I need to do what I’m meant to do.
Now that I’m working in a professional development role, I realize my experience at the firm within the MBN community has unlocked my entire mindset about my purpose and the impact that I can have, essentially when it comes to breaking the boundaries of what I feel like I’m capable of doing. And part of that means dismantling the concept that my career has to be my entire identity.
For example, when I was an engineer, that was my identity. I only thought about how I could make an impact in that specific way and in that specific role. But what I’ve learned through my experience at McKinsey is that I am more than just one thing: a problem solver. We are all problem solvers that can have an impact in a lot of different ways. And if we can find that concentric circle between what we’re good at, what we’re passionate about, and what’s needed, then we can really go solve problems in a lot of different spaces.
I think this is something a person in any sector of McKinsey should know about their journey: most of us approach the job with a combination of passion and an idea of the impact we want to make. There can also be the feeling of wanting to prove ourselves and find that “attaboy” or “attagirl” that we’ve been seeking since we were young.
I think if you spend your entire journey seeking that latter part, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities to really find and align with what your real purpose is. You’ll be afraid to take chances and fail forward. You’ll be afraid to speak up about what you want and what you desire. You’ll be afraid to try and create something that doesn’t exist yet.
So I tell myself to acknowledge it. Give yourself the time to prove it to yourself, but once you get there, focus on what you want to do with it.
This comes back to what I was saying about setting boundaries. I think this relates to our feeling like our identity and our sense of self-worth are tied to the job. The more you believe that, the less boundaries you feel like you can put up for your own self-care. Because you wake up every day trying to prove yourself rather than waking up already worthy and allowing yourself to add value.
One thing I would share with all incoming McKinsey talent is that this place will always present you with opportunities to grow—opportunities to challenge yourself, to fail, to face your own insecurities, and to build your own self-awareness. But through it all, it’s imperative to prioritize yourself.
Meditation has become a huge part of how I ground myself from the hustle of work. That’s where I cultivate the spaciousness I need to face professional challenges head-on. I’ve realized that McKinsey only benefits if I’m aligned. As the old saying goes, the company doesn’t eat until I eat.
One of my biggest goals is to remain as present as possible. It’s a little counterintuitive to the typical answer for this: I don’t have a list of distinct, concrete goals. In addition, I want to develop a connection with McKinsey that is even more cohesive and effective.