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Caring people, meaningful work and flexibility

Zarif, a junior associate in Kuala Lumpur, stays with McKinsey for the people, impact, and flexibility.

I’m a junior associate in our Kuala Lumpur office. Before coming to McKinsey a little more than two-and-a-half years ago, I was an accountant with a state-owned infrastructure conglomerate in Malaysia. After four years with that organization, I felt like I needed a breath of fresh air. Consulting seemed like a natural progression.

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I had no inclination toward a particular firm at first; what eventually drew me to McKinsey were the people. Everyone here has a great sense of caring toward one another. The diversity of people is also amazing; I was once on a team of colleagues from 10 nationalities. Observing the similarities and differences in their working styles was eye opening for me. The people are the reason I’m here today.

Another reason I stay is for the opportunities I have to do meaningful work. For example, one of my most memorable engagements was a capital optimization project for an energy client in Australia. The organization we were serving was facing a lot of pressure from its shareholders to reduce costs and we were asked to deliver a transformational programme to help them achieve their goals. I led the capital expenditure work stream. My role was to perform a high-level assessment of the overall savings potential before helping the clients develop the necessary initiatives. We ended up exceeding our goals by developing a plan to reduce their capital expenditure by 50%.

Outside of work, I am an avid traveler. It’s a great way for my wife and I to de-stress and re-charge. Last December, we spent two weeks in Turkey. One of the advantages of working at McKinsey, is the flexibility I have around where and when I work. Between engagements, I can carve out chunks of time to travel. I also have access to engagements all over the world; I’ve been to Shanghai, Bangkok, Cologne, Sydney and Perth for various work-related meetings and trainings. This fall, I’ll be temporarily transferring to the Boston Office for a year.

For those of you considering applying for McKinsey (and make sure you select Kuala Lumpur as your top choice location!): don’t cave in to your self-doubt. I’ve met excellent candidates who didn’t apply because they didn’t think they would get an offer. I did not expect to be invited for a second interview, yet here I am almost three years later. Second, invest time to prepare for your interviews. There are plenty of resources available on our careers website and through your recruiter. Leverage them as much as possible.