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A trip to our southernmost continent

– Hi everyone, and happy new year! I’m starting this blog post with an update on an exciting trip I took over the holidays. I didn’t use much of my vacation in 2014, so I enjoyed all of the days I rolled over into 2015 by taking some fantastic journeys, including spending Christmas in Germany with my family, followed by an amazing eight-day trip to Antarctica.

A trip to our southernmost continent
With my friend in Antarctica

I took this trip with a close friend from McKinsey. First, we flew to Argentina and spent a day in the city “at the end of the world,” Ushuaia. Once our boat was cleared for departure (you have to wait for the weather conditions to be right), we sailed for Antarctica. About 120 passengers and close to 50 crew members, including our well qualified and knowledgeable expedition leaders, lived on the boat for the duration of the trip, with day trips onto land. We took Zodiac boats to the actual continent, and once there we could snowshoe, go mountaineering, watch penguins, seals, and humpback whales, or just explore the beauty of the continent.

With another friend in Antarctica!

I loved the penguins: we actually watched lots of them hatching their eggs in the rookery area, followed by more penguins tottering down to the water on their ‘penguin highways’ to feed and clean. Did you know that male and female penguins take turns sitting on their eggs and feeding their babies? It was a great division of labor!

Each night a group of 12-20 passengers was allowed to camp on land, and we were able to camp on New Year’s Eve, which was a fun way to celebrate the end of 2015. Our boat ride back to Ushuaia was a bit rough, so I was happy to reach land and spend a day there before flying home. I included some photos from the trip in this post and hope you enjoy them. I would recommend this trip to anyone who loves travel and adventure. Plus, if you can believe it, it was actually colder in Chicago than Antarctica upon my return from the 7th continent!

No two days are the same

On the client front, I have been supporting lots of different teams and clients. A few of the bigger ones included:

-Working on packaging sourcing for a client in Houston. We did a bunch of work tearing down the client’s corrugated boxes and teaching the client how to build clean sheet models based on the torn down boxes. We also asked ourselves questions like “can we change dimensions to become more optimal?” and “what will it take to change the color of the box from white to kraft (the official term for ‘brown,’ untreated boxes)?”

-Facility management work for a banking client in Europe. We looked at every service included in facility management, from cleaning to cafeterias to courier to archiving, collected specification data, and finally helped the client decide if they should switch to a bigger supplier who could more comprehensively cover all of their needs rather than having discrete “subcontractors.” As a firm we’ve done this type of work before, so we were able to share best practices from the knowledge we now have. I enjoyed this project because I was able to go to Europe for part of it and support the team remotely the rest of the time.

-A major transformation across indirect categories for an insurance company. For this project, we’re looking at a lot of “indirect services”—from travel to print services to temporary labor—and helping the client source the best suppliers for their needs through a series of workshops. This particular project has been great because I’m working with another knowledge expert who came into the role from internal procurement, which has been interesting because I’m learning a lot about our own sourcing practices (and it is also fun to work with someone in the same role as me!).

Interviewing, training, and knowledge development

Back in the fall I spent a day learning how to interview candidates for the firm, and since then I have spent one Friday per month interviewing candidates for the operations practice. This has been quite fun—I find it really exciting to help talented candidates through the interview process, and then hopefully convince them to join our operations team. Operations is McKinsey’s largest practice, and our procurement line is growing rapidly and is now the second largest service line within the practice. Due to our size and growth, we are always hiring. If you have a background in operations and want to apply, check out our openings here!

I just returned from teaching a four day internal training program called PSM CSTP (how’s this for a long program name: purchasing and supply chain management core skills training program). We had 26 participants from various McKinsey offices around the globe, both people who originally joined the operations practices and also consultants who come from generalist roles but are more closely connected to the practice now through a so-called L2 commitment (picking operations as their functional path). During the training we taught the participants the basics of the whole procurement practice line, from LOPs (letters of proposal) to knowledge building to working with clients, and also reviewed the tools and resources available at McKinsey. And of course we talked a lot about our client experiences, which was a great learning opportunity for me, given the diverse and international background of our participants.

The real focus of my non-client work is around knowledge building. This fall I published four new practice documents that I worked on with people across different client engagements. Building the firm’s vast library of practice documents helps us all share our knowledge internally and stay up to date on the work our colleagues perform.

And finally, part of my role is making sure we have the practice infrastructure set up to support consultants in the operations practice. We have an operations partner who recently transferred from India to Chicago and is the new indirect procurement lead for America, so I have been spending time working with him as well to build out our indirect procurement service line.

That’s the latest from my end. Best wishes for a great start to 2016!


About the Blogger

Senior Knowledge Expert


Britta obtained her PhD in economics from Georg-August-University Göttingen after studying business administration and economics in Magdeburg and Sydney. She originally joined our Frankfurt office as an associate and has since transferred to San Francisco and then her current home office of Chicago. As a senior knowledge expert, Britta works with clients and client teams serving consumer and retail goods companies throughout the world while contributing to our overall knowledge in the procurement space. When not working, Britta loves to travel and recently accomplished her goal of visiting every continent on earth.