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Making tradeoffs for a dream project

INSPIRE, 2015 and beyond

– I'm at a turning point in my McKinsey career. When I started at the firm, I was truly ambivalent—never indifferent—about becoming a partner. My first year was pretty rocky, and the learning curve was steep. I swung wildly from "This is it!" to "Just make it through your first year."

At the end of my first year, I took a step back and really took stock. I never wanted to stay at McKinsey out of inertia or a lack of better options. I wanted to stay because I chose to stay. A few of my mentors at the firm advised this—always be on the lookout, so you know you're choosing McKinsey. And every year so far, I've chosen McKinsey.

In December, I started to really wonder if it was time to go. While this question was weighing on me, I enrolled in INSPIRE in Park City, Utah. INSPIRE is the firm's training for senior engagement managers and early associate principals. This program comes at an important decision point for many people, and I'd heard from friends who had attended that it was an iconic training. Now that I've gone, I'm can say: Believe the hype.

A New Year's Day hike in Zion National Park

For me, the only way to think through big decisions is to step out of the routine of my day to day life. Going for runs in the thin Utah air before each morning session gave me a sense of peace and clarity. I am still blown away by how insightful my INSPIRE team was—Audrey, Corey, and Thomas gave me fresh perspective on questions I've been struggling with for months. After the program, we formed a club. We still get on the phone every month to talk through the progress we're making.

At INSPIRE, I saw the spectrum of consultants, from committed "lifers" to people with one-way plane tickets to Nairobi. I am somewhere in between. For 2015, I'm going to figure out if being a McKinsey partner would be exciting to me.

Lots of snow

The weather on the East Coast has been snowy and cold—even more so than last year, it seems. This matters more than usual since I've started a new project.

Everyone at McKinsey has their own personal rules about what they look for in client work. My top non-negotiable has always been "no connecting flights." It's just too much travel, especially when you factor in the inevitable delays and problems with connections. Philadelphia has a decent sized airport, so this rule hasn't been difficult to work around yet.

A couple of months ago, a fascinating client engagement came up, right in my sweet spot: growth strategy driven by deep consumer insights. I've been lucky to work with some of the truly iconic consumer and retail businesses, and this client has always been at the top of my bucket list. Connecting flight and all, I just had to do it.

View from a plane window

While the travel has been truly the worst I've experienced at McKinsey, some of the sights are beautiful. I took this photo from my window a few weeks ago—no filters, just pure blue cold.

Bucket list engagement

As for the new project, I wish I could say more. I'm loving it all, except the travel, but it's a trade-off I made and I'm glad I did it. The clients are friendly, and so smart. The work we're doing will have visible changes in their business nationwide for the next few years. There's a lot depending on us—both the client team and the McKinsey team—working together to get this right.

A Philadelphia office birthday dinner

I'm working with two associates from Chicago, Andrew and Drew. Andrew is hilarious, a real guy's guy and a former pro baseball player. He's always reeling off these outrageous stories that come out of nowhere, like when he was coaching in Johannesburg, and he had to teach a player that "there's no crying in baseball!" Drew is a talented guy—we share an almost retro love of consumer and retail work, especially in these heady days of the new tech gold rush. He's a real Renaissance man as well, and always good for a book recommendation. We're also getting a new team member, Kevin, but I haven't met him in person yet. He's doing store visits in Kentucky to get us updated on what's going on in one of the local markets.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I'm working with a new group of partners who are all deeply experienced in retail and I'm learning so much from them. They're based in Dallas, Chicago, and Lima. While we get some quality time in person, there's a lot of communication by phone as well, which is like having a wise council of elders on speed dial.

Ok, I have to finally get on my delayed flight. Until next time, stay warm, everyone!



About the blogger

Engagement Manager


Ginny is an Engagement Manager in our Philadelphia office. She joined McKinsey in January 2011 after earning her MBA from Wharton. Since joining McKinsey, Ginny has served clients in health care and retail/consumer products, with a special focus on marketing and sales. While not at work, Ginny is an avid long-distance backpacker and lover of gourmet hideaways.