I had to choose between joining McKinsey and a potentially thrilling job working in Iraq for the US State Department. Ultimately, the opportunities for growth and variety at McKinsey tipped the balance.
I’m originally from Kansas and in 2003 I went to Egypt to study Arabic. That was a real eye-opener. It hooked me on international travel and the region. Since then, I’ve been traveling back and forth to the Middle East, at first for study and then for work. In 2005, I spent 8 months in Cairo working for an NGO that provided legal services to refugees. I learned that for me to be satisfied, my work needed to have a real impact on people’s lives.
I finished graduate work, joined McKinsey, and moved to Dubai. Over the last few years, I have worked to improve education and reduce unemployment in the Middle East by supporting governments and state-owned enterprises. I had to choose between joining McKinsey and a potentially thrilling job working in Iraq for the US State Department. Ultimately, the opportunities for growth and variety at McKinsey tipped the balance.
I’ve had many memorable moments with McKinsey since then—one of which was an economic development project, which put me in front of heads of state, CEOs, and senior leadership of three governments. We did amazing work and there was a surreal moment along the way. It was our very first meeting, and we were told to prepare to meet one of the most senior people. Then we were told not to expect a work discussion, because it was his birthday. A few hours later we were singing happy birthday to a globally famous person.
Another surreal experience was when I was so engaged with a senior private-sector executive that the conversation took me from the board room, to a car ride, to his private jet—a discussion and debate that only ended when our international flight was over. Only at McKinsey.
I navigate back and forth between government clients, who are working hard to create jobs and prepare unemployed youth for them, and clients in industry, who are focused on attracting the talent they need to grow. On a fundamental level, the goal is the same across the board: individual fulfillment. Creating economic opportunities for all. Equipping people with the skills they need to succeed in life. I’m fortunate enough to work on it from all angles.
I have had opportunities to shift gears between working with clients and conducting cutting-edge research. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, I joined a global community of consultants passionate about education and spent 6 months developing our perspective on education to employment. We looked at more than 100 case studies of programs in more than 30 countries. Our research was published and has shaped the thinking of government and corporate leaders around the world. It has also led to McKinsey founding a not-for-profit organization to upskill youths for employment around the world, called Generation.