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Jonathan Poffley

Associate, London

I have frequent, meaningful exposure to leadership, experts, and senior clients. I have the chance to work on a wide range of exciting and rewarding projects, in which I have owned significant chunks of work. However, the biggest positive is the people. 

My path to McKinsey

I am British and Peruvian, was born in London, and moved to the US when I was eight. I completed my schooling in the States—notably and spectacularly failing to make the high school tennis team for three years in a row—and then came back to the UK for university. Having quickly realised that a career as a mechanical engineer wasn’t for me, I explored other options by doing summer internships.

Choosing McKinsey

For me, the main attractions of consulting—strategy consulting, in particular—were the variety of work I would be exposed to and the broad nature of skills I could expect to develop. I was immediately drawn to McKinsey for two reasons. One, I reasoned that McKinsey’s global standing and footprint meant the firm could attract the best talent and was well placed to secure the most interesting and challenging client work. Two, McKinsey’s mission made it clear that the firm was deeply invested in its employees’ personal development. Later, during the application process, I was struck by the McKinsey people I met. Without fail, they were interesting, authentic, and friendly.

Expectations for McKinsey

I started at McKinsey with very high expectations because of how much I enjoyed the application process. I was also slightly afraid that the recruiting people would be more friendly than the rest of my colleagues and that there would be competition within the business-analyst cohort. It quickly became apparent that I had nothing to fear. I have learned from exceptionally talented and caring team members. I have frequent, meaningful exposure to leadership, experts, and senior clients. I have the chance to work on a wide range of exciting and rewarding projects, in which I have owned significant chunks of work. However, the biggest positive is the people. I never thought I would hang out with work friends on the weekends.

Rewarding, meaningful experiences

Each of my projects has memorable moments, but my standout experience so far was spending 11 weeks in Tokyo. It’s difficult to imagine a better set of circumstances for a project. First, the study was exciting and intellectually challenging—we were helping a client make a major strategic decision about the future of its business. Second, I was part of a fantastic and global team—four of us came from different countries and very different backgrounds but became close friends over the course of the study. Finally, I had the chance to explore Japan, a country I had always wanted to visit.

Growing professionally

At McKinsey, we see feedback—specifically, strengths-based and actionable feedback—as key to personal development. This focus on linking feedback to strengths has given me fresh perspective on what I do well and how I can flex my natural “spikes” to increase my impact. For example, I have come to place higher value on my ability to make connections with others and now dedicate a more appropriate amount of time to developing client relationships. Feedback has also helped me appreciate how much I’ve learned since starting at McKinsey, including getting to the crux of a problem quickly, prioritising work effectively, and writing concisely—all of which are valuable, transferable skills on any career path.

Collaborating at McKinsey

Collaboration is at the heart of the way McKinsey works. What does this look like in practice? Picture a group huddled around a whiteboard with blank paper, sticky notes, and pens in hand. I present the progress of my analysis to my project manager, a fellow analyst, a new junior client, and a McKinsey partner. After presenting, I explain where I could use the team’s input, and ideas start to fly around the room. People question and build on each other’s comments, and even the junior client, who is new to the McKinsey way of working, is questioning the partner’s proposals. The results are a hypothesis and plan of action that we all agree are better than any individual proposal.

The people at McKinsey

If I had to describe my colleagues in three words, they would be “curious,” “motivated,” and “genuine.” “Curious” because they tend to like understanding how things work and to question their own assumptions. “Motivated” because they tend to have strong convictions and will work hard to see their ideas come to fruition. “Genuine” because they tend to take meaningful interest and care in others and to feel comfortable being their true selves.

Applying to McKinsey

First, I would stress that your educational background has no bearing on the success of your application. I have found McKinsey to be a true meritocracy of ideas, in which everyone is judged on the ability to think rationally, to communicate effectively, and to have personal impact. Second, give serious thought to whether consulting is really for you. Many find consulting to be an incredibly rewarding career, but all jobs require sacrifices, and this one is no different. Finally, the best preparation I found was to practice case studies often and with other people. Also, try to be as relaxed as possible during the interview. At its core, the interview is simply a chance to chat through an interesting problem with a friendly, bright, and interested new friend!


University of Bath
MEng, mechanical engineering