T5E interviews recent alumni across a wide variety of industries who have spent a year or more at their respective firms. We hope this will enlighten current students with respect to what companies look for while recruiting undergraduates and help them make more informed career choices.
McKinsey is a management consulting firm. It’s the most renowned strategic consulting firm in the world. It serves clients and management teams on a range of strategic and operational issues. This is done through projects of varying duration where McKinsey would solve problems and sometimes implement solutions for the client. McKinsey is also well known around the world for its alumni who’ve gone on to lead Fortune 500 companies and is sometimes referred to in the media as the “CEO factory”.
What does your work at McKinsey involve?
Projects (or studies as we call it in McKinsey) are of varying duration where the client asks McKinsey to solve a specific problem. For example – how do I improve the profitability of the business? Which segment of the consumer market should I target? What should my organizational structure be? McKinsey works across sectors and functions and the problems are very diverse in nature.
For each study, there is a partner who leads the study, an engagement manager who leads the team and a team of business analysts (those who are recruited from IIT) and associates (those who are recruited from IIM). Each member of the team has specific workstreams he/she will have to independently drive by talking to experts in McKinsey, client team members and with help from the engagement manager and partner. It will require you to understand a sector or a specific topic in depth by speaking to experts, performing the necessary analyses, making presentations to be presented in important meetings and in implementing some solutions you recommend. You will on a day to day basis interact with members from client teams including the senior management to solve the problem you’re working on.
What is the work environment like?
McKinsey has a completely non-hierarchical working atmosphere. You are expected to speak up and explain with facts even if that means you do not agree with the partner on your study or with client team members. The people at McKinsey are highly capable and interactions are always enjoyable. You typically work out of client site and fly back to your home office. So, this could mean a lot of travel (at one point I was doing 16 flights a month!). The work life balance is determined by the nature of the study and based on how efficient you are. I never had an issue with the work life balance at McKinsey.
What does McKinsey look for while recruiting undergraduates?
McKinsey looks at hiring people with strong problem solving abilities who’ve shown drive and motivation to accomplish commendable things in the past. To be useful to insti junta, I would say that they look for people who’ve excelled in 2-3 distinct areas – academics, sports, leadership, extra curricular activities etc. In the few areas you’re good at, you’re expected to be distinctive (say top 10% in your batch) and be above average in other areas. In my case, I had won a couple of reputed contests (NYCEDC, GE Edison), was a Saarang core, had a MITACS internship and was in the top three in my class. These will help you get shortlisted for interviews. Post that, it depends on how well you can do your case based interviews. In my last round of interviews with McKinsey, there were six people who I really respected and looked up to in insti. Finally, two of us got the offer. I’ve written about my day one experience here.
What are the career prospects beyond (or in) McKinsey ?
This is the best part about McKinsey – the exit options. Lot of people pursue their MBA post McKinsey and end up going to top B schools (Harvard, Stanford, Wharton etc). Some people move into the private equity and venture capital industry (like me). Some go to McKinsey offices abroad. Some move onto operational roles or Executive Assistant to CEO roles in client organizations or NGOs. Some have started up. Some people remain in McKinsey and go on the same track as those from the IIMs without leaving McKinsey. There are a plethora of options available and it depends on the individual’s preferences.
Any final thoughts…
Life in McKinsey is a lot of fun outside of work. There is strong bonding. There are the occasional parties, team dinners and retreats. I felt it to be a great place to go to straight out of IIT because you meet like minded people, learn rapidly and at the same time have fun at work and outside. It also gave me a chance to travel the country, meet diverse sets of people and learn about running businesses by watching CEOs from close quarters.
Kaushik Anand (2010/B.Tech/CH) was a resident of Tambi hostel. He worked in McKinsey for two years out of their Mumbai and Chennai offices, also frequenting Delhi and Rajasthan. He worked in strategy, operations and organisation in media, technology, telecom and infrastructure. He currently works with Sequoia Capital in Bangalore as an Investment Analyst where he looks at investments in technology start ups.
If you are an alumnus and you have a story to contribute about your first job, write to us at t5e.iitm [at] gmail [dot] com and we will get in touch with you.
Editor’s note: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee alone and do not represent the views of, or should not be attributed to, McKinsey & Co.