Sunday, July 25, 2010

McKinsey: team learning

One of the new things I was exposed to this week at McKinsey was the team learning session. This session is typically done at the start of every new project, and is meant for each team member to give an overview of the following:

1. A little bit about themselves, tenure at McKinsey, family, interests etc.

2. Professional priorities: where they are in their career, what skills and experiences they want to have to get to the next stage etc.

3. Personal priorities: What are their personal priorities like spending as much time with family as possible, keeping weekends free, taking time out for workouts etc.

4. Myers Brigg personality type, which might give an indication of what might it would be like to work with this person.

This sort of session helped us decide what roles each team member should take, how we should work together in terms of where we work from, the timings we work at, and how we should balance being at the client side, and being back in office. The discussion was very useful in establishing teamwork norms; in fact, I believe that it should become part of more organizations' work culture to have such discussions. Not only do these discussions help in learning your teammmates priorities and stating yours, it also help in getting to know a little bit more about your teammates. I had learned the importance of having such a conversation and creating a 'team contract' in our leadership in organizations course at Kellogg. However in this busy life, such conversations are often ignored to save time. My future teammates at Kellogg beware: here come some team learning discussions!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Career - a straight line, or a hyperbolic paraboloid?

I remember the early days of my career. I had joined Manhattan Associates, a supply chain software company, right out of undergraduate. Actually thats not true - I joined, which got acquired by Manhattan Associates. Coming from New Delhi to New England was a big step for me.I had joined with three peers from the same school (IIT Delhi) and this was worrisome for me. But why worry? While my peers were great friends, I also worried about what if my performance at work was not as good as them? I mean they were three dedicated, passionate and super-brilliant people. One of them is still with MANH, but will go on to start a great company for sure. One of them returned to India to start a company called And another is a rising star at Google. How could I ensure that I stay ahead of them, or at least along them?

But why am I remembering these facts now? Bumping into a friend from undergrad, who now happens to work in the same building as me in New York, reminded me of how I used to think of career as a straight line. As a race, where I was supposed to run the fastest, and beat everyone to it. But compare my friends career path to mine. He went from IIT to IIM, worked for McKinsey for three years in India, and now works for a premier private equity firm in India, currently on a rotation in the US. Me? I worked for seven years for MANH (yes, almost unheard of in this day and age, right?), changed jobs almost completely within the company (product development to sales), went to Business School later than most of my peers, and am now doing my summer at McKinsey, where most of my peers from undergrad, are already senior associates or engagement managers. And I knew that coming in - most of the people at my level are younger to me.

So why am I here? Quite simply, my hypothesis is that this step will help me get to where I want to go by:

1. Helping me learn essential skills, particularly skills of client interaction, presentation and problem solving

2. Giving me a great brand on my resume and helping me strengthen my network

3. Helping me pay off my Business School loans (And that is a LOT of loans).

So what will happen in the future? Will I end up At McKinsey or decide to take another route? Will my hypothesis become true? I will keep you updated for sure....

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Almost a month at McKinsey

It's almost been a month since I started at McKinsey as a Summer Associate. I thought this was an appropriate time to reflect (by blogging, of course). There have been quite a few surprises for me on joining the firm. But first, let's start at the items that went as expected:

1. My colleagues are very talented, motivated and overall outstanding individuals. Which is expected, given how much thought goes into evaluating each person in the hiring process. As someone suggested 'There are no hiring mistakes here.'

2. It's been fun! My summer class is a lot of fun, and we have a lot of get-togethers in NYC.

But then were were some surprises:

1. It is amazing to see how much thought goes into every consultant's development. A major reason reasons why consultants do tend to do a large variety of projects early on is to get a vast variety of experiences and build up one's consulting toolkit.projects assigned to me.

2. Contrary to popular opinion, most new hires are not necessarily MBAs. McKinsey hires from other masters and PhD programs, as well as hires several experienced people from the industry. There are a surprisingly high number of MDs in the firm, which is something I did not expect at all.

3. Working at McKinsey (or any top consulting firm) would give you a great brand on your resume and open several doors. But as several people have told me, its wrong to assume that it is a passport to any job you might want. In fact, you might get pigeonholed into strategy roles, and glamorous as that may seem, for several sectors, that is just a limited set of opportunities. It is often not easy to just move over the general management roles.

4. While McKinsey might help you learn several great skills, one thing will still be missing: you wouldn't learn how to manage 'normal' people. The theory behind this is that most people at the firm are very driven, and you do not have to motivate them to work hard and produce top quality results. This will not be true in most industry roles, hence that is something one should build through other experiences.

5. Management consulting is not just strategy consulting; in fact, the 'classic strategy projects' form a small part of revenue of most consulting firms. Instead there is a huge mix of projects, including sales and marketing, operations, innovation, growth, new market entry, cost-cutting etc.

6. As I meet different partners and directors, I notice the various qualities that might have helped them reach that position. And they all seem to be very different from each other; some are outgoing, friendly people who thrive on building relationships. Others are just pure intellect; well respect for their knowledge and thought process.

It's hard to believe that a month has already passed. Another six weeks to go, and I will be done - and back to Kellogg! What happens after that? Back at McKinsey, or go some other route? That still remains to be seen.....