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McKinsey Business Analyst on being social

Nisha is a McKinsey business analyst in the U.S. She holds a degree in literature from a U.S. college where she graduated in the top 5% of her class, and had a strong leadership track record. She interned at a bulge-bracket investment bank and had an offer in hand before selecting McKinsey for its strong values. Nisha was a case coaching client before joining the consultants program.

Why did you seek additional help for your consulting career?

My experience in the case interview training was a highlight of my recruiting summer. I loved the Firmsconsulting value system of discretion, professionalism and caring for their clients’ needs. I had grown in the program, my case skills improved and I saw marked improvements in all aspects of my career planning skills. I wanted to continue this type of guidance and development and it seemed like the logical next step to apply for the consultant program.

The experience has been the same and I like to consider myself more a friend of Michael and the rest of Firmsconsulting.

What was your strategy for using the program?

As I mentioned earlier, it was a continuation strategy. Everything was going well for me and I am grateful to have received the offers I had. I wanted Michael watching over me and helping me think through the ideas and problems. Our sessions were very spontaneous. I was responsible for setting them up and choosing the topics for discussion.

I would drive the relationship and throw ideas or problems at Michael and we would brainstorm the best answer. We would debate them and plan the steps I should take. I did not feel the need to get advice on my project work and we discussed these at a very high level by looking at the project structure and creative ways for me to conduct some types of analyses.

The best value of the program was thinking about my career over 2 to 5 years and deciding what I wanted to do, why I wanted to do this and how I would get there. Michael was very good at this and making sure I had considered all the options I had. My decision to start an MBA was obviously pushed by McKinsey but I thought Michael created a case for why “I” should do it, irrespective of McKinsey’s wishes.

I am keen to enter the public sector one day and I had erroneously set my sights on the Kennedy School of Government without considering the type of government official I wanted to be. So we worked backwards from these points and put together a set of goals I needed to accomplish to reach my objectives.

Michael is good at building long term plans and chasing them.

How did the program help you, if at all?

The program is enormously beneficial. Within McKinsey many people don’t know what is happening and why it is happening. That is I suppose normal. It reminds me of recruitment at college. Rumors spread and take on a life of their own. If I am not careful I end up chasing ghosts. The overriding value is having a hotline to a partner who only has your interests in mind and is willing to cut through the fluff.

At each major juncture in my career I would call Michael and get his guidance. He always has an unusual perspective which seemed ridiculously simple, but only after it was explained. The importance of this is the advice has no strings attached. Michael would be so blunt at times that I was left reeling. I knew I was always getting the most honest possibly answer and he seemed fine if it upset me a little. This made me very confident that I was hearing the truth no matter what was happening. There was no sugar coating at all. Not even artificial sweeteners:-)

I do not want him to sound like a toughie. He is a great mentor. The best mentor I have ever had because things actually happen around him. Other mentors made me feel good but it took me time to realize that nothing positive happened out of those interactions.

The one strong benefit is Michael’s reminder of consulting values. You hear this at McKinsey all the time, but I learned more about Marvin Bower from Michael than McKinsey. So there is this complimentary teaching between Firmsconsulting and McKinsey. It is like the program is designed to support McKinsey consultants.

Do you recall any memorable moments?

I can recall some useful advice provided when I joined McKinsey. Throughout my studies I had had a strong involvement in extracurricular activities. I was keen to do the same at McKinsey and wanted to sign up for some firm/internal initiatives.

Michael pushed for me not to do it and forced me to stick to projects for at least the first year. This was useful advice since I would not have been able to do both well. The amount of work I had to do in my first engagement was difficult to manage. Picking up something else would have led to mediocre efforts on both or failure in one and success in the other. This would not have been good for my career.

Michael reminded me that new consultants are not kept around for their firm-wide activities. They need to do well on engagements and I saw young analysts get their priorities wrong and get managed out fairly quickly. I don’t think this would have happened to me, but my quality would have certainly been diluted.

The other thing that strikes me about the program is the high/impossible expectations Michael had of me. It was taken for granted I would graduate magna cum laude, that I would join McKinsey and I would excel.

Some of my casing sessions were moved back to ensure I had time to study for my finals!

For me, this was very encouraging that someone with such high expectations wanted me to go so far. In fact, when I failed to get into Bain a big part of me felt I had let down Michael and it took me over a day to forward the rejection email. If great things are expected of me, I tend to achieve them!

Would you like anything changed in the program?

I like the program and enjoy all my training. I therefore have no suggestions for any changes. I am happy to answer any questions you may have and look forward to the changes at Firmsconsulting.

We have published the most useful client feedback. Our commitment to confidentiality prevents us from disclosing the identity of our clients and other confidential information, and we may alter details to prevent such disclosure. Some client feedback may be lightly edited for grammar, spelling or prose, though we never alter or remove any information. Clients in our consultants coaching program are forbidden from sharing sensitive client data with us.

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