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McKinsey Middle East Into McKinsey USA

Did you enjoy the program? If yes, how?

Yes. The program was pleasant and managed very well. I came to FC with an unusual request. I had worked for an MBB firm in the Middle East for a few years. I left and worked in industry for another few years. I wanted to transition into the same firm in the US. I had had one interview with a US office but was declined due to my “weaker case structuring” skills. A partner in the Dubai office suggested I work with FC to prepare for the US transition and I reached out to Michael.

The sessions were good since it seemed FC had a good understanding of the challenges I would have to overcome to make the transition. Coming from MBB, I also thought their techniques were very refined / elegant and this helped me improve my case skills.

Did the program meet your expectations? If yes, how?

It was by no means a smooth ride but I eventually secured an offer in one of the firm’s US offices.

The one thing I really liked about the program is that it is designed to expect bumps/obstacles/roadblocks and overcome them. I expected to simply submit my application again and be welcomed back for an interview. Michael was careful to point out that there are vast differences between the ME and US regions. Transfers do take place but only if someone had taken a purposeful set of actions in the firm to prepare themselves for such a move. If they had not done so, it would not happen.

My approach was to say “I am an alum and returning to the firm” but Michael said it would be better to say “I worked in the ME, learnt lots in industry and now realize some sector/functional experience I would like to gain could only come from the US.”

This was hard to swallow since it was basically saying all my previous MBB experience was being jettisoned out of the hatch and I was starting on an even footing with candidates who did not having an MBB experience!

Making this mindset shift was a slap in the face because it was different from everything I had read and heard from within the firm. The firm likes to create this impression of offices-of-equals so I never would have know otherwise.

What was the most important learning’s from the program?

I had always assumed the best case techniques existed within the firm and there was nothing to learn from outside. I was wrong and that humbled me and opened my eyes to new things.

There is a profound fluidity to the way FC did cases. Everything cascaded into a set of natural steps which was obvious in hindsight:

1. Clarify the problem

2. Define the objective function

3. Brainstorm the broad structure

4. Prioritize the branches in the structure

5. Develop hypotheses for the branches

6. Develop a test for the hypotheses

I was very impressed with this and liked the emphasis on communication and prioritizing. There was a sinful simplicity to the way difficult things like brainteasers were reduced to a 5-step process which was so elegant in its design. It almost felt “bad” having so easy ways to do things when others were struggling. When I joined, I was worried FC made me a sign a NDA, but after viewing the material I could see why they would want to protect it so carefully.

Do you feel the program provided an advantage for you versus your own/other preparation? If so, in what way?

Yes, but not where I had expected. I had assumed my case skills were very strong and it was just the communication side. I soon realized that I was improving in many areas and all important to me:

• My case skills definitely improved substantially over the duration of the program. I am still surprised by this.

• Understanding the “real” basis of relationships between US and foreign offices, and how consultants are perceived between offices. This was certainly a new area for me. Even today, after what I experienced first-hand, I struggle to reconcile the differences between regional perceptions of offices.

• Networking was a surprise. I fully expected to resubmit an application and get an invite while Michael insisted I network to build a “coalition of interested parties.” This was also new to me.

The best way to describe this is to imagine thinking the earth was flat and then being told it is round. Everything needs to change but you don’t know where to start. FC was my very capable guide through this process. I had overestimated my previous MBB experience and how far it could propel my career.

Can you recall any memorable moments?

Being told by an MBB associate, and recruiting coordinator, that I needed an MBA before trying to get into a US office made me want to die!

Michael dismissed the suggestion and explained that my profile was good enough and would get an interview. This was an example of something Michael and his team did often. They did not take anything at face value. Here, they disagreed with the recruiting coordinator which I initially thought was crazy!

If the person who would review my resume felt I would not make it, how could I get in? Michael patiently explained how this particular office, a relatively smaller office, made applications decisions and why I should not assume someone has the authority to make decisions, when they imply they do.

I was very sceptical here but my direct contacts with the partner in the office eventually brought me into the interview process.

What would you like changed in the program?

I am not sure I am qualified to answer this question. My situation was strange to say the least! I also don’t think any client who could not get into MBB can advise on changes to help get them in MBB. My excel sheet would call that a circular reference!

My one suggestion is to provide an overview of the program but I think this is impossible do. If I look at my own situation I never would have guessed these obstacles with arise and we would need to take these steps. My case sessions were built around my obstacles/solutions and those were so random. How could they be planned in advance?

If I think about this the way Michael taught me, we are asking the wrong question. A better question is what should remain the same and I think the referral system makes sense. If someone is referred they know what to expect from the person who referred them and no overview of the program is needed. My suggestion is to make this a 100% referral based system – which I think it is?

Do you believe your coach was effective?

Michael is an amazing friend, coach and human being. No one has had such a meaningful impact on my life. There are many things to admire about Michael but I loved his honesty. He will tell you exactly what he thinks and he does not worry about the consequences. You sometimes need a tough stomach for this.

But there is a flip-side to this. He stands by you through everything. He may tell you painful and bitter truths but he does not leave you alone to move forward. He grabs your hand and yanks you forward. I also think Michael’s personality works well. He is a very funny person who likes to make jokes to lighten the mood.

Do you personally believe the sessions were tailored for your own development?

Based on my answers above, there is zero doubt in my mind the sessions were tailored to me. I would be very surprised if Michael had another client going through the same/similar situation.

What are your thoughts on using former McKinsey/BCG worldwide practice leaders to coach clients?

I had the opportunity to work with the former regional head of Bain strategy in this program, and it was a surreal moment to have someone that experienced provide career advice and do a case with me.

It was great to be able to meet in his office, have coffee and talk through my options from someone who really understood the UK and US markets. Michael had briefed [Redacted] in a lot of detail and I did not need to provide any context at all.

We did a deregulation case and that was probably the first time I had done a case with a senior partner – besides Michael. We worked through data sheets and we spent time understanding why Bain used so much data and how I need to extract the key issues and objective function from the data sheets. I enjoyed the peer–based level of communication and frankness with which my questions were answered.

We ended the session with a brief tour of the head office of the company and he gave me a signed copy of his book. Overall a very good session and we stayed in touch by email thereafter. This is an experience I don’t think just anyone can get and I thank FC for giving me this opportunity.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

No, my points above cover everything. Please contact me if you need further information for this survey.

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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