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Oxford grad. to McKinsey Eastern Europe

Did you enjoy the program? If yes, how?

Enjoy is quite possibly not the most effective word. I would select enlightening. The program complemented my existing educational trajectory rather well.

As an Oxford history major I was looking for something which provided a guided entry into management consulting and closed the business skills gaps which I quite clearly had. My requirements were somewhat strained by my desire to return to Eastern Europe and therefore I wanted help to position my profile for a McKinsey office back home.

Firmsconsulting was recommended to me by a colleague at McKinsey. She had used the service in its early days and felt I would benefit from the mentoring style used in the sessions. I was honestly not impressed with the initial site since it was very bare, no advertising, no information anywhere and everything behind membership walls. Purely on the referral I reached out to Michael.

I found Michael to be easily one of the easiest people with whom to converse. The embedded value system of the firm resonated with me at a personal level and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was forbidden from discussing anything about the firm if I was selected and would not be able to even write a review online. I was more surprised by the rigid NDA in place. It took at least another email to my colleague to convince me this was indeed the Firmsconsulting way. I question the value of such a comprehensive NDA.

From the start Firmsconsulting stood out as a firm which simply relied on the quality of its work. I liked the model and especially liked Michaels experience and expertise in Eastern Europe. He knew the consulting firms, office requirements, recruiting policies and key projects. Over 3 sessions I became more and more convinced that Michael was the person I wanted to help me.

Enlightening is a perfect word to describe all our interaction because Firmsconsulting simply gets the job done in a calm doggedness. No flash and no pizzaz but a strict focus on results. Every session I had with Michael changed my outlook on business and taught me something new. A rhyme and reason does exist for each action he takes.

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

Firmsconsulting helped me get into McKinsey and Bain. Yet, did they exceed my expectations in doing so, and if they did, were my expectations too low? I have pondered this thoroughly since being asked to help provide input for the pending business review.

I do believe I was a strong candidate to begin with. I was near, if not at the top of my class. I had international experience and had interned at a bulge-bracket investment bank. I was young at 25 years and my English was fairly advanced for my age and office peer group.

In getting into McKinsey I was thinking about my long-term career over the next 10 years. I foresaw an MBA in my path followed by a stint in McKinsey again and a move into politics. So I would say Firmsconsulting certainly provided the ammunition around case training, resumes etc to get into McKinsey. Yet, I may be naive, but I am fairly certain I could have got there on my own even if it took longer.

Where I do believe Firmsconsulting exceeded my expectations was this single belief preached by Michael that McKinsey is merely a finishing school and you should not celebrate getting to the halfway house.

The entire program and all the advice rumbled along this epicenter of purpose. In picking the offices, positioning my profile and selecting the partners with whom I would network, Michael pushed me into the corporate finance and public sector practices to broaden my skills. As someone with significant SOE expertise, I found his experiences fascinating – he could discuss the strategies and operations of most major SOE’s in significant detail.

The willingness to view my career over a 5-10 year horizon and ensure the things I did today would get me there was an unusual viewpoint and impressed me. Looking back over the last 14 months at McKinsey, I feel many of Michael’s decisions were validated.

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

Michael continually stressed the point that confidence must be divorced from content. In other words, you do not need to have content knowledge to be confident. One should hone a thinking process which expects to have weak content. However, the process uses a series of probing questions to extract useful information and build a compelling, and I would say appropriate, approach to solve a problem.

I thought that was a very interesting way of looking at things and seemed to make sense to me. How could a consultant know more than the client? They could not. Therefore the value of consultants must be the way they would frame a complex problem to extract a useful solution.

All of the techniques we studied on brainstorming, building case structures and generating hypotheses relied on this core philosophy: embrace the lack of content and focus on the probing questions to generate a structure.

From a confidence perspective, it meant that I could now legitimately discuss any topic with any expert and come away with the material I needed to solve the problem. Having negative content asymmetry was not important. That was a powerful lesson for me.

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

Not having prepared before I cannot compare the program to my past experience. Yet, I feel the Firmsconsulting approach was unique and provided me with many advantages.

When I joined McKinsey, I had no financial training beyond the work at Firmsconsulting and a basic week-long training program run by the firm for new hires. I embraced Michael’s philosophy to focus on the questions and not the content, and volunteered to work on the business case for a cost reduction program at the division of an Eastern European bank.

I spoke to Michael during this time and he showed me how those probing questions could be used to build an excel model and design a financial analyses. This reinforced the thinking even further. I never knew an objective function should sit behind an excel model. I never knew decision trees for revenue and cost should determine the parts of the model. To see the thinking work on an engagement where I received high praise made it easy for me to answer this question.

Can you recall any memorable moments?

In my final round at McKinsey, I was told in advance I would be interviewed by a director in the retail banking sector. The night before Michael did a session with me to burnish my credentials in this space

While he did not think I would get a case in retail banking, he was adamant the sector would come out during the social discussions and questions about the director’s own work.

Michael has this amazing ability to take a very complex issue and simplify it in a way that anyone can easily understand. We discussed the main problem facing the country’s Ministry of Finance which was an inability to bankroll micro-finance initiatives in perpetuity. This would lead to state-owned banks having to raise funds in capital markets were the return rates would be higher. Without the lower rates offered by the Ministry of Finance the banks would need to charge commercial rates thereby eroding their competitive advantage and forcing them to exit key markets.

I understood that concept and discussed that in my final round interview. I received my offer call while I was in the parking lot downstairs. My discourse on rural banking strategies was an anchor for this offer.

What would you like changed in the program?

There are several areas where Firmsconsulting can enhance the program. If they advertised more and brought in more clients, their experience would improve thereby improving their ability to impart more skills on clients. I would say growth could help them.

The videos are useful but tedious to watch. Accompanying transcripts would certainly help with learning productively.

I think I could learn a lot from meeting Michael and would ask Firmsconsulting to extend their networking sessions to Eastern Europe.

The FCC is clearly a flagship of the firm. It would be nice if graduates of the coaching program were offered an accelerated entry to this site.

Do you believe your coach was effective?

My philosophy on business and thought process has been altered through working with Michael. As it actually improved? Possibly.

So yes, Michael was an effective coach. I ask myself “What would Michael do?” at times. I think this is a sign of effectiveness.

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

I cannot answer this question since I have no basis of comparison.

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

If his knowledge, training and skills can propel Firmsconsulting and the success of their clients, then it is an excellent idea. If this is just another coach, then I don’t see the value of it, because Firmsconsulting already has good coaches.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I look forward to seeing the pending changes and would be pleased to discuss my answer or provide additional details as required.

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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