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Unsuccessful McKinsey intern now at Bain

Did you enjoy the program? If yes, how?

I enjoyed working with Michael. He is such a nice person with lots of good ideas and suggestions to improve. I thought he had a good knowledge of the German consulting market and helped me overcome my struggles after being declined at the end of my McKinsey internship.

He always questions conventional wisdom and forced me to use the Harvard one-page resume format and remove my photo. I fought hard to keep this but he was adamant that it would work in Germany and it did.

I found Michael’s ability to connect with me to be an interesting part of the program. I expected a dry session since he was a partner and older. That was far from it. He had views on all of the life experiences I was going through and made some good suggestions for the offices I should chose versus the lifestyle I wanted.

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

In every possible way. FC was my last attempt into consulting. I had been successful getting a McKinsey internship but my ratings were not good and I was not offered a full-time offer. I was disappointed because I felt the ratings were unfair and based on the feedback of just one manager. He had not spent much time with me and gave me poor direction yet expected very exacting standards to his work.

I was pretty upset about this and Michael started the program by asking me why I was upset. He said:

“It happened and my life should go on.” It seemed not to bother him and it bothered me a little less due to Michael’s reaction. I was still slightly worried since all my friends were telling me to worry.

Michael believed I had a strong enough profile to secure interviews and we did no networking. The case training was very refined. Michael always had a better way to solve a case than I did and could easily explain the effectiveness of his approach. I felt I was always learning because I knew a better way would be presented at the end. All the techniques I was taught were different from those used in other services. FC’s are far superior and they work.

Even If I had not received an offer from Bain, I would still say the program exceeded my expectations because it taught me so much.

The best thing Michael taught me is that, “strategy is a matter of choice. If you want to be successful you will be successful and if you are not successful than you chose not to be successful.”

That sounds harsh but I agree with him. He pushed me hard through the sessions and at times pointed out decisions I was making which was not a strategy of success. Like the early days when I was concerned about the McKinsey rejection, he said that they only thing that bothers him about it is that I have not moved on.

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

We covered many things in the sessions: case skills, communication, estimations, brainstorming, hypotheses development etc. My biggest lesson was my ridiculous focus on what I thought the consulting firms wanted.

Early in the sessions I kept pushing Michael to use a 2-page resume, a photo and a very basic cover letter. I wanted this because I did not know any other way to do it. The debate eventually boiled down to why I wanted these things so badly. My fairly embarrassing answer was because that is what I had seen and was told was acceptable. I did not have a good reason but was pushing these ideas across.

I noticed Michael made me rethink everything I thought I knew about management consulting.

In my first full McKinsey-style case I was asked what I would do with the answer to the hypothesis if it was what I expected it to be. That is something I had never thought about: why am I doing these analyses and is it worth doing?

The need to go back to the most basic elements and know why I was doing anything was an important lesson for me.

I never got that refined understanding from case books and other programs.

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

There is no doubt the training gave me an advantage at many levels. Simple things that I took for granted were exposed and corrected.

1. What is a hypothesis?

2. What is not a hypothesis?

3. When must a hypothesis be developed?

4. How must I brainstorm?

5. When must I start brainstorming?

6. When do I stop brainstorming?

7. McKinsey asked you to prepare for leadership questions. What happens if they don’t ask a leadership question?

In each session Michael would ask these simple questions to test my understanding and I probably got them all wrong.

Knowing what you don’t know is a big advantage and we worked from this point onward.

Can you recall any memorable moments?

The Juventus football case was the best case we did. We discussed the limitations of following the accounting numbers in a case. Just another thing I took for granted…

Michael clearly showed me that the logical conclusion to improve the performance of the team’s finance could lead to damaging its health. This balance between health and performance as a central theme in strategy was nice way of examining strategy decisions – I had not seen this before.

This was such a good case and I could not figure out what to do. We discussed the true role of management consultants, the concept of core and non-core business and the idea of strategic intent and core competencies. This case tied together the unrelated issues in strategy analyses.

I used some of these ideas in my Bain interview and it was apparent the interviews were impressed.

What would you like changed in the program?

It is hard to say if anything should be changed so I will discuss my personal preferences and if they apply to other clients they could be adopted.

1. It may be a good idea to provide clients a list of common mistakes/errors made in each stage of the program like resumes, cover letters, networking and cases. I would assume clients ask the same questions and it can be easily addressed via this checklist.

2. The podcasts are very effective but not used much in the training. I only used about 7 podcasts from my fit discussions but found many gems through my own listening. Some of the podcasts should be made mandatory and arranged by session because lots of the preparation can be done before the session through the podcasts.

3. After doing a few sessions with Michael it was hopeless doing cases with anyone else. I think Firmsconsulting should set up a process for clients to practice cases together. I am sure this will be very valuable and allow us to work within the NDA terms we had to sign.

4. Michael refers to many useful articles in the podcasts and videos. I think all of these should be made available in one location as mandatory reading before the sessions commence.

5. I had the opportunity to interact with one other coach and found that useful. This would be very useful at the end when we can test our skills against different styles.

Do you believe Michael was an effective coach?

If I compare Michael against the Bain manager and partner with whom I worked on my most engagement, I think Michael is a great coach based purely on the amount I learned and his style of teaching. He first took the time to learn about me and my preferences, and then built his style around this.

I had a colleague also go through the program and Michael used a much tougher teaching style with him, which he enjoyed. This may have been random but if it was planned than it is probably why the program is so successful.

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

I do not know. It seemed that way but I never discussed my cases with my colleague so I do not know for sure. I do know that my development areas were addressed sufficiently so I am pleased with that.

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

An amazing initiative to help aspiring consultants. I am jealous.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

No thank you. I have covered everything above but will gladly add in any additional information if needed.

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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