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Vancouver undergrad into McKinsey Asia

Did you enjoy the program? If yes, how?

Yes, I always enjoy speaking to Michael and his team. I have an extended relationship with Michael and reached out to him for a different initiative at Firmsconsulting, but I was not successful getting selected for that. We built a good relationship from my early decline and we exchanged emails over the year leading up to me applying for the program.

Michael knows management consulting, the Canadian market and the inner workings of the firms – down to the office level in some cases. He is a professional with a passion for teaching. All our sessions were well planned and focused on my vital development areas. I found the networking advice very helpful since I was living in Vancouver and our management consulting alumni network was very small – pretty much non-existent.

Michael worked with me to arrange trips into Toronto and meet the appropriate people. He is my good buddy and mentor. No doubts on that point!

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

My knowledge about management consulting was weak when I joined the program. I was looking for a program to educate me, help me set goals and get me to those goals. In all respects, Firmsconsulting met my expectations:

1) Michael offered, and I eagerly accepted, some bridging calls to educate me about management consulting in the Toronto, Calgary and Montreal markets. He knew partners personally and could provide valuable advice on the do’s and don’ts of networking. We went into lots of detail about why Canada had smaller consulting offices, the quality of the senior partners, the types of work done, the major feeder schools and how consultants are selected. It was a steep learning curve for me and set realistic expectations about my goals. This alone made me consider just one school in Canada for my MBA – Richard Ivey.

2) Based on Michael’s advice we decided that applying within Canada would be a poor decision because of the narrower criteria here and the “excess supply” of talented undergraduates. We leveraged my parent’s background to pursue a Hail Mary pass into the Asian offices. It worked and I would have not known that was possible. The learning curve is steep in McKinsey due to my slight language challenges but I am probably getting the best exposure I possibly could.

3) Firmsconsulting was very effective at creating a plan for me and forcing me to stick to it. I was working with friends in Vancouver who were also applying. I noticed they would change their resumes, target offices etc every time they received new information. Michael kept me focused on a strategy of mastering the fundamentals and networking aggressively. We managed to set up some office visits during my summer vacation to China. This worked out very well, helped my confidence tremendously and built good networks through which I used to submit my applications.

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

I was prejudging myself before I joined the program. One group of friends kept telling me to do an MBA while another told me I was a good fit for Toronto and McKinsey.

Another group was encouraging me to take consulting classes at the local school to show an interest in consulting. Michael cuts through all of the hearsay to present the cold truths.

I find a big lesson for me was simply looking at the facts and making decisions based on those facts. A good example of this was my efforts to join McKinsey Toronto. Before joining Firmsconsulting, I spent 8 months working on my cover letter, preparing my resume and spending time and money to network with analysts. None of this worked and Michael told me to simply send my resume to a Toronto partner and ask for feedback. The feedback was honest and exactly what Michael said it would be – I was weak on leadership.

I could have saved a lot of time by contacting partners earlier. It just seemed strange for me to do that before I spoke to Michael.

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

There was definitely lots of confidence building involved. I had no consulting friends and had spent about 9 months trying with little results. After a while I started wondering if there was anything wrong with me and I became isolated in my efforts.

Michael did not judge me but he had a good laugh after reading some of my networking emails! He had lots of stories about clients who did worse things but managed to fix everything. Hearing about other people and their experiences definitely made me feel better.

The training itself was very good. I truly believe there is nothing like it anywhere.

When I saw the way Michael brainstormed I knew I had made the right decision to sign up. Everything was very logical and easy to follow. Even the estimation cases followed a simple step-by-step process. This co-focus on confidence and case skills was useful for me.

Can you recall any memorable moments?

Too many to mention. Far too many. And I don’t want to have favorites since they are all my favorites.

What would you like changed in the program?

I liked the program overall and would not suggest any major changes. Things which would have helped me would have been finding a good case partner. Vancouver did not have much choice for me and Firmsconsulting did allow disclosure of client names. I thought this was something that should be looked at in the future.

The videos are unbelievable and the same for the podcast’s. My main problem was they would not play on my iPad or iPhone. I wanted to use the transit time to practice and this was not possible. I know moving to HTML5 is a big effort but I think it would be very valuable.

I enjoyed the cases in our sessions but my notes sucked If we could have had the written solutions to the cases that would have helped a little. I think it will require some work for this but I see it being a big advantage for clients.

Do you believe your coach was effective?

Michael is the best coach because he cares and remembers every little detail. As we went through the training classes he would reference mistakes I made in the early sessions. I would need to go back into my notes and the recordings to find them. Superb attention to detail.

An important point is that Michael is not just evaluating your plan, but helping you develop one. I used some other well-known program and coaches on [Redacted] and I always found they were just going to check my thinking but not go further. There was no partnership. Michael will jump in, roll up his sleeves and build a new plan if needed. You feel you are part of a team versus working alone.

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

There is no doubt things were tailored to my needs. Unless Firmsconsulting has an Asian-candidate-living-in-Vancouver-working-for-a-professional-services-firm-who-applied-to-Toronto-was-rejected-and-then-succeeds-in-China template I think all the career plans are unique.

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

Nice idea. I hope the partners will also do videos and podcasts like Michael because those are very unusual and probably the best way to practice between sessions.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I was one of the first people to comment on the Firmsconsulting blog way back in 2010 and the growth of this firm has been insane in just 2 years. I look forward to seeing what is next for Michael and his team.

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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