From Aalto Finance to McKinsey

10/06/2013

Timur Saadetdin currently works as an Associate at McKinsey. He majored in Finance and graduated from Aalto University School of Business in 2011. Here is Timur sharing his insights and tips – both looking back at study life and with regards to his current position at McKinsey. Enjoy reading!

When starting my studies, family and friends warned me that university years will fly past in a blink of an eye – and of course they did. Similarly, it is hard to believe it has been 2 years since I left Chydenia behind and stepped into working life. Thinking back to my questions back then, I thought I’d share my thoughts on three topics.

How does your time as a Finance student prepare you for working life?

The origins of business as an academic subject area are rooted in the need for people with appropriate skillsets. Therefore it is natural that business studies build many capabilities important in business context – this is true with Finance as well, since the studied courses have a heavy emphasis on cases and real-life exercises. I would claim that few of the actual tools or theories in isolation are applicable to the real world but learning them creates a very useful mindset and strong intuition which are relevant for surprisingly varied situations.

At least personally I felt that perhaps even more important than the course contents was the opportunity to work intensively in teams of ambitious students and build relationships both in the Tieto computer hall and student parties. I was also fairly active in student organizations such as NESU, KY Finance and KY Representative Council. Looking back, they have probably prepared me for my current work more than most of the courses I took.

These are just some of the ways in which I think Finance prepares you. Then there are also for example case competitions and of course the opportunity to gain wide-ranging work experience from internships. Last and most importantly, life as a student grants the freedom and time to reflect and pursue extracurricular interests – make sure to leave room for spontaneous discussions, trips and parties!

What to consider when selecting the first step on your career?

The first thing I considered when choosing my first real job after graduation was where would I develop and grow the most. I was eager to move on quickly from the level of a recent graduate. I encourage everyone to take a longer horizon than a year or two – think what your choice will give you in terms of experience and capabilities for the challenges ahead.

Secondly, you will spend a significant share of your time at work and therefore it’s crucial you get to know some of your future colleagues. This will give you a feel for the culture of the organization and judge how well you might fit among the crowd. Related to the first point, you are very likely to develop to a similar direction as those who went before you – try to assess what skills and capabilities they have developed.

Thirdly and most importantly, most career paths Finance students choose are demanding both in terms of mindshare and time; therefore it’s crucial you do something you are truly interested in. In many cases you have to experiment in order to find out – but your intuition is probably more often right than wrong.

What has my choice offered me so far?

As mentioned previously, I set out to develop fast professionally and McKinsey has supported this in many ways. Working on complex challenges with senior clients has ensured a steep learning curve: there has definitely been no risk of getting stuck in a “just out of school” mindset. On the capabilities side I would highlight hypothesis-driven problem-solving and communication based on storylines – both more crucial in business than in university.

Capability building is of course included in dedicated training programs, but there is also a strong culture of coaching and support on the job. It is great working with more experienced colleagues whose primary goal is for you to grow on and to take more responsibility. To top of it all, our support staff ensures that consultants can focus on the problems at hand without distractions. There is also a wide network of experts on research & information, analytics and visual graphics to enable even more focus on client work and problem-solving.

As stated before, intensity must be coupled with motivating aspects to make work enjoyable. For me these are related to satisfying my curiosity. All the projects are very different, both in terms of industry and function in question: there is always something new to experience. All of them however share a true inside view into the top management of large organizations – which in addition to a great learning opportunity is also just intriguing in itself.

Best Regards,

Timur

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