As an intern at McKinsey09/10/2014
Hi, my name is Tuomas and I am a fifth year finance student from our program in Aalto. I have now worked with McKinsey for almost three months as a consultant intern, and I wanted to share some of my experiences regarding the work at McKinsey and my personal views on the application process.
When I considered the most important characteristics of the work that I want to do during my studies, I managed to condense a long list of important elements into three key factors. First, I wanted to have a job where I can work on meaningful matters that have a broad impact. Second, I wanted to work with inspiring colleagues that can help me to develop myself in an accelerated pace. Third, I wanted to work in an international setting as it provides exposure to a multiple different ways of thinking and working. The reason I joined McKinsey was that I saw McKinsey being able to offer an environment that is a great match to what I seek.
For me, the application process was a great learning experience in itself. The first thing to realize is that a consulting case interview is very different to the ones that are solved in university. It is less about your conclusions and how you motivate them (even though these are also important), and more about your thought process to reach them. Instead of perceiving the interviewer as a person who is there to evaluate your work, think of him more as your team mate who is involved in the process and helps you to succeed. In order to be able to work together efficiently, you need to understand what is expected from you, and for that it is important to practice beforehand (there is a lot of good material at McKinsey web site, but it is even better if you have a possibility to practice interviews with someone else. Based on my experience, interviewing your friend is a great way of learning how to do well in an interview yourself).
Before I started, I had three specific goals in my mind that I wanted to learn about during my internship. First, I wanted to improve my problem solving skills and business judgment in a professional environment. While I had a lot of experience about these topics in a theoretical setting, I wanted to take the leap forward and apply them to practice. Second, I wanted to improve my client engagement and communication skills (both verbal communication an ability to communicate ideas through a well-designed storyline), as these skills ultimately determine your success on whatever you work on. Third, I wanted to better understand the nature of the work consultants do, preferably in an international environment, since I had long been interested in management consulting as a career opportunity, but it is hard to truly understand the work before you have actually experienced it.
When I started, I discussed these development goals with some senior people at McKinsey who helped me to find projects that would best help me to develop these sets of skills. First, I started working in a strategy case, where I immediately got a lot of responsibility regarding to analytics that helped us to clearly understand the market environment of the client. This project helped me to develop my basic consulting toolkit in analytics and presentations. The second case that I got involved in was more operative in nature. The project included lots of traveling, meetings with the client, and managing multiple workflows in a fast-paced environment. The setting was extremely international, as there were colleagues and clients involved from sites in five different countries across multiple continents. One of the most memorable evenings that I have had during my internship was an informal dinner we had with McKinsey colleagues and client team members after we had initiated the project. During the evening, we had a lot of good discussions related to differences in the business cultures in Europe and other parts of the world. These informal discussions helped us to build common ground after which it was easy to work as a one team across great distances on a daily basis.
The people in the McKinsey Helsinki office come from a great range of different backgrounds with varying sets of experience and areas of interest. I have tremendously enjoyed working with driven and curious people, who are always willing to share their knowledge and help others develop. Outside of the daily work, I have been able to join a large number of events from the traditional crayfish party during the summer to team events that we organize every now and then with the team members who are working on the same project. On global level, I have been amazed by the “One Firm” culture of McKinsey. Regardless of the location, every firm member is driven towards the common goal and is always willing to help you and share their expertise. When you go to McKinsey office in another country, you immediately feel that you are familiar with the environment and the people who work there.
Now that my internship is almost over and I look back what I have learned, the most important points are related to the ability to quickly gain understanding on subjects you are not familiar with, and ability to manage your workflow in a continuously changing setting (These skills will surely come handy when doing the Master’s Thesis). Additionally, I learned a great deal about the importance of communication and choosing the right arguments to support your message. In conclusion, I feel that my internship at McKinsey has been a great journey that is worth taking for any finance student who wants to take his or her skills into practice and take the next big career leap.