How I got into McKinsey India

Former IT professional from TCS, Krishna N Venkitaraman, managed a career transition from IT to management consulting after completing his MBA from HEC Paris.

In a 2-part series he describes how he got into McKinsey India and what he did as a consultant. In this first part, he talks about how he successfully manage a career change that many MBA aspirants (specially those from over-represented technology industry) dream about.
 


How I got into McKinsey India

by Krishna N Venkitaraman

 
One of my favourite quotes is from the movie, Kung Fu Panda, where the wise Turtle, Master Oogway, says:

One often meets his destiny on the road one takes to avoid it.

I wanted to go to design school, but ended up in an MBA program; I wanted to go to NUS in Singapore, and ended up at HEC, Paris; and finally, I was absolutely sure I didn’t want to get into consulting, and still ended up at McKinsey!
Right out of engineering college, I joined TCS. While I loved coding, I soon grew restless, and wanted a change.

Even as I had an admit from IMT, Ghaziabad, I decided to venture out on my own. I briefly attempted starting a software consultancy, before IIM Rohtak, Raipur, and Trichy came calling. I once more avoided the b-school temptation, and joined a digital media start-up instead, to begin my love affair with branding and marketing. While I worked at the start-up, we launched an ecommerce platform, and I ran logistics and tech for the venture.

But as we stood at the cusp of getting funded, I had to make a choice between committing to the firm or responding to my academic urges. I had earlier applied to IDC (IIT Bombay’s design school) without success. But the 3 years in the start-up had convinced me that I should approach my design aspirations from the business side, instead. And as my 760 on the GMAT was on the verge of expiry it just seemed like the right decision.

As I waited to hear back from NUS, I discovered HEC, Paris, that had a dual-degree program with the former. I was intrigued by the school, and soon learnt about the excellent Marketing and Luxury programs and faculty at the school. I had ruled out the US as a study destination and was looking only at India and SE Asia.

But now, Europe seemed exotic and inviting. I always wanted to go study in a place that wasn’t just culturally diverse, but also diverse in terms of professional experiences that the cohort had. So when HEC gave me an accept, I did not think twice about it.

My cohort had representation from about 60 countries. It was a very global community tucked away in a beautiful French town on the outskirts of Paris. I studied alongside a professional Rugby player, a Swiss-Indonesian-Canadian teacher who had taught English in Japan, an American lawyer-turned-education-policy maker, and a French Navy officer!

HEC was nothing I expected and everything I needed! I went into the MBA program expecting to be “trained and moulded” in hard skills much like my Indian b-school peers had suggested. But the 16 months I spent in Jouy-en-Josas was really a journey of self-discovery.

I lived by myself for the first time in my life. I changed my career plans four times, and still ended with a fifth. I did a minor in Social Business and Poverty Alleviation — a program which exposed me to a lot of literature in the development space, and gave me first-hand experience of working in employment agencies, shelters, and social businesses in France.

I fell in love with Marketing, picked it as my major, and wrote my thesis on Early Child Education (ECE) for Urban Slums. I studied Luxury Marketing from an ex-MD of Louis Vuitton, Vincent Bastien. And most importantly, I made some incredible friends for life!

Now Europe — and especially the Scandinavian countries — has a very evolved sense of design. I was exposed to the power of Service Design (designing services with a Human-Centered approach) in so many aspects in France.

The metro system, for example, is designed to be very helpful in finding one’s way purely through illustrations, use of colour, and repeated design patterns, even without understanding the French language.

One of the things about pursuing your education from an institution of pedigree is the doors it opens for you. I discovered LinkedIn as an extremely useful networking tool. I actively reached out to designers across the continent, and even in the US. I had extremely rich conversations and even made two mentors.

One such conversation led me to Frog Design’s office in Amsterdam. Over a 3-hour conversation, the recruitment manager explained to me why management consulting was the right route for me into design.

While at HEC, I was absolutely sure that I wasn’t going to fall for the herd mentality of seeking a career in consulting. But then I got my chance of working (internship/ field project) at a UN agency, with UNESCO.While my team and I were recruited to design a framework for a report, we realized that there was an unarticulated problem of departmental silos. We went about solving that alongside the original objective.

When I discussed this with my project mentor, I realized that this is the kind of problem-solving that management consultants do. One of my favourite professors at HEC was an ex-McKinsey consultant, too. So, even without knowing it, I was starting to take an interest in consulting.

At the end of my MBA program I came to India for a break. I was supposed to fly back and join a design agency in Paris for an internship. But as luck would have it, I got an internship at Deloitte. I was always afraid of finance. So in my recently found courage as a newly-minted MBA, I accepted it.

During this time, I was considering turning my Marketing paper on ECE into a social venture. I was reaching out to people to validate the idea. One of those discussion calls was with an HEC alumnus, a French McKinsey consultant who had recently moved to India. He liked what he heard and offered me an interview with McKinsey.

And so, most unexpectedly, I found myself returning to Marc Cosentino’s Case in Point for case practice. After some intense personal experience and case interviews, I waited to hear back from the recruitment team. I still remember being back in Paris, standing on the lawn of my college campus for my b-school graduation (it was 5 months after the end of last term), when I received the offer.

I celebrated over French macaroons and Indian chai with my batch mates. I couldn’t wait to be back to India to join The Firm!

Next article (coming soon): Life as a McKinsey Consultant
 


Also read:
How to become a management consultant at McKinsey, BCG, Bain
From an Ivy League MBA School to McKinsey


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MG (Manish Gupta)

Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

10 Comments

  1. Siddharth Shankar says:

    MG

    How to know what industry domain will suit my profile.
    I hv 3 years work exp. in IT and now I want to pursue mba.

    Is there any way to get an overview of all the basic mba programs trending now?

    Thanks
    Siddharth

  2. Sandeep Venu says:

    Dear Manish,

    I am a 28 Year old Second officer, and have worked exclusively onboard on pure Chemical Tankers for a period of over 6 years. I would like to appear for GMAT and am planning to take a long break to prepare and give it my best shot. I hold a HND in nautical science and am pursuing to get my Nautical science degree from an Indian university where I would graduate by 2018 June. I am looking into programmes based in india and would like to know what options are available. Would really appreciate if you could help me with the process.

  3. Pramod Ghadge says:

    Hi MG,

    I am going to take GMAT next month, aiming ~700+. My target school is INSEAD for 2019 admit. I would like to get your opinion on my profile for INSEAD, and what I can do to improve my chances in coming 6 months before I actually start my application.

    – B.Tech Production Engineering (From Top 20 Engg Colleges in India) : GPA: 4 (One of the Toppers)
    – Master of Science Industrial & Systems Engineering (from National University of Singapore): Low GPA ~3.2/5 , Was involved in extra curriculars, and startups which took most of my time in Singapore.
    – Total Work Ex: 37 months (excluding full time internships in India/Singapore/Israel, otherwise it’s 52 months)

    Some of the key accolades:

    – Recipient of NUS Overseas Colleges Scholarship to work in Israel with a startup for 6 months (i.e. 6 months of work exp. in Israel with 3D printing startup)
    – Winner of an international competition held in Paris, organised by Aeroports de Paris amongst 180 teams from 27 countries.
    – Recipient of Startup Grant from NUS (Started a company in Food-Tech arena, however couldn’t grow it due to some unavoidable circumstances)
    – Was part of numerous startups in Singapore, Israel and now part of Flipkart(India).
    – Was promoted from an Intern to potential CEO/Co-founder for IOT startup in Singapore, helped the team to get into an accelerator in Hong Kong (Didn’t continue the work since I moved to India to work with Flipkart).
    – Recognition at current workplace :
    – The Adapter Award from the CEO for good performance,
    – Wrote a White Paper which was selected from Flipkart to be presented in a conference in Colombo.
    – Various high-impact projects.

    – Languages : English, Hindi, Marathi, German(Basic), Hebrew(Basic) – mentioned since I read INSEAD is kind of obsessed with this skill.

    It would be great if you can give a feedback on my profile so that I am better prepared for the application next year.

    Cheers,
    Pramod

  4. Dishant says:

    Hi,

    I have 1 year of experience and wanted to apply to ISB PGP EEO program. Is ISB a good school for making a shift to finance.

  5. Vivek Pant says:

    Hi Manish,

    I am 27 year old and working in merchant navy in rank of chief officer.
    Having a work experience of 5 years and 3 promotions, I am m looking forward to opt for mba from ISB.

    I am not having a regular bachelors degree but next year after getting my master’s Certificate of competency, I will get a certificate from Mumbai university which is equivalent to bachelors.

    So my question is whether this equivalent certificate is considered for MBA. And one more thing whether if isis advisable to go for the above??

    Regards
    Vivek Pant

    • Vivek,

      While we’ve worked with folks having merchant navy experience, the qualification thing varies from school to school. It will be best to pose this question directly to ISB and get an official response.

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