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Life as a McKinsey Consultant

Krishna N Venkitaraman, moved from TCS to McKinsey after his MBA from HEC Paris. In the earlier article, he wrote about how he got into McKinsey India. In this concluding post, he shares what he did as a McKinsey consultant working on technology strategy projects.

Life as a McKinsey Consultant

by Krishna N Venkitaraman

McKinsey is like Hogwarts: Help is given to those who ask for it.

I joined the BTO practice (now Digital McKinsey). As soon as I reported for work,they shipped me off on a training program to New Jersey, USA. I met some really cool people from offices across Asia, Latin America, North America, Africa, and Europe. We were then sent to Carnegie Melon University for a crash course on business technology.

One of my fondest memories was visiting the Randy Pausch memorial bridge there. After 2 weeks of interacting with my international colleagues, I was yet to officially meet my India colleagues.

My induction into McKinsey India was with an off-site in Goa. Pampered at the Grand Hyatt Goa, I met consultants from across the Indian offices, and a few who were now working in foreign locations. Over three days of networking, team building, and great entertainment (attending a stand-up performance by Radhika Vaz, listening to a very touching talk by Anupam Kher, and partaking in some amazing water sports), I started feeling like I was becoming a part of the firm.

McKinsey teams feel a lot like an Avengers initiative. There is typically a core team that starts off the engagement. And as we enter every new phase, new associates are either brought on board in a planned manner, or just ad hoc.

I’ve typically worked on three types of projects: strategy studies, operations engagements, and research projects.

Strategy projects are what are called “on the balcony” projects where we take an overall, macro view, and help the firm figure out the direction they need to proceed in. Operations projects are more of an “in the dance” effort, where we move with the rank and file of the organization to fix operational issues and improve performance.

Research studies often involve studying an industry landscape or preparing the ground for a firm to evaluate next steps. There are also due diligence studies, build-operate-transfer projects, etc. The breadth and depth of managerial exposure one gets in consulting is unparalleled. But the quality of the people you interact with on a daily basis is what makes the experience so enriching.

I had an opportunity to work across multiple sectors including Banking (digital transformation), Education, Technology, IT, and Pharma. During this time, I also had opportunities to interact with or work alongside design folks who had worked at Frog, Carbon-12, Veryday, and Lunar.

On my very first project, I realized the power of the McKinsey network. For gathering information, I reached out to consultants across the world—right from BAs to Directors. And all of them gave me one or more half-hour calls to answer, share, and guide me in my quest for facts and figures to inform my decisions. They would readily share material they’d prepared, researched, or point me towards more people who could help me. The ease of access I had to people across roles, functions, and geographies still amazes me.

The secret to the success and endurance of the firm lies in its inherent belief that its assets are its people. Almost every manager, partner, and director has worked his or her way up the ranks and, along the way, experienced the power of formal leadership and informal mentorship. So each one of them is constantly endeavouring to pay forward by making the same kind of investment in his or her juniors and subordinates.

The time that leaders spend on one-on-one feedbacks, coaching, etc. is extremely high. One of my favourite managers gave me with a great piece of advice:

Deserve, then desire.

Every time I want something I constantly ask myself if I have done enough to deserve it. That has given me a great sense of control on my inner thought process and definition of success.

My favourite part of the job was client management. I got to work with some incredibly great clients, and I even formed personal relations with some of them.

The highlight was when, towards the end of one of my engagement, one of the team members of my direct client approached me for coaching. He was up for promotion and had an interview for it. Despite being about 10-12 years my senior, I was overwhelmed that he thought it useful to get my perspective. We spent an hour discussing how to approach it, and at the end of it, we were both very pleased with the outcome.

For a typical consulting engagement, I would fly out every Monday morning and return home every Friday evening. During this time, I had a chance to visit quite a few cities in India. While initially the glamour of staying in glitzy hotels was attractive, I soon got weary of it, and yearned for the comfort of my own bed on the weekends. The weekends themselves would often whizz by in either catching up with overdue sleep or in preparations for Monday meetings.

So after about two years at the firm, I wanted to get back to my calling in design. I have a 250-people strong family business into back office processing. I have now joined the family business, as well as launched a Strategy + Design Consulting firm. I have just cracked my first client and am excited about seeing how this new phase of my life journey plays out.

In closing I would say this: I have met many MBA aspirants and participants who are very stressed about their careers, and constantly live in a fear of the future (and I have very much been there too). But if I could give my 29-year old MBA-self a word of advice, it would be this: You will do well in life, no matter what, no matter where—but learn to be mindfully present in each moment of struggle and success, and that’s when you would have truly lived your life.

Also read:
A day in the life of a consultant
McKinsey vs BCG vs Bain vs Big 4
How to become a management consultant at McKinsey, BCG, Bain
Management consulting cover letter
From an Ivy League MBA School to McKinsey
Tips for management consulting MBA applicants

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Manish Gupta
About 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 Email. Or follow on Linkedin, Facebook.

16 thoughts on “Life as a McKinsey Consultant”

  1. hi sir
    i m b.e mechanical(university of pune ) right now working with saudi based AIRCONDITIONING company i m not having very strong academics record .
    it is as follows
    std 10th 8.0 cgpa (6 subjects)
    8.8 cgpa(5 subjects excluding sanskrit)
    std 12th 61%
    B.E MECHANICAL 65.5% (four year aggregate) will it affect my admission in big brand college plz. suggest me sir
    also done some extra curricular activities and internship

  2. Hello sir,
    I am a class 4 eng. currently holding a class 4 coc ticket and sailing as a 4 eng. I am a person whose career has been devastated because of the flooding of the market. I passed out from my college in the year 2012 and got placed in company , sailed for 9 months as a junior eng. and then took about 9 months to complete my class 4 coc exams, by the time i got my coc the company i was sailing with dissolved and was no more due to the recession and so i had no where to return to, i had to waste a year at home tryng to get back into a company as no one wanted a fresher.luckily i got into a company in which i sailed as a 4 eng for 3 months and had to sign off again as the ship got arrested for reasons im not yet sure about. And then i had to wait an other year to get into a good company who send me as a 5 eng. again. And now after 5 years im a 4 eng. with 3 mnths sailing exp. who is still waiting for my next call. So this has forced me to think about leaving my job and getting into something else….im 28 already….your help would be most appreciated.

    • Thanks for your note Joseph. Leaving a job without a plan is never a great idea (works for a very select few who may be praised out of proportion)! So the better plan would be to stay put and in the meanwhile, work towards whatever else you may think appropriate.

  3. Hello sir,
    I am a final year student, B.Tech (Civil) in a SRM University. My CGPA is over 8. Was not active in any college realted activities. Yes, from class 9 i was into stock markets, cryptocurrency investment etc till now, and running a small financial company to aid people in investments till now and has great past record regarding. Also was selected to appear for short summer classes in MIT. Apart from score is there any chance to get highlighted by HBS or other top school for MBA.
    Age 21

  4. Sir,
    I am from an IIT,currently in 2nd year.I want to have a start up and am working on it.Please help me figure out whether gre or GMAT would be better(the idea needs heavy investment).I have above 9 GPA and have good command over language.I am NOT willing to have any work experience prior to GMAT.

  5. Sir my daughter is studied from Srrc college she got in 10th.. 10cgp,10+2.. 96.8%,bcom honours she get around 8.30cgp
    She is good in english, essay writing also
    Please guide me whether she get admission in top b school for mba in fiancé without experience and his education is 10+2+3
    Or she will try for iim only

  6. Hello sir, my name is Ankit and I am 26 years old. I have done Currently,I m a government servant and I have a work ex of 2 years as an auditor in c&ag. I want to switch to private sector and I have very much interest in studying finance.
    I have enrolled myself in cfa level 1 and I am planning to give cat,xat and GMAT.
    Is it possible for me to get a top b school with this profile?? Will my age and zero corporate experience act as a barrier if I switch ?
    Thankyou in advance

    • Government sector experience definitely counts as relevant for the MBA application. However, most top schools expect 4-5 years – so if you have this plan, work towards building a stronger profile before you make you attempt.

  7. Great article Krishna! I am concerned that not having a degree from a top school will automatically take me out of consideration for the top consulting companies. I have a strong entrepreneurial and leadership background, but lack academic accume. I am a quick learner, natural leader, and contributing team member. I guess my question to you is how important is the name of the university on your resume? If I went to a small university does that automatically take me out of the running for an interview at M&C, BCG, Etc..?

    • Well, it wouldn’t necessarily take you out of consideration but it would be a might tough task. You would need some brands (in terms of employers et al) to have your profile shortlisted. Not sure about your plan here – are you targeting lateral hiring or after going to a bschool? If the latter, then going to a top brand school itself can help you get a foot in the door.

  8. Hello Manish,
    I’ve done my engineering and I’ve been working at McKinsey as a business presentation specialist (back end) for a year now. I know it’s not a role to be gushing about but what are my chances of getting into a good b school abroad if I have a GMAT score of 720. I aspire to become a consultant but my profile is staying as a hindrance for me to apply. What do I do ? Give a shot at CAT or switch job and apply ?


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