Life After McKinsey

Mental Models and Decision Making Frameworks

This is Network Capital INSIDER’s first newsletter where the author is a fellow community member. Meet INSIDER Kaushik who learnt marketing at L’Oreal, strategy at McKinsey and now leading a product business in a tech company. He has also worked on projects for the World Economic Forum (presented in Davos 2016) and Rocket Internet. He graduated from INSEAD with an MBA and is based in London. Kaushik enjoys collecting single malt whisky, geeking out on trivia, and coaching people.

You would have seen his Network Capital TV masterclass on breaking into management consulting. If you haven’t, we strongly suggest you do so. It will be 30 minutes well spent even if you are not interested in consulting as he talks about business fundamentals.

We would like to remind you that our focus on Network Capital INSIDER is always to bring you three essential elements:

  1. Content: Best in class proprietary content by the top performers in the world

  2. Community: Strongest networks to ensure access is never a problem for you

  3. Career Intelligence (CI): Personalized, on-demand and lifelong

You already knew that but we want you to think of your INSIDER pursuits in these three buckets. We are not management consultants but there is something about the number 3 that makes intuitive sense. :)

Kaushik’s masterclass is the content piece of the trinity, the community aspect must be quite obvious to you and the Career Intelligence (CI) aspect includes office hours, mock interviews, career support helpline etc. We are working on a fun AI-powered recommendation engine to create personalized course, content and CI recommendations for all of you.

What does this mean?

Simply put, after Kaushik’s masterclass which masterclass should you watch? The obvious answer would be Sri Rajan’s (Bain Partner, San Francisco) but to do this at scale, we need a personalized recommendation engine. It will take into account your goals, usage history on networkcapital.tv , future plans etc.

Now with the context set, let’s get started with Kaushik’s insightful reflections on life after consulting.

**Firm = McKinsey

‘You only leave the Firm once, so you better be damn sure of where you’re going’

Prelude: Right After INSEAD

A few years ago, I was in a closed cubicle at midnight in the basement of a large company in Munich, with 3 other colleagues. I hadn’t slept in what seemed like days, I was stressed, and was wondering whether I could commit to taking a few days off. At the same time, I was working in what was one of the most prestigious companies in the world, on a project that would have lasting impact on a multi-billion dollar company, and talking to leaders that I would never have expected to speak to.

Fast-Forward to 2020

Just a few months ago, I completed two years at a large tech company. I had achieved some semblance of work life balance, I was working on exciting stuff and I’d built a successful product for my company — all while having a spot of fun. In this time, I also started getting to know a lot of people in the tech ecosystem and understood the mentality around tech in general, but that’s for later.

Was it worth it?

Here are some of my reflections on life after the Firm. Note that I consider my current company to be by far one of the best places to work at, so this may not resonate for the ‘average’ company out there.

  1. Work life balance is more under your control: I think this one is a no-brainer. Consulting by nature is ‘client service’ — which means that your life is under the client’s control. If you are unlucky enough to have insecure partners leading the project (which happens), you are going to get lots of last minute changes, you’re also going to work on lots of ‘options’ which will not be presented. A combination of this — is a loss of your work life balance

  2. You work on more cutting-edge stuff: Arguably, I was privileged to have the opportunity to work on some cool stuff at McKinsey such as eCommerce and payments — however obviously the bulk of the projects are not in these industries. I saw most people working on stuff such as utilities, public sector etc. — all of which might have cutting edge topics, but arguably aren’t the most modern industries to work in. Here’s a couple of graphs to illustrate what I’m trying to say

Work Life Balance vs ‘Project Sexiness’

Probability of getting staffed vs ’Project Sexiness’

3. On average, people at McKinsey are smarter: But there are heaps of bright, driven and smart people outside McKinsey as well. I have never felt as stupid as I did when I was at McK — arguably the smartest bunch of people I’ve worked with on average. However, I found smarter people that don’t work at McKinsey and work in other industries — so leave your assumption about smarts outside the door.

**Insider Editorial Team Comment: We don’t use the word smart within Insider. This is why. Intelligence manifests in multiple forms and in our opinion, is a question of fit.

4. Tech in general is way more risk friendly than McKinsey (duh!) and will also give you more responsibility than McKinsey: And you can’t really blame McK for the this. As a consultant, you cannot possibly give someone new, untested ideas — this irritated me at first, but I understood why after I left. Its been the exact opposite while I’ve worked in tech though — In a couple of years I’ve run several projects, where we’ve invested in projects with a high risk of failure in entirely new market segments: but then if someone’s doing it for the first time, there’s little chance of any data that already exists.

5. There’s inspirational leadership everywhere: I followed a highly inspirational partner to McKinsey — and found a few more that inspired me more than I thought anyone ever would. There were some others that were quite transactional, which is understandable given the consulting environment. There is also no shortage of inspirational leadership outside — it might sound silly, but all you must do is ask!

Insider Editorial Comment: Be a giver. It is the right thing to do and yes, it also makes you intensely successful.

So You Want To Be Successful? Tale of Givers vs. Reaction of Receivers

6. You actually use a lot of the McKinsey toolkit, but in a better way: The famous McKinsey toolkit — the problem solving, chart making, page making and speaking in 3’s — apart from many other things is arguably the greatest takeaway from the Firm. I often say McKinsey is the High Intensity workout of the corporate world — and the toolkit is the calories that are burnt, or the reward. I have found myself going time and again to the McK toolkit — be it in executive meetings, crafting documents, making models, or even writing emails! There are few places that will give you those kinds of tools, and almost have an academic sense of rigour in using them

7. Few places are as tangible as McKinsey: For its faults, McKinsey is an incredibly ‘tangible’ place. I say so because everything you’ll do and say at McKinsey has a metric and a number associated to it — and it damn well will show up in your reviews for better or worse. McKinsey is meritocratic and measurable to a fault — and I’m not sure I can say the same for the corporate world outside. You will miss this if you leave

8. Be careful and make sure that you’re leaving for the ‘right’ opportunity: Few pitfalls to worry about that I wish someone had told me earlier — I created a checklist that you can use if you’re planning to leave consulting that is hopefully MECE:

a. Does the title appropriately reflect my experience and scope?

You ideally want something that makes the most of your work experience and gives you a platform or scope to grow. Avoid jobs where you think there isn’t enough room to do so

b. Does the growth path look at least 0.75X as of consulting?

McKinsey, or consulting in general has a fixed and fast growth path where you get promoted every few years (or have to leave). Assuming you are on the path to promotions, are you going to leave that for somewhere where it is going to be significantly slower?

c. Will I have fun more than I did at McKinsey?

You should only leave McKinsey if you’re not having ‘fun’. I define fun as work you enjoy + work life balance + culture. Think carefully, if the new place is going to be more fun than what you’re doing

d. Is the work more interesting than the average McKinsey project?

e. Are the exit options from the new job better than the exit options if I stayed at McKinsey?

If the answer to most of these are yes, you should leave. You’ll notice I did not talk about pay. That’s because there’s no point going to industry if you’re that worried about pay — over the medium term, McKinsey will always pay better, unless you’re looking at Private Equity. Period.

9. Nothing is as prestigious, but it’s better to be ex-McKinsey than at McKinsey: The moment you tell someone you worked at McK, you’re automatically classified as ‘smart’. People expect you to work some sort of magic — but you don’t have to suffer the bad work life balance of the Firm. I’d say its like having your cake and eating it too!

Ultimately, it’s a tough call. McKinsey is a special place — and always will be.

Thank you, Kaushik, for your mental models. Your insights will help thousands of our community members who want more clarity about getting in an out of consulting. As a thank you for being a “giver”, we have made today’s newsletter free to read for all your friends around the world.

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