This text is based on a conversation with Angelina Lu, a former business analyst at McKinsey & Company. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I studied materials science and engineering at Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois, USA). However, after working for two summers in a research laboratory, I realized that the life of a researcher was not what I needed: I did not like the routine of going to the laboratory to do research.
I was more interested in the business side of materials science than the technical side, and I was thinking about another career: consulting, which is very popular among Northwestern graduates.
I was hired by McKinsey & Company as a Business Analyst.
My base salary was $80,000 (about $73,000 at current rates) plus an additional performance bonus when I joined the company in 2016. ). It raised total remuneration I received in the first year up to $106,650 (EUR 97,165).
The bonus was based on my performance after my first year of employment and was calculated as a percentage of my base salary. If my performance was exceptional, I received an additional bonus. The following year, this bonus was combined with my base salary to become my new salary base.
When I left McKinsey as a Senior Business Analyst, my salary was around $130,000. As far as I know, McKinsey does not negotiate wages or play with numbers. It doesn’t matter if you’re hired as a Business Analyst or Assistant, or if you have competing offers from other companies, your salary is non-negotiable.
For me, the $130,000 salary wasn’t worth it, so I left. and I took a pay cut to join a tech startup. I also wanted to explore something else in my career.
McKinsey’s workload was mentally torturous
We had shifts from 12 to 15 hours on average.. On Mondays I would get up at 4 or 5 am before getting to the airport to catch the first flight to meet my client. I used to use the flight to catch up on work, get ready for the day, or take a nap to get more rest.
I still remember how depressed I felt during the flight to the client’s city. As soon as the plane landed, my phone started ringing with email notifications. The sound of notifications was so stressful for me that I moved the Gmail app to the bottom screen of my phone to stop looking at it and try to calm down.
It is known that in some weeks there was a crazy workload, for example, during due diligence (due diligence) for two weeks. This is when the consultant carefully examines the business, operations and other important aspects of the client. During this time some of us we worked until dawn and slept only a few hours before returning to work at 8 am.
I was also strained by a not very pleasant colleague. He was a member of my team and had been with the firm longer than I had. Every time there was a problem with a project we were working on, he would say it was because I wasn’t doing my job well, which made me look bad in front of management. The situation was very stressful. I remember it was winter in Chicago (USA) and I developed severe allergies on my face and eczema on my hands caused by stress. I couldn’t stop scratching.
I started to lose my humility and patience
McKinsey hires very smart people who often have similar backgrounds: most of them are academically or highly accomplished in their fields. Consultants like me get used to a very cautious lifestyle. I’ve stayed in luxury hotels for $400 a night. (€365) and the company gave me $120/day food loans (€110). I also didn’t have to worry about extraneous administrative tasks: McKinsey took care of that.
McKinsey has a dedicated travel team that is responsible for booking flights for consultants. If we needed to change a flight, instead of queuing to contact airline agents, we would call our domestic travel service and they took care of everything. This saved us a lot of time.
However, I realized that I was too used to this way of life when I began to lose my humility and patience. I remember waiting in a very slow queue. I lost my patience and thought, “How can these people be so inefficient?”
Thinking about it now, I acknowledge that I was very stressed and used to this consultant lifestyle where the company catered for all my needs.. Real life, as I understand it, works quite differently.
I was too proud to talk about my failing mental health
Saying out loud “I’m having a nervous breakdown” gives the impression of being defeated, so I never admitted it.. Many consultants I know are proud of this, myself included.
So I often couldn’t admit that I didn’t know how to do something, or that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, because it made me look like a loser and a loser, and it meant that I didn’t have the courage to get ahead.
I didn’t want to burden others with my emotions because everyone had full “plates” so I never publicly discussed psychological stress with my team, mentors or superiors.
There are positive aspects of working at McKinsey
Not everything was bad. Just get a seat at McKinsey and speak in the counseling room older This gave me confidence. McKinsey also provided me with a platform that made opening doors much easier for me: I was able to talk to companies that interest me because I have “McKinsey” on my resume..
McKinsey also offers a program called “Secondment(secondment or transfer). This is a temporary assignment in which a McKinsey employee or consultant is assigned to another organization to work on a specific project or initiative, such as an internship.
So, if you want to take a break while working at McKinsey, you can join other participating companies to test new features without leaving them.
I I decided to work for a small consulting company in Kenya for six months.. It was an amazing experience where I was able to explore the country and build a solid network of contacts.
I even met my husband through McKinsey – we got married in March.
Now I’m a tech product manager and I love seeing the impact I make
After McKinsey, I became a product manager at fintech company WealthSimple. Unlike when I was in management consulting, I met a lot of people from different walks of life, like college dropouts and successful startups.
Another thing I love about my job as a product manager is project execution. In consulting, I took care of a high-level strategy and one or two use cases, and then handed them off to the client to implement and complete. But in technology, I can gather information to make an immediate impact.
I consider it important to talk about the realities of consulting. A lot of people only hear positive things, but I think it’s very important to mentally prepare people for the challenges they might face in the industry. This way, they will be able to make informed decisions about pursuing a consulting career for reasons beyond glamour and prestige.
McKinsey & Company did not respond to a request for comment.
If you have retired from management consulting and would like to share your story, please email Aria Young at firstname.lastname@example.org.