Landing at Houston International Airport on a toasty Saturday evening in the middle of June brought with it a sobering realization – I was about to start work after a year-long vacation disguised as education (in short, an MBA). Moreover, I was about to dive in an unknown pond of new people, new work, and in a new location, without knowing if I could even swim. Being an international student, I did not know what to expect in terms of workplace culture, and if I would fit in.
Walking into the Houston office of McKinsey & Company, I was convinced I was a recruiting mistake and that the firm would see right through me. But by the end of Day 3 of orientation and training, I realized something I had not anticipated – that everyone was there to help and wanted to see me succeed. That feeling remained the entire summer. Working on an innovation strategy for an Oil and Gas major during my first project, I was fortunate to have a team that was extremely supportive and caring. The hours were certainly long, but the team kept me going. We’d all heard about the importance of people at a consulting firm, but it only made sense to me when I actually lived through the experience this summer.
As a brand-new consultant (and still in business school), I was surprised by the trust and confidence my team had in me. From day one, I was given sole responsibility of one of the four workstreams on the project. The pace took some getting used to (especially the working lunches!), but I found myself adjusting to it quickly. Despite the high-stress project, I was amazed that all my team members were always ready to sit down with me and provide feedback, no matter how busy they might be.
Before I knew it, the project ended and it was onto the next, and it took a literal car ride to get there. Returning from the client site with my manager, he started telling me about his next study. It sounded like my dream project – a chance to formulate policy recommendations to drive decarbonization. He offered me the chance to spend the rest of my summer on that project, and I immediately accepted. The transition to the new project allowed me to experience some of the attractiveness of a consulting career, one that gives you the opportunity to solve complex business issues while working on a range of projects. The novelty of tackling a new problem every few months held promise; there would always be excitement on the job. It dawned on me that what scared the living daylights out of me at the beginning – diving into the unknown – was what I ended up cherishing most as I said goodbye to the summer. The consulting bug had bitten, and I couldn’t wait to relive it again.