Do your co-workers pass the “airport test”?

Throughout the recruiting process, people advised me to keep in mind the “airport test,” i.e., to answer the question, “Would I want to hang out with these people if we were stuck together in an airport for four hours?” During my summer internship, I had an extreme experience of the airport test come to fruition. While driving back from a client site three hours away, my team and I got stuck in an 8-hour traffic jam due to an accident on the highway. After a long week, while such a situation was extremely painful, we made the most of it, sharing music that we like, speaking about our experience at Booth, and even celebrating our manager’s birthday in the car with a bar of chocolate we found in our bags. To say the team passed the airport test with flying colors, would be an understatement!

I spent my summer at McKinsey and Co.’s Chicago office, working on a large digital transformation project for a public sector client. The best part about the experience—the team was made up of four Boothies (one each from the MBA class of ’17, ’18, ’19, and ’20)! 

Before coming to Booth I’d been working as a consultant with Dalberg Advisors for five years. Dalberg was a great experience for me. I worked on solving extremely critical global development challenges around the world with some of the most passionate and talented people I have come across. I found the work meaningful, the people engaged, and a culture that allowed people to bring their whole selves to work. It was while stuck in the car during that traffic jam that I realized I had found myself at an organization where the same type of culture has been built.

Naturally, before starting at McKinsey, I had doubts about whether or not I would ever find any job as exciting as the one I had before Booth. I’m happy to report that the summer was an amazing experience—full of learning, building new relationships, and finding my place in this large organization. At McKinsey, I found people who I can admire and look up to and work that gets me excited enough that I don’t mind taking 5am Monday morning flights out to the client site!

Looking back at my summer experience, I have three reflections (in the consulting world, everything must be synthesized in bullets I have been told… three to be precise).

  • The importance of charting your own course, or as they say at the firm, “Making your own McKinsey.” The firm provides an enormous amount of flexibility in the work you want to do and lets you choose your own path. People can optimize for industries they want to work in, people they want to work with, or simply the city they want to be in. If one has to thrive in this intense environment, and not fall into the Monday-Thursday mundane client-service mode, it is important to proactively pick and choose things that get you excited.
  • Finding leaders who inspire you. During the summer, I met a senior partner who is a thought-leader in the engineering sector, takes time out from work to serve as an advisor to two education non-profits, and ensures he spends every Friday to Sunday with his children. In him, I found a person who has struck a balance between things that are important to me. McKinsey, much like other large organizations, is full of such inspirational people, and it is amazing to be around, and learn from them.
  • After business school, choosing a city is as important as choosing the job you want to do. Until I came to Booth, I had never optimized for a city. I tried to find the opportunity that was most exciting for me and let that take me to a new place. However, post business school, when I will be forced to come out of this amazing bubble, it is time to find a city that I can call home, which seems to be a more daunting task than choosing the company you want to work for!

I am excited to be back to campus to be a LEAD facilitator for the incoming class of Boothies! Stay tuned to hear how the LEAD experience has been for me in my next blog post!

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