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Student Perspectives: Stacey Eryn Chin’s Path to McKinsey

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Stacey Eryn Chin, a recent graduate from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, headed off to work as a consultant for McKinsey in its San Francisco office. Prior to business school, Chin held roles that ranged from education and youth leadership development to venture philanthropy and social enterprise. “I loved the work I was doing before business school,” she recalls, noting that she managed lots of teams and got to tackle ambiguous problems, all of which she found really energizing. What she lacked was exposure to the private sector. “That, in a nutshell, is what made me excited to come to business school—to get a great understanding of how the private sector works.”

Looking at a number of top business schools, she came to the conclusion that most could probably provide this. “But Haas was where I felt like I could feel at home,” she says, adding that she was really struck by the school’s defining principles, especially “confidence without attitude.” “These principles really are something that is lived and breathed within the campus culture.”

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Stacey Eryn Chin, Haas MBA ’16

Having come from a social sector background, Chin didn’t necessarily expect to go somewhere and feel so at home, she says. “I have been really impressed and pleased with the openness of the student body, how excited everyone is to get to know each other and how supportive everyone is of one another,” she says. “We are a really collaborative culture—not competitive—and that makes all the difference when you are recruiting for something that by nature is so competitive.”

For Chin, that was consulting. Haas, she says, helped her both secure and excel in her internship with McKinsey in a number of ways. For starters, she credits the values-based approach to career services and coaching. “They don’t just ask you what sector you want to work in and look at a list and help you do a resumé and cover letter,” she says. “They started several steps earlier, helping me think about what things in the past have given me energy, what do I really care about, how might I map that to a career?”

Club leadership and peer support were also really valuable, Chin says. The Consulting Club on campus is quite robust, and it offers a course in the first semester that helps those going into consulting know where they need to be along a specific recruiting timeline, how to prepare for a case interview, how to practice behavioral interviews. “For me, that was invaluable,” Chin says. “I’m not sure I would have gotten the internship I did if I hadn’t received so much support. Because we are so small and intimate as a community, I really felt comfortable reaching out to people both in my class and above me.”

Chin also credits specific courses she took while at Haas for her success. One, called “International Business Development,” she took right before her summer internship. The class involved working as a team with an actual client based internationally, culminating in a real consulting deliverable. “It was a terrific warm-up for the consulting world—how you work in teams, structure processes, how to work with a client and answer the questions they care about and encourage them to consider other questions as well.”

A second class, “Leadership Communication,” which is required of all Haas first-year students, also more than paid off. “The course is really around building your authentic leadership presence and understanding what stories you have to share and how to authentically share them,” Chin says. When she found herself having to present to a group of 200 on her second week into her internship, she drew on the skillsets she’d honed in that class. “Because I came to Haas, I was able to get up and do that.”

Her strong performance during the summer internship resulted in a competitive full-time offer that Chin accepted happily. She started in September after some travel and time spent with family. Looking back, there’s not a lot about the job search process she would have done differently, though she does wish she had taken advantage of the values-based coaching available through Career Management a little earlier.

“The joke is that everyone writes applications with something specific and targeted that they want to do post-MBA and then throws that out the door as soon as they arrive on campus,” she says. “I wish I had done a little more work over the summer in terms of figuring out which of a few options I really wanted to pursue.”