Most MBAs get their feet wet in consulting interning as summer associates between their first and second school years. Post-MBA, at McKinsey, graduates usually spend between two and three years at the associate level before evaluation for a promotion to engagement manager. The next step, in three to five years, is associate principal. Finally, qualified candidates can become a principal or partner. In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, Jun Guang Da Qu, a Stanford GSB alumnus and associate at McKinsey, takes us back to the beginning of such a journey, as he reflects on the business school experience, his summer internship at McKinsey and the potential fast pace of recruiting. Read on for his story.
Jun Guang Da Qu, Stanford GSB MBA ’19, Associate at McKinsey
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Monash University, Chemical Engineering & Pharmaceutical Science
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: Stanford GSB, MBA Class of 2019
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 5 years, Oil & Gas
Post-MBA Work Experience: 4 months, Management Consulting
Why did you choose to attend business school?
In the lead-up to business school, I had only worked in technical roles and I was starting to realise that I wanted to have a greater impact in my career. I was always trying to find ways to drive change and to do things differently, so naturally an MBA sounded very appealing to me. It felt like a logical way for me to build up my business and leadership acumen while also getting to grow personally, and to explore career options outside of technical engineering.
Why Stanford GSB? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
The reflective and introspective nature of the program and its focus on interpersonal learning was what really drew me to the GSB. After attending an admissions panel in Melbourne and speaking to several of the alums, the GSB program really felt like the right fit for me in terms of providing the personal development and growth that I was after. The impression I got at the time was that the GSB experience was really focused on empowering each of us to become the best leaders that we can each uniquely be. Looking back, I couldn’t have agreed with that more and it was absolutely the experience that I had.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Beyond learning a broad range of business acumen, the GSB program really helped me to develop my skills in coaching and developing others. This has been powerful not only for my work with clients, but also for the experience and culture I am able to help craft with my own team. In addition, I would say that the GSB experience also taught me how to be much more intentional about how I spend my time. After almost two years of being triple-booked all the time and feeling FOMO every day, it really taught me how to focus on the things that really matter and how to say no to the things that don’t, which is pretty crucial not just in consulting, but also in life.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
For the first part of my summer I interned at McKinsey’s San Francisco office as a summer associate, and was lucky enough to be given a return offer post-MBA, which I accepted. Since my goals were really to gain a breadth of experience and to live in the Bay Area, management consulting was a natural choice and I’ve had a blast so far. To reconnect with my chemical engineering roots, I also interned with UNICEF in Israel & Palestine as part of the GSB’s GMIX program, and got to work on a fascinating water supply project for the Gaza Strip. This experience crystallized my love of travel and exploring different cultures, and to have these diverse opportunities again in the future was also a big part of why I decided to go back into consulting.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
From a professional standpoint, it really came down to the great people I would get to work with and the breadth of experiences I would get to have. Having a memorable time over the summer was a big part of why I decided to return post-MBA. From a personal standpoint, having flexibility in terms of where I could be based geographically was also important. My SO and I are still undecided on if/when we want to move back home to Australia, so having the optionality to transfer offices internationally with McKinsey is definitely a plus.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Be proactive and reach out to people & companies you are interested in even if it’s just an opportunity to learn more. The GSB network is incredible and it’s amazing how many folks will be willing to speak with you. Also don’t forget to leverage your classmates! They are a wealth of knowledge and experience and there is bound to be someone who has experience in the company or field that you are interested in.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
One thing I wish I would have thought about more was pre-MBA and post-MBA internships. If you plan ahead early enough, you can also take these additional opportunities to try something new and to test out a few different hypotheses. Almost all of these need to be self-sourced, however, so start looking into them early to have them on your radar.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
I received a full-time offer after my summer internship, so was lucky that I only had to go through the recruiting process once. It did surprise me how early on in the MBA program that summer recruiting started (mainly banking and consulting), so it definitely added to the stress of my first quarter at the GSB. The best thing you can do is to come into the MBA with a clear idea of what you’d like to try over the summer. That way you can hit the ground running and make the most of the on-campus recruiting opportunities.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Don’t worry so much about doing the MBA the ‘right’ way, there’s no such thing! We were all so worried about this in the first quarter, but it was wonderful to see how each of us was having such a different MBA experience just a few quarters on. Focus more on what it is that you want to get out of the experience, and intentionally manage your time with those goals in mind. Otherwise it is very easy to get swayed by the things happening around you. Remember, the MBA is truly a place to take some risks and to push yourself out of your comfort zone, so make the most of it and have an experience that you will look back on and be proud of.
What’s the best thing about working for your current employer?
Getting to tackle a variety of challenging problems with some of the most talented people I’ve met. The people around you make the biggest difference to any experience by far, and it’s easily one of the best things about being at McKinsey.