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Real Humans of McKinsey: Nathan Stevens, Michigan Ross ’19, Associate

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What business problem have you been trying to solve the longest? Whose buy-in did you need? Which obstacles could you simply not overcome, no matter how many different angles you approached them from?  In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, Nathan Stevens, a Michigan Ross MBA ’19 and associate at McKinsey, offers a powerful story about the impact of graduate management education.

Beyond an MBA, if you love to solve global business and social problems, McKinsey is the place to be.  The firm has fostered thousands of projects for foundations and nonprofits in the social sector, and governments at every level from local to international and public-sector bodies.  They also cover over 20 other industries.  While Stevens didn’t expect to land at McKinsey after graduation, it certainly seems like the perfect fit, given his history.  Read on for his story.

Nathan Stevens, Michigan Ross MBA ’19, Associate at McKinsey

Nathan Stevens, Michigan Ross ’19, Associate at McKinsey

Age: 30
East Grand Rapids, Michigan
Undergraduate Institution and Major: 
Yale University, Political Science
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration:
University of Michigan Ross School of Business, 2019
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 6, Government, Political Stabilization / International Development, Humanitarian Response
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): <1, Management Consulting

Why did you choose to attend business school?
I always expected to get my master’s in international relations or public policy; however, following incredible, but often frustrating, experiences working on economic recovery and development programming in complex and post-conflict settings, I knew I needed the financial acumen to properly develop, value, and sell stakeholders and investors on longer-term solutions for those in need.

Additionally, after working for several domestic and foreign federal departments, as well as the U.S. Senate and several nonprofits, my desire for understanding and improving on organization management – specifically in aligning enterprises to achieve their objectives – was quite high. Business school felt like a more relevant and applicable option.

Why Michigan Ross? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
As a lifelong fan, with a father and sister who both attended U-M, Michigan felt a lot like coming home. It was a place I knew, but not an experience I had as a student. Beyond familiarity, Michigan’s focus on impact, particularly through immersive student experiences like the Social Venture Fund (the first student-run impact investment fund in the country), felt congruent with my personal values and goals.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Coming from a non-traditional background, I spent a lot of time and energy at school focused on technical skills. While these are essential in my day-to-day as a consultant, it was really the human development – empathy, communication with impact, leading peers, motivating self and others, etc. – that I believe will be more valuable in navigating and accelerating my career.

What was your internship during business school?  How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
Align Impact – an impact investment advisory firm out of Santa Monica, California. Entering school, I was set on a career in impact investing. Align was an incredible opportunity that amplified and codified the skills and experiences I had through the Social Venture Fund. It was also a wonderful opportunity to observe and take part in the strategy of a growing business in an emerging field. While I ultimately chose to work at McKinsey, I expect to return to impact investing before long.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I really did not intend to end up as a consultant, let alone move back to the Middle East to be one. However, McKinsey offered many things that I was looking for in a job after school: a talented ecosystem where I could constantly learn from peers, a constant challenge to grow, and the opportunity to solve large problems. Their alumni network and reputation were appealing as well. 

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Look outside the scope of what is being offered at school. Even if you are set on a job that will likely come through on-campus recruiting, you can be more fully confident and content in your choice when you have explored more of what is potentially available.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would have liked to have done more to engage Michigan’s and my undergraduate alumni networks.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Speed – I got a call from a recruiter, went to one day of interviews, and received an offer the next day. It was a very efficient hiring process.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
I have received so much good advice that I probably didn’t take to heart; however, I encourage everyone to spend more time speaking with professors, even – or especially – when they are not there for a specific need.

–What’s the best thing about working for your current employer?
Access to leaders and experts in their field that are willing to give their time to support your work.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.