Real Humans of McKinsey & Company: Cortne Edmonds, NYU Stern MBA ’21, Associate
McKinsey & Company is the oldest and largest of the “Big Three” management consulting firms and they routinely recruit MBAs for associate positions and more. Within this enterprise of 30,000+ employees, what does it mean to “make your own McKinsey?” In this edition of Real Humans – Alumni, Cortne Edmonds, NYU Stern MBA ’21, explains this concept and much more about becoming an Associate at the leading consulting firm.
Employer & Title: McKinsey & Company, Associate
Hometown: New York, New York
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Georgetown University Chinese Major and Government Minor
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: NYU Stern, Accounting, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and Financial Systems and Analytics specializations, Class of 2021
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 8 years, Translation and Localization at TransPerfect
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): less than one 1 year, Management Consulting, McKinsey & Company
Why did you choose to attend business school?
While in Japan with TransPerfect, I ran a production hub, which felt very much like running my own business. Often times, I felt that I was making decisions without an understanding of business fundamentals to back up my practical experience. Earning an MBA felt like the perfect way for me to become fluent in the language of business and bring my own perspective from years of work experience to the classroom to share with others.
Why NYU Stern? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
After three years living in Japan, I was excited to move back to the US to get an MBA from a top-tier business school. However, I needed an environment that would be academically rigorous and that prioritized relationship building and empathy as part of that experience. Given Stern’s focus on IQ+EQ (Intelligence Quotient + Emotional Quotient), it felt like the right mix of academic rigor and values in which I could thrive as a student and a member of a community.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
The academic experience is very much what you make of it. I came to business school planning to deepen my analytical skill set to complement strong soft skills in people and operations management. On top of those learnings, I kept myself open to as many experiences as possible. I took leadership roles as a board member of the Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students and co-President of the Management Consulting Association. I was a teaching fellow for accounting and communications students and a career mentor for the Office of Career Development. Putting myself out there helped me find activities that energized me and taught me to manage a well-balanced extracurricular and academic load. This has been critical as I think about the kind of mark I want to make during my time at McKinsey.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
My internship was supposed to take place the summer COVID hit. McKinsey offered me the opportunity to waive it while still retaining a full-time offer. However, given I had never worked in consulting, I was excited to try it to see if I enjoyed consulting, but I wanted to pursue this career with McKinsey. I’m glad I did my internship because I was able to see how the firm responded to COVID-19 in real-time.
The firm offered so many touch points throughout my internship, with 1-on-1 mentors who were longer-tenured associates, all the way up to partners and senior partners who were vulnerable in sharing their journeys throughout the firm, including the good and the challenging. Everyone was so accessible that it didn’t matter that we were all working remotely. Throughout my summer project, my team was very good about mentoring and coaching me on the job and helping me navigate the firm. The experience was so amazing that I’ve stayed in touch with them and we reunited after I rejoined full time! Needless to say, by the time the summer internship was complete, I was confident McKinsey was the place where I would launch my career as a consultant.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
The most compelling thing shared with me during recruiting was the idea of “making your own McKinsey.” What I valued in my pre-MBA career and wanted out of my post-MBA career was the ability to experience variety in the work that I did and stay open to as many opportunities as possible, knowing that the flexibility allowed for the best future potential in my previous experience. By “making my own McKinsey” it meant that I could define for myself what I wanted out of my McKinsey experience and know that I could be entrepreneurial in creating paths for myself that didn’t exist before me, at least in any codified sense.
Additionally, I wanted a company that could provide a sense of community. I loved my time at NYU Stern and appreciated the small program because I could connect with almost all of my classmates. However, the breadth of network was important to me, too, in terms of the people at the firm and the alumni network. The most common advice I got during recruiting was to go where I found my people, but the people were great at every firm to which I had an offer. The McKinsey network, however, is unparalleled.
How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans?
The operating model of consulting, like many industries, has fundamentally shifted. When I first joined, I expected to be a road warrior, traveling from Monday-Thursday across the US, and hopefully abroad. I was on the road constantly for my job before business school so I was prepared for that. When COVID hit, there was a reimagining of what value delivery could look like from a remote-first and hybrid context.
Now McKinsey is innovating on its working models, offering more flexibility for each team to choose when it needs to be onsite with its clients. I’m glad to have been in business school during this period to take lessons from hybrid schools and co-running the Management Consulting Association so I could have my own perspective on how to bring my best self both physically and remotely to what I do and to help fashion the way that consulting will look in the future.
Advice to current MBA students:
Your choices and actions at work have a level of consequence that doesn’t exist in an academic setting. That allows you to take a step back, look at the thought bubble over your head, and think about how you could do something better again in the future. Very few people get the chance to learn without the cost of failure. It’s a privilege worth leaning into right from the start of your MBA program.
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
I wouldn’t do anything differently. The factor that I feel made the biggest difference in feeling so secure in my job search was taking time before I started my MBA to really understand the landscape of post-MBA jobs and be introspective about what energized me or sucked away energy from my previous roles. This allowed me to hit the ground running when I started my MBA to find the best role possible for me for my internship and ultimately for after graduation.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
The only thing I regret is not pursuing an experiential program about Las Vegas and its adjacent industries of real estate, gaming, and entertainment. I chose not to do the course as it was no longer being offered in person due to COVID, and I felt the lack of in-person elements would take away from the core objectives of the course. I wish I had stuck with it as Stern professors were very committed to offering top-notch programming, whether in person or remote. Since COVID has progressed, I’ve become much more of a believer in the ability to develop relationships and learn through well-delivered remote programming.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
I was surprised by how many touch points McKinsey offered throughout, from pre-application through the post-offer process. I felt that there was no way the firm could be that excited about me. But it’s a testament to how much the firm values all of its talent and the lengths they go through to make sure you have all the information you need to feel confident in joining the firm and being able to leverage the experience as much as possible.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
I probably received too much advice during my MBA, and so I had to be intentional about what I could or would apply to my experience. The best advice I received during my MBA was that you can do anything you want but you can’t do everything you want. Tactically this means that you have to be self-aware of what is important to you and what you want to get out of your MBA experience. From there you have to be able to define the things you know you want to do or achieve so when you look back at your experience, you know you got what you wanted from it. If you achieve any more than that, good for you. But if you only achieve those few things on your list, you have nothing to regret from your experience.
See more from additional MBA alumni who joined McKinsey & Co. as associates here.