The Leading Independent
Resource for Top-tier MBA
Home » Blog » Real Humans - Alumni » Real Humans of McKinsey: Justin Rufen-Blanchette, Michigan Ross MBA ’22, Associate, Digital Strategy

Real Humans of McKinsey: Justin Rufen-Blanchette, Michigan Ross MBA ’22, Associate, Digital Strategy

Image for Real Humans of McKinsey: Justin Rufen-Blanchette, Michigan Ross MBA ’22, Associate, Digital Strategy

Justin Rufen-Blanchette had plenty of reasons to pursue an MBA: his family values, the success of siblings who had already earned the degree, seeing the acquisition of a startup in real-time, and discovering his knowledge gaps. But, it was his desire to be at the busy intersection of strategy and investment in sports, media, and technology that led him to choose Michigan Ross. In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, Rufen-Blanchette shares how Ross prepared him for the exciting and rapidly changing world of consulting at McKinsey.

Justin Rufen-Blanchette, Michigan Ross MBA ’22, Associate, Digital Strategy at McKinsey & Company

Age: 32
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Kennesaw State University, Sports Management
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): University of Michigan, Ross School of Business, Class of 2022, Strategy and Technology
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 6 years with sports, media, and technology
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): ~1 year, consulting with a focus on digital strategy across apparel, luxury and fashion and consumer media & tech

Why did you choose to attend business school?
First and foremost, my family played a significant role in my decision to pursue business school. Growing up, my mom instilled the value of higher education in my two older sisters and me. While my mom initially encouraged me to attend law school, I ultimately decided to pursue a career in business. My decision was also influenced by my older sisters’ success post-MBA, particularly my sister Renee’s career growth from a branch manager at Chase to working at Walmart, Sephora, and now at Apple.

From a career perspective, several inflection points led me to pursue business school. Firstly, while working for a startup that was in discussions to be acquired, I realized that I lacked knowledge in areas such as venture capital, family office, and mergers and acquisitions. Witnessing the acquisition in 2019 was a pivotal moment for me, and I knew I wanted to work at the intersection of investments and strategy within sports, media, and technology. Secondly, having worked primarily for family businesses and startups, I desired the opportunity to learn and compete on a bigger stage. Finally, I felt that I had exhausted my network and sought to surround myself with people who would challenge me intellectually, spiritually, and culturally. Overall, pursuing an MBA was the best decision for my career development and personal growth

Why Ross? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
The community at Ross was a game-changer for me. It was the first top-tier academic program where I felt I could be my authentic self and still access top-notch resources, prestige, and opportunities. As someone aiming to make a mark in the sports tech industry, I knew that Michigan was the only school in the top 10 for academics, athletics, and network that could give me the competitive edge I needed to excel. Whether I lead this type of work at McKinsey or lead investment strategy at a sports tech firm, I’m confident that Ross has equipped me with the skills and connections to succeed.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
While the MBA curriculum undoubtedly provides a strong foundation in business knowledge and analytical skills, it’s crucial to recognize the equally vital role that communication and collaboration play in the MBA experience. Personally, I honed these skills by customizing my elective choices to focus on the human side of business. From negotiation strategies to crisis management challenges to taking on leadership roles and spearheading new initiatives, I deliberately sought out experiences that demanded effective conflict resolution and interpersonal collaboration in high-pressure situations. The result was a well-rounded MBA education that not only sharpened my analytical abilities but also prepared me to excel in the complex, dynamic, and people-oriented world of business.

What was your internship during business school?  How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
Interning with Nike’s Global Strategy and Tech team was a defining moment in my pursuit of a career in the sports industry. What struck me was the caliber of the team’s leaders, many of whom had cut their teeth at top consulting firms. Their exceptional ability to navigate complex, nuanced problems and swiftly develop viable solutions, their structured thinking, and their deft collaboration skills in Nike’s highly matrixed environment left a deep impression on me. It was clear that consulting was the path I needed to take, and ultimately, I set my sights on McKinsey.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I joined McKinsey because it was the only consulting firm that offered me the freedom to work on digital projects for global clients. Sure, McKinsey’s brand prestige and reputation are hard to ignore, but what truly sold me was the people. During the recruiting process and my time meeting colleagues from the Los Angeles office, I met individuals who reminded me of the folks I loved at Michigan. They were down to earth and naturally curious about their clients’ problems and making an impact on a larger scale. 

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Do more internships during the school year. These internships informed about the job and the industry more than searches did. I could also see where the trends were and what part I wanted to play in it.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
Nothing. No rock was unturned.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
No. The Riordan programs, University of Michigan and the Consortium prepared me well for this process.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Quality of quantity when it comes to your network. Take the time to go below the surface level with the people you truly admire during this time. Also…take that trip.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.