What do consultants actually do in their day-to-day? Former McKinsey Senior Business Analyst Ray Temnewo, a Management Consulted case coach, comes on the pod to spill the beans. Listen in for an insightful, fast-paced conversation on:
- Ray’s journey to McKinsey
- A week in the life of a McKinsey consultant
- His most memorable consulting engagement
- Why he left McKinsey for a tech job at Spotify
- The importance of your network
- Ray’s case interview prep strategy & how he coaches candidates
- Recommended case prep resources
You can take advantage of Ray’s experience by scheduling a 1:1 case coaching session where he will diagnose your strengths & weaknesses, build a prep plan, and coach you to interview readiness. Book a session today.
- Book a 1:1 coaching session with Ray
- Black Belt case prep program
- Apply to Link to L.E.K.
- Sign up for Strategy Sprint (1-week virtual consulting project)
- Share your feedback for the podcast
Transcription: What Do McKinsey Consultants Actually Do? With Ray Temnewo
MC: Stephanie Knight
Ray, welcome to Strategy Simplified. We’re so excited to have you today.
Thank you, Stephanie; happy to be here.
MC: Stephanie Knight
So could you kick us off with just a brief background? What was your life like before you made it to MBB?
Awesome. So born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, where I actually went to high school and college here at Emory University. I studied finance and philosophy at Emory and did a variety of internships in that finance field, but had an ongoing interest in tech. That being said, not having a technical background via engineering or computer science, I didn’t think that world would be accessible. I think a lot of the programs like associate product managers and associate PMMs; those programs weren’t as popular even five to 10 years ago. And so as a result, I felt consulting to be the best way to actually do a tech-adjacent view of what was going on.
And so after my sophomore internship at JP Morgan, which was actually at a team as a strategy group, which is led by 3x MBB consultants, I decided to recruit full time. And so, although I learned a lot that summer, the second half it was solely spent casing and prepping and networking and thankfully had one shot of full-time recruiting to get my chance. I say one shot because of the exploding offers that are quite often associated with banking. And so they kind of accelerated a lot of timelines for many other firms who weren’t willing to be as flexible. But thankfully, McKinsey was and connections I made in the previous summer and chances to gain some early access to some casing programs, kind of put me on their radar.
And so when the Atlanta office ended up opening up slots for full-time recruiting, I was able to, thankfully, kind of get the job done just at the beginning, just in early August of senior year. And so that was really exciting. McKinsey specifically to me was a target simply because of its breadth of clients and wanting to do as much tech work as possible. I thought would be the best place to position myself. And thankfully, I had the chance to go there and do just that.
MC: Stephanie Knight
As you reflect back on that process, especially as an undergrad candidate, what was that like for you? What was your preparation like, and what does it take to break into one of these top firms?
Yeah, that’s a good question. A lot of it obviously depends, I think, on the undergrad institution you’re coming from. There are certain schools and a lot of the bigger names, which are such big feeders that you can really depend on things like on-campus recruiting and more structured processes. I think Emery thankfully is becoming more of a semi-target for that office. And so, hopefully, students can depend on that more now. At the time, I decided I wanted to do consulting kind of late into my junior year and really in the middle of my internship. And so I felt a bit behind the eight ball considering that there are many students who apply for junior year internships and prepped accordingly. And also many who did the same for senior year, right? It’s kind of the same pool already with more preparation who are going to be in that second pool applying there in their full-time roles. And so I felt a bit behind the eight ball.
Nonetheless, I knew I actually had a summer internship job I had to focus on it. So June of that summer was solely focused on the job itself and making sure that I do well enough to kind of build momentum for a return offer because you want to have backup plans I think, in general. But I also did enjoy what I was learning. July, I think, was where the consulting really took off. And so I obviously spent, it’s kind of a dark time looking back on it, honestly. But I mean, truly spent almost all the free time I had coming back from work just learning about casing, understanding the rules of it, watching a lot of Victor Chang videos on YouTube, and understanding kind of what the point of it is, and why the interview is structured in this way. Kind of the rules of the game before you actually start practicing the game. And so after that window of seven, eight hours after work, just practicing casing, there was thankfully an analyst on my team, a full-time analyst, who would spend time case interviews at lunch during the work day.
And then after school, I’d come home and FaceTime or Zoom, or at the time, Google Meet peers who were also doing consulting recruiting. That happened on and off for me, that happens for all of July and then on and off in August. There’s also, in kind of a cliche sense meant foregoing certain Saturday nights out and whatnot, because I did know that A) I wanted to be back in Atlanta. So there kind of was a driving force to be near family and then B) I really wanted to be consulting. And so those reasons were enough to kind of make you dial in for a month, I think, especially as a junior who was kind of worried about post-undergrad employment options. But tactically, it really was a lot of time spent learning and practicing via online resources with peers.
And that continued until mid-August, when I had the opportunity to actually interview. Networking and actually building connections with these firms is also an interesting process. My main points of contact actually developed through cold emails. And so it’s kind of a tricky thing because you don’t want to recommend that as a blanket statement all the time. But in my case, I was able to look at individuals who had similar peer institutions for undergrad or similar majors as those who were, let’s say, less cold than others. So then I’d shoot them a warm email because I did understand the firm’s email formats. And obviously, many people didn’t respond, but the couple who did actually became sponsors throughout the process.
And funny enough, there’s one person who, I would argue, was probably the linchpin for the McKinsey offer I ultimately received because she was actually visiting New York at some point during the summer to conduct a recruiting and kind of brunch event for southern office candidates from schools like UVA and Duke and Bandy, who are all intriguing New York. And as a result, you know, that cold email to her ended me, you know, they didn’t invite to that branch, which kind of against snowball, that’s even more momentum. And thankfully, when the opportunity came to reach out to them to accelerate the interview process, they were more than willing, I think, because of his previous connections. And so I only actually really had that one shot at the beginning. Who knows what would have happened if time went on? But thankfully, that was enough. And then the interview process we can speak to as well if needed, but that was sort of the prep leading up to it. And the nerves, truly the nerves associated with that process?
MC: Stephanie Knight
Well, I can imagine, and given the fact that you were able to see the banking world, you had that internship experience, and you had connections and sounds like, you know, lines of authority and mentorship from people that were in consulting. But getting in, as you said, late to the game, needing to practice, learn the rules of casing, start to get to know people learn about this space. I’m guessing it was still kind of a shock when you actually got into the work to realize kind of what your day-to-day was. Did the reality match what was in your brain as it related to consulting? Or because I think a lot of people have these high notions about always doing exciting work doing fancy travel, you know, having the top clients at your disposal all the time? Was that your reality? Ray? Was that your expectation? Even what was it like when you finally got into the work?
Yeah, the whole notion of advising kind of builds itself on day one. I guess I thankfully had people I spoke to you and again, who soon then became mentors, and our now still are, who think through were pretty upfront with me about their day-to-day. And I will say the reality in that sense. They tend to match expectations. So I’m happy that the tempered kind of what I expected to happen going in, and that day-to-day I can speak to as well, I think I would break it up into kind of Mondays the rest of the week and then Fridays, right? Because they were so different, mainly due to travel right that travel component due to the up to the hype, but I thought there was some liquid cool, so he’s had the chance to explore and after a kickoff on Monday, usually around 6 am depending 6 am flights. So you did have a bit of like the, you know, poor night’s sleep on Sunday night the hopefully make up with on the flight on Monday morning. But that usually meant you landed the client around 11.
So just after breakfast for many people, and that’s where you started your day. Those days were interesting because I will say many people think many people, depending on the client you had, were turning in the mornings on Monday. But for me, at least, I was pretty lucky to have those mornings be a bit slower than most, that meant on Monday when I hit the ground, though we were learning. And so this usually meant a kickoff meeting with our client for the week as well as our team followed up with, again, more individual walks through plenty of the afternoon, at usually ending the day with some analyses that kind of signal you kind of kicking off that worship for the first time before you wrap up the day. So I would actually say Mondays are some of the lighter days because of the adjustment and planning that was associated with the travel during each week.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays there were, I would argue we’re kind of your classic consultant days, right you wake up early, you have your kind of early morning gym session or run is us for some reason, everyone in the consulting room that I came across was surprisingly, very fit if there’s something that you kind of learned that you had to hop on the train with or completely avoid. But most people, at least in the Atlanta office and elsewhere, were quite active. So they did some kind of activity in the morning. For those who have loved ones, that’s where a fee sent to a partner tends to happen before you kind of get into the office quite early in the morning. And that’s where you’re really independent. That’s something that I was actually quite surprised about. In terms of expectations versus reality. I knew, of course, as an analyst or Associate, there was some groundwork and an oversight that will be applied.
But I didn’t realize the times how was a fair would be there any Tuesday through Thursday. If Monday’s meetings were effective, you were almost completely independent, and that I really enjoyed from day one. So Tuesday is actually create my own routine where a lot of the heavy analysis and conversations and clinical they do, I’m going to have I’d like to do in the morning, that’s just because that’s when I was the most alert. And then we’ll try to get a walk-in or kind of have an active lunch just because we tend to be inside, no matter what city you’re in. If you were to kind of luminescent office for a while, that can start to be a bit overbearing, and so I tried to get outside for lunch. And thankfully, do that with a peer. Those are some of the moments where you get the closest. I think during me one-off meals. Coming back, I think the rest of the day, hopefully, it was like follow-up or add-on work, but not necessarily kind of like really difficult thinking is what I’d call it at least; that’s how I structured my days. Because I do think again, the morning was by far the most productive part for me. And so I’d call this again, a lot of, like, putting the insights I deserved in the morning onto actual pages in the afternoon.
And that was, again, the same for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for the most part, like a two to five block of just kind of creating actual output that would then be hopefully seen by managers or the end client at the end of the days and checkouts during those periods, were usually followed up by showcasing those insights to my manager at the time. And then hopefully, you know, getting the green light or if not, I’m having the chance to kind of go back to the hotel, develop my own routine if needed. Again, that’s calling a partner that’s a gym. For some others, that’s, again, just taken the chance to relax before conducting any second iteration that you’d have to do before bed. And so that was kind of the Thursday, Tuesday, Thursday reality of it all. Friday was interesting as well because this depends highly, I think, on your office, the culture of it, and your client.
This can range from be a, like, an imitation of the Tuesday to Thursday kind of outline. I just portrayed or be a complete adaptation, which is just, you know, you had a really good week. And as a result, Fridays kind of tidying up some loose ends and planning for the following week, potentially getting out early. So there were some Fridays where I was able to leave, you know, one or two and get to enjoy the Atlanta BeltLine and weather. But of course, there were some Fridays, depending on more of the tech or PE and DD clients, that led to me kind of mimicking data Thursday and ending up working pretty late. And so I actually do want to be too prescriptive on the Friday kind of data, the Friday outline. But I will say this was usually based in your hometown; you were done with travel and not alone. I think was enough of a tunnel for the weekend. It’s something you get to look forward to. If that was kind of the expectation versus reality. And I honestly think that is what I expected going in. So I’m happy to didn’t live up to that.
MC: Stephanie Knight
Absolutely. And your depiction and categorization of commonalities throughout the week is, I think, spot on, right, it matches my experience, and it showcases that you were able to identify those patterns and themes. And I would bet along with that array, therefore, be able to optimize within that pattern throughout the week. Because if you don’t, you can easily just get sucked into the work six days out of the week instead of making sure that you’re flowing along with the natural, you know, peaks and valleys alongside both a week but also the entire project lifecycle.
Exactly. And I think to your point, that’s why finding out certain things about yourself, like in my case. And again, it’s not necessarily the most brilliant insight, and I think it applies for many people, but I am just more productive in the mornings. And so I think the first couple of months when that wasn’t as clear to me, I would have worked spillover into pretty late at night, and sometimes on the weekends. Now granted, it’s not a whose fault is it. But I do think the part I can play is king of knowing my strengths and weaknesses. And that was a clear strength for me. And so this is just including, like, insights about the way you work. This doesn’t necessarily include also kind of the types of teams you need to work with, or how many trials needs to be for you, or the lack of travel needs to be for you. And so those are kind of ancillary pieces that are quite important as foundation as well, you have to take into account when you think about the reality of your life on the job.
MC: Stephanie Knight
Absolutely, that is the one difference between your depiction and mine, which is, I am the late-night worker. And I’ll get a bunch of stuff out to be populated in people’s inbox by early morning, but then I’m going to roll in with the team like whenever the latest possible acceptable timeframe is. But both models can work. So Ray, in your experience, kind of learning new things about yourself, learning how to optimize within the project lifecycle, and through the week, I know in your time at McKinsey, you got to work on various different types of work, different projects, different client service teams. What’s one that stands out to you, and what made it memorable or significant?
Good question. Before I get to this, I’ll just ask a follow-up to your question. Did you find that the night owl routine worked better for you as an analyst or as an EM?
MC: Stephanie Knight
I think it worked better for me at the associate position because the reality was, as an engagement manager leading projects, many of the partners that I would work with, if they were the morning people, I would have to ensure that I checked in in the morning. So I would do tactically things like, set an alarm for 6 am, roll over and check my phone, see if I have text messages or emails from the partner or key clients. If not, roll over and go back to sleep for an hour and a half. But if I do have those things that I had to respond to then, then I’m going to get up and just be at it for the rest of my day. But I would rather just personally be able to – I’m a better thinker, a better worker in the evening. So I would optimize my evening hours and then hope to get as much sleep as possible. But you just have more and different responsibilities, I guess, at that manager level to live into.
Yeah. Awesome. That’s always interesting to me to see how people change their lifestyle, their routines, at different times. To your original question, I think the project that sticks out to me would probably be one of my final projects. I think part of this is just the nature of being an associate is that while you don’t have much purview over what you can do in the first six months or so because you tend to have a staff or someone else who’s in charge of helping develop you, as well to make sure client needs are met. About two years in, I’d say, or 18 months is when you really kind of get your feel for the job, you have to do network or sponsors, you can work really quickly and at the same time, find time develop other skills. And so, as a result, I think they’re willing to let you be a bit more flexible.
And so I had the chance to work on one of the few COVID-related studies that we had at the firm at the time. And thankfully, I think it’s public so it’s okay to say it out loud. It’s a public organization, but the city of Atlanta was actually the client in this case. That meant a lot to me because I’m born and raised in Atlanta, the sponsor of that project on the client side is actually someone who is a close mentor to me now, and someone that I worked with outside of McKinsey. And now that I’m in grad school and have had the chance to have a meaningful relationship with her. The team was also quite lean, it was myself, one other associate and an EM at the time. So again, we got a chance to know each other really well. And what was special about it, particularly, I think, was that the nature of the work, there was so much of a burden quantitatively to try to figure out this really new problem that we didn’t have benchmarks about at the time. We didn’t have too much detail about COVID exposure rates.
There were other McKinsey teams doing this in other cities and other parts of the world. And so you could reference some of that, but outside of it, you really have to think about your city’s foot traffic and certain parts of the urban areas that were the most densely populated and how that also impacts the virus’ spread. And so you’re really dealing with such a new problem that I think is quite rare at a firm like McKinsey because they’ve do a ton of strategy projects, quite often for repeat clients or also similar nature, something they’ve done before. But I think this was so new that I really felt like, as someone who’s still quite young, I was kind of at the forefront of what the firm was thinking about doing in this space. And so that’s what made it really special. Doing that as well, for my hometown was quite interesting because they also had such, I think, a solid knowledge base about the different parts of the city and the things that we could potentially surface that may be overlooked.
One example of this was thinking about housing options for those who may be homeless, both unsheltered and shelter classically, and thinking about where they would be during this pandemic if they needed to be quarantined or isolated. And a large part of that was thinking about the major universities and the size of them in the cities, and how they potentially use their housing and dorms as potential resources. And so having a chance to surface basic insights like that, as well as apply them to quantitatively difficult problems was a part that I really enjoyed. That being said, that was one of my last projects. So it could also be the fact that, like, this was a high note to end on a McKinsey. And so I give it even that much of an afterglow.
But that’s something that really sticks out to me. I think the chance, if I had to kind of sum it up, I mean, the opportunity to choose that project myself, the opportunity to work on a really, really new problem, that the firm wasn’t really doing elsewhere, that no one I think, across any organization in the US was solving actively. And then doing it from my hometown was something that kind of made that project really special.
MC: Stephanie Knight
Oh, it sounds like, across the board, it was a great setup and a good content area. Super meaningful. And yet, Ray, you decided not to stay at the firm. You decided to move on, you weren’t going to be lifer. Your first step was to Spotify, right? So and now you’re in an MBA. Help us understand those steps. Why, and at what point did you decide to leave the firm? Why Spotify? Why an MBA? Take us through the rest of your journey.
Yeah, so the couple of years after that were quite interesting. I left McKinsey during that period of the early to mid stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of that, I think, was due to the shifted nature of the work. I was spending a lot of time at home and a lot of time doing something else I mentioned, alone in front of my computer and whatnot. And so I think that began to take its toll on me. There is also, I think, on the more optimistic and promising side, the idea of analysts who do finish in good standing having the chance to leave and come back to the firm with an outstanding offer, which is really something to look forward to, because it’s sort of the firm saying, we appreciate what you’ve done for us go kind of grow elsewhere. And so, to me, it’s sort of a low-risk proposition. And then I thought that alone should be enough reason for everyone to hopefully consider it and maybe try and leave somewhere and grow in a different area.
And so when you combine those factors, I knew that it made sense to try something else outside the firm. So I spoke to some mentors about it. And obviously, it’s a hard place to leave, I think, considering the trajectory and the things you can learn. But at some point, you do realize that, given this opportunity doesn’t make sense to try it out. So once I decided I would leave, the question was where. there is a conference given to people in their second year of an analyst role suited for their third and potentially even like third-plus years. I looked through these comments, which were partnerships that external organizations and I didn’t find any that were too exciting. A lot of the work I was doing at the time was media work within the tech space. I mentioned this one-off COVID study, but most of it tended to be media and television advertising space. And so I found that really interesting and it was top of mind. On top of that, I was listening to music for four and a half, five hours a day while I was doing the analysis that I mentioned. And so music was top of mind as well. And so I ended up trying to look for roles that were a) consultant friendly, and then be) in the tech/media space, considering many of the tech companies that were hiring at the time were solely the larger ones who had the room for headcount, the Googles and the Facebooks of the world. I did engage in some processes with them.
But the target for me was still, again, music and media. And so Spotify and Netflix were at the heart of it, but the pandemic made sustainable head count difficult to project from all these places. And so I engaged in a role with Spotify quite early on; actually, let’s see, six months earlier than I actually planned to leave. But the choppiness of the headcount coming up and coming down again at certain firms actually delayed those conversations and think elsewhere. Spotify, thankfully, kind of popped its head back up again right about the time I was late in the process with another company and made an opportunity for me that was really exciting. They carved out this role.
And this role at Spotify was actually their essentially a b2b play. This team called Spotify for Artists buys and builds products for artists and that was something I found pretty exciting. They needed a Chief of Staff, essentially, kind of a business guy to help them as they think about this startup growing in terms of its product offerings. And so I was super excited to jump on board. When I got to Spotify, I in earnest thought I would be there for as long as I could; I didn’t think about picking my head up in the same way that I did a McKinsey every kind of two years or one year. And so at Spotify, I spent the first six or eight months, I think, learning and adapting to the team and understanding more about the nuances of the music industry and the economics behind it. It really is an interesting space. There are fun facts like Spotify has never made of dollar of profit before that I think people are still shocked by that.
And you have to think about I think why that makes sense. And there are so many things driving it. Understanding the dynamics of the industry in this tight in it was super exciting for six-eight months. The next, I’d say, six to eight months were actually much more; I think I then began to think much more about like my own development at the company and also what I could do within the startup. And I realized that my success at Spotify was predicated on this kind of internal startup success, Spotify for Artists. And I think that was a bit daunting because there was just so much I couldn’t really control. I had a great manager, great sponsors, but at the seat, and the work I was doing was quite similar to that at McKinsey, so thankfully I was doing a pretty good job because we’re applying the skill set only to one client. And so you know so much about the client, the analysis, you can kind of do off the cuff, and you kind of find your groove again after those first six to eight months.
But in the next six to eight, I thought, I think exploration was a lot more top of mind and development. And that’s something that I think was missing in a place like Spotify. And to me, I’ve spoken again openly to my bosses about at the time. And so the MBA action played to them. What I will say is that the MBA still wasn’t something that I was dead set on, again, just the seed was planted, but that then the seed is what actually gets you to start talking to people. talking to ex-McKinsey alumni, McKinsey alumni were at certain business schools, McKinsey alumni at Spotify. And so, from what I understood, the MBA would only make sense if I could carve out exactly what I wanted to do after. And so I actually spent that second 6-8 months again on exploration, and thought about what I wanted to do after Spotify, after a potential MBA. To me, tech investing made the most sense. I had an operator role at Spotify.
I had a chance to be an advisor at McKinsey, again, in a limited capacity as an analyst. But combining those with the financial kind of acumen and investor lens to me would be a trifecta that would then allow me to hopefully solely focus on one space. But in the end, business to me is not a field like engineering or law where you can think about clear subsets. It’s kind of this amorphous term. And so to me, if I had to try to structure it as much as I could, the three buckets of business in my head were advising, operating and investing. And so try to knock those out. And so that became the kind of driving force for me to apply to business school. I applied and thought about, of course, a wide array of schools and was thankful to get into Stanford because I thought that could be the best place for me to actually jump into tech investing, with it’s proximity to Silicon Valley and all that. As well as not having a network on the east on the west coast at all.
So I applied, and I was super lucky to get it. I was so surprised, honestly. When I did apply; again, backup plans, I think, are super important. I was recruiting in parallel, actually. And so began again to take Wall Street prep courses online and build my financial modeling up capabilities because at McKinsey you do some of that, but not too much. Mainly income steam and p&l stuff. And that as much thinking about working capital and the balance sheet and whatnot. And so I kind of built that skill set, recruited in parallel, but thankfully heard back in time to celebrate 2022 at the top of January. And so that was super exciting. I spent the next seven or eight months actually at a private equity firm in Denver with an old McKinsey mentor of mine who left ship as well. I had to get it carved out a really nice opportunity for me to learn as much as I can about the space in a low-risk environment and a small team and get really entrenched in this growing firm for eight months, which I think is a large enough sample to really know if I want to do this or not. I realized that I did.
And so I took that opportunity and jumped into my role at Stanford as of four months ago, or three months ago. So the first quarter has officially ended now. I’m really happy with the decisions now; still close to the team at Spotify and the mentors I’d made there. They were, of course, huge advocates for me. And honestly, a big reason. I imagined – not imagined, I know that I got to business school because of their, I’m sure, heartfelt letters of recommendation. And so all of that had really worked out, not again in the path that I initially thought it would when I joined Spotify, but I’m really happy it’s led me here so far. I feel like I’ve learned a lot in the past three months.
MC: Stephanie Knight
I feel like I hear a lot in the story that you’ve told of how what you’ve learned at McKinsey and this consulting toolkit kind of enabled you and helped you to continue to succeed as you’ve gone forward. I’m glad to hear that you’re keeping the door open as an option if you want to go back and that that there’s an opportunity for you to do so. But you haven’t left consulting completely because you’ve joined us here at Management Consulted, wanting to really coach and mentor the next generation of aspiring consultants. And with that, you are a coach now. Tell us a little about your coaching, your approach, and your philosophy of working with your clients.
Yeah. So the coaching bug struck at McKinsey. Like I mentioned, I spent my own recruiting process in a time of, let’s say, 45 days, July to mid-August, just solely doing casing. This was several hours a day. And so, outside of hitting like 20 live cases in that time, or 25 live cases, there’s a turn of prep that went into that. When I got to McKinsey myself, I wanted to keep that tool sharp. And so I actually spent a lot of time case coaching candidates at the firm. This was other BA candidates, potential MBA hires, and recruiting, as well as laterals from other industries. And thankfully, again, Emory, at the time not being as big of a school as it was and as a target for the Atlanta office, I had the chance to kind of serve as a leader for that recruiting effort for my alumni program and spearhead a lot of the efforts there. And so I really enjoyed that piece; I lost a bit of that when I went to Spotify. And, of course, that PEI world and consulting, I think, was not top of mind anymore.
But when I got to school here at Stanford, I realized that a lot of my peers were also, again, trying to jump ship into the firm in other places, MBB more broadly and PwC. And as a result, I could probably offer some value in that regard. It’s a skill that I had, so I began to coach a bit here on campus before learning about Management Consulted and platforms where I can actually access a ton of people from all over the world who want to do something similar. And so my coaching philosophy, I think, stems from that period. If I did some of my philosophy, I think it would say, I think it would be analogous to a sport, really. I think I mentioned at the beginning spending like the first week of July, just solely kind of watching the Victor Chang videos and reading up and understanding what casing is for, what’s the point.
And I think that’s so important; when people are actually beginning to develop an interest in consulting, and actually prepping for cases. I think quite often people can jump in, make simple mistakes, and kind of recorrect and assume they’ll be fine. And some people can do that. And they’re really good at it. They are what I’d call a natural in that regard. But for most people, I’d say you should learn about what the purpose of this thing is. Because that should also change your approach, your behaviors in the case interview. How you think about, again, your interviewers’ incentives and what they want to see out of this. And as a result, you could adapt, I think, your actual casing approach and PEI approach accordingly.
And so for me, when I have a new client, they get it, let’s assume that I’m with them over extended period of time, let’s assuming they can kind of control their extended prep, I like to make sure they understand what the case is for. If it’s in one session, or we’re in this longer, extended kind of window of prepping with someone for a couple of months. That means a week or two, again, just prepping and watching, I used Victor Chang. I think he’s someone who does a really good job of explaining the why behind these things. Management Consulted on their website alone has some good resources and breaking down the actual process behind the case interview and what firms do with it, sometimes how do you score it. So understanding that deeply I think is quite important. If I’m in a single session with someone, I’ll do a high-level walkthrough in like five minutes about why I think we’re doing this in the first place. Once they get past that point, I think there’s a second wave or second stage, which I’d call in between live casing and prep and kind of learning. We just call that mock semi-casing. What I mean by this is you’re now getting your first exposure points to casing, and this tends to be from online cases on MBB websites, case books at your local school, hearing live recordings of audio cases. And what I wanted candidates to do in this case is actually, again, get their feet wet; you’re not live in a case session with someone who is an MBB, kind of EM like Stephanie.
You’re in a low-pressure environment in your room. And you have done the prompts and openings by yourself, scoring yourself based on what you see as the answers, hearing live audio cases, pressing pause, and trying your best guess. And again, I think is just should be quite progressive, almost like a stepwise motion in that regard. After a week of that, in this case, we’re thinking about a kind of a longer prep period for someone. Then I think we get into the meat of it, which is those live cases. And for me, as a coach, I think you want to make sure a couple of things are really, really hit on early. One is this idea, in my personal opinion of interviewee versus interviewer-led. I know there’s a lot of conversation around certain firms. I think you should always, as a candidate, push the agenda. I think firms really appreciate it. And a firm like McKinsey, which is one of the more interviewer-led firms, I can tell you right off the bat that I definitely was, again, not aggressive at how much I pushed a certain opinion, but I really did make sure my hypothesis was known from the beginning of the case. I was willing to shift and ask questions after every math question and after every kind of insight resolved in terms of what are the questions they needed to answered, and I was ready to kind of push in a new direction. And I think that’s super important. It a) relieves the burden from the interviewer, but b) lets them know that when left to your own devices like, you’ll have an opinion, and that tends to be the case on those Tuesdays or Thursdays when you’re not meeting with your team every single moment of the day.
So for me, that’s something I want to make sure I entrench early on in the candidate. How do you deal with the answer, it will be wrong quite often, but hopefully, they can revise it as time goes on. The second piece is kind of developing the quantitative skill set. And again, this is all developed through live cases; we’re talking about this kind of stage three. So you’re giving them cases that hopefully hone in on these skills specifically. In terms of the quantitative skill set, there’s things you can do outside of casing. And that’s something I tend to preach a lot. 30-minute math drills and these websites, where you change the difficulty and whatnot in terms of percentages and have some numbers. That helps. Again, some people are naturals, so they don’t have to do as much. In terms of the cases, though, I try to make sure with math problems that people really understand how to conceptually weigh out what plan to execute algebraically, and not just build something gradients.
That to me is the second big shift that a candidate has to make, similar to the GMAT, for a test and the math problem associated with it. A math problem has three parts, in my opinion. 1) Identifying what’s being asked; 2) is conceptually laying out how you plan to solve it. No numbers involved. And then 3) is the plug and chug the 7×21, 13×9. And I think people would argue that the third piece tends to be most difficult. And when someone could do that quickly, they’re really good at math. But to me, the second tends to be actually by far the most important. And so really getting candidates to understand that math problems, no matter how easy or how hard, really boil down to getting that second part correct, because the interviewer will likely call you some leeway on the third part, and understands that you’ll have Excel on the job and calculators quite readily available, is so important. So that’s kind of the second big leap.
And then the third big leap, I think, the third kind of big focus of me as a coach, of course, there are other things that come from this, depending on the candidate and their needs. But this kind of three things I hope I tried to hit early on is the importance of the framework upfront. I think quite often, people can come into a case and kind of memorize a framework from one of the major case books, the Case in Points of the world, and whatnot. But it really does come off as robotic, I think. And, it really can struck a chord with the interviewer who maybe not necessarily a fan of it. I think, really, people need to think about how to sit down as a candidate when you’re competing with hundreds of thousands of applicants.
If you’re in an MBA program, it’s hundreds to a thousand, again, all for the same kind offices. And you think about how similar each profile is in terms of the caliber of people, you really can only stick out through your unique stories and PEI and your unique experiences, which, again, you can’t really change or lie about. So those are kind of outside your control. So your case is really the place to showcase yourself. And I think you can really do that by having unique, rich, colorful frameworks. And what I tell candidates is that 80% of the time, truly, I can tell you how a case will go after the first three or four minutes based on that opening. And there’s no math involved. And I hope they really understand that no matter how good they get, case 10, or case 20, or case 25 for them, that’s something you really keep top of mind. It is, I think, the biggest driver. And so a lot of my time is spent, especially with really qualified candidates, in terms of casing is see how we can perfect their framework. So as a coach, that’s kind of my philosophy across the three stages. And the third stage tends to focus on those kinds of three factors. Overall, there are things that will come up for each candidate. Maybe it’s the way they speak. I myself can speak quite quickly.
So it’s something I have to be conscious of. Some people may use words like like or umm, so you got to cut that out at times. But in general, that tends to be my coaching philosophy; I try to also give a score after each case I do with someone so they have a frame of reference. I know people like to be, especially to type A candidates that we tend to come across once the concept progresses. So a score can be a good anchor. But those tend to be the principles of how I coach; hopefully, that answers the question.
MC: Stephanie Knight
Ray, I think you dropped so much knowledge in that answer. And there’s a lot of great nuggets of wisdom and insight in there. One takeaway that I have from what you’ve shared is it doesn’t sound like you shy away from working with clients early on in the process, being willing to talk them through at a high level what this is all about, what to expect, how to picture and make your way through the process. And that, as a coach, you’re not just looking to help polish and refine. Is that a fair statement?
That is spot on. In fact, again, I try not to give blanket rules or statements. But I will say one of the things I highly, highly encourage, especially with, let’s say, peers in my MBA program, because they have the access, is if your first five cases or so of your ultimate 20-25 can be with actual MBB consultants, and this can mean potentially someone who, let’s say, received an offer for summer and on the second year that I’d say that works as well. But people who have had true exposure, I think it makes a world of a difference. The foundation is so important. And it’s really hard to unlearn bad habits. And bad, in this case, can just mean, let’s say, poor compared to alternatives. I really think that I love to get involved early. And if I can’t, I hope the others get involved early who have the experience with a certain candidate because it does make a world of difference down the line.
And so I do encourage candidates, if they do have that access, to make use of it. Again, if you’re in an MBA program, that means every second year you know of, that means alumni, that means friends of friends, truly get those first three to five with people who’ve had experience because again, you get to hear people who’ve not only done it but also learn things on the job that are quite applicable. For example, having a recommendation and also giving them an implementation plan at the end, like way to strike the interviewer’s socks off. Things like that can really, really stick out. And so early is great for me, but if not, for me or anyone else who has the experience, I really do hope that candidates prioritize working with them, especially in the earlier stages, maybe even more so than the latter stages.
MC: Stephanie Knight
Ray, thank you so much for sharing about your background, your approach to your work, the approach and philosophy you now take with your clients. Is there anything else you want to share about what it’s like to work with you?
I think that captures most of it. I try to be pretty direct so the candidates understand where they do have to improve. But also, I tend to be quite honest about people’s strengths and telling them where to double down on them. I think quite often, again, the things that make us stand out compared to peers in such a competitive space are much smaller than we think. And so sometimes we either have to hide those things as if they’re mistakes. And sometimes, we have to double down and make them spikes of their strengths for us. And so I try to be direct in calling those things out. But also encouraging and letting the people know that if I can spend as much time as I can on this and have this great opportunity that has done so much for me, then I’m sure others can too.
MC: Stephanie Knight
Absolutely. Ray, thank you for sharing. We want to wrap up this conversation with getting to know you a little bit more on a personal level. It’s a Strategy Simplified tradition, to have a couple of fun questions here teed up. So what is a great piece of career advice that you’ve received, Ray?
That’s a really good question. One great piece of advice I’ve received is from a close mentor of mine, and I think that I want to get the phrasing correctly. But the phrase was celebrate for as long as you stressed out for. It was something to this idea. And for me, at least, I think she was quite aware of how stressed out I was during that kind of second statement window at Spotify when I was applying to business school and, and they could give out again, if my ultimate goal was to become a tech investor, after the advisor and operator experience and like business, school is so important. And it was such a stepping stone to my whole life was crashing down if I didn’t get in. And quite often, I think that we can kind of forget our proportion with the broader world that how important we are. And so, for me, that honestly was everything. And I think she saw this. She got an MBA as well and realized that everything will work out. And so when it did happen, and I was so excited, and I mean, they began to think about kind of getting in a pre-MBA internship in a PE space.
And then the next week, she was quite helpful, letting me know that I should slow down and think about how much time I truly spent stressing out about this, how many lost hours of sleep. And as a result, make sure that at the end of it what is it worth if you don’t spend as much time celebrating. And she was quite particular about that point, which was spend as much time. Truly, celebration is equal value to the stress and anticipation. And that’s something I really think myself and my peers, and, again, many that have the other really type A candidates who can put a lot of weight on professional success can forget. And so truly, truly, truly would give a big shout out to Anna, a big mentor of mine who I think to this day reminds me of that and it’s something I tried to think about quite often.
MC: Stephanie Knight
I love that advice. Yeah, to balance it out over time and make sure that you’re allowing yourself, I think to decompress off that high state of anxiety. But even more than that, to be able to celebrate. I think that that’s great. And then Ray, what do you like to do for fun? What are some of your go-to hobbies or activities when you get to a winter break like we’re about to get to now, or you’re even heading into a weekend?
Yeah, a lot of random hobbies. I mean, one of the biggest ones is soccer. I haven’t played soccer since I was a kid. I play whenever I can. Having the time to be at an MBA program again and in a place that has decent weather makes it a lot easier to play three to four times a week, so I’ve been doing a lot of that. Listening to a lot of music with the Spotify bug hasn’t left still. I still enjoy music a ton. Whether that means on my own or even at live concerts, so I’ve gone to a couple festivals and shows. There were some pandemic hobbies that I tried to stick with. I floundered about with considering the MBA application process, but I’m trying to get back into. Those would be chess is one, especially after watching the Queen’s Gambit and playing a lot of online chess. The piano, especially like an electric keyboard, is something that I had, and it’s something I spent quite a bit of time doing with the extra free time at Spotify compared to consulting.
I don’t currently have one in my MBA dorm as I think I’d get a lot of complaints. But for now, I’m trying to find ways to incorporate it back in. The last would just be hanging out with the family and friends. I’m sure you remember having this experience as well. But coming the early season, MBA program can be a bit intimidating socially; there’s just so much going on and so many events to attend. And so you want to make sure you spend a decent amount of time getting to know people individually. And so I’ve been spending a lot more time getting to know new peers via lunches and outings and certain travel as well. And so that’s kind of been taking up a new host of time.
MC: Stephanie Knight
All right, Ray. Who are you cheering for in the World Cup?
Who am I cheering for?
MC: Stephanie Knight
Who were who were you cheering for?
Good question. I am a huge Christiano Renaldo fan, and he’s actually the reason I started playing soccer when I was a kid. So to see Portugal lose early was quite unfortunate. To see Messi win his first World Cup was even bittersweet in that regard. But I have to say I think he probably is the greatest player ever after this achievement. And so it’s nice to have that debate finally settled. Who were you cheering for?
MC: Stephanie Knight
I was going from home and cheering for the US as long as we were a part of it. And then here’s my last question for you. Have you made it to Madeira, being a Ronaldo fan?
Oh, that’s a great question. No, I actually have not been to Europe yet. I’m going during this winter break with a set of MBA peers to Italy, not Portugal. But I plan to have a broader Europe trip and a bunch of backpacking happen this summer. And so I surely will hit Lisbon and hopefully Madeira.
MC: Stephanie Knight
Yes, it will take some extra planning to make it out to the island.
Yeah, it’s a small island.
MC: Stephanie Knight
Yeah, it is worth it. I will tell you that. So put that on your bucket list as well. Ray, it has been a joy to get to know you in this conversation. Thanks for sharing more, and we hope that we can help get people set up to work with you in the future.
Awesome. Thanks so much, Stephanie. And all the best to promising candidates.
MC: Stephanie Knight
Want to work directly with Ray? There’s a link to his coaching calendar in the show notes. All of our coaches are ex-McKinsey, Bain or BCG consultants and interviewers who have been extensively vetted and only coach with us here at MC. They love working with prospective candidates to mock through full interviews, or drill in the areas that you specifically need extra help. You heard Ray talk today about how he loves to make sure that you don’t build bad habits. He wants to work with you early. So you can find a link in the show notes or read more about our offerings at managementconsulted.com to work with Ray or a coach like him. We’ll see you next time.