[00:00:01] Speaker A: Greetings scholars, and welcome to following the Gong, a podcast at the Shrier Honors College at Penn State.
Following the Gong takes you inside conversations with our Scholar alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice and expand your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how Scholar alumni have gone on to shape the world old after they rind the gong and graduate with honors and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Sean Dohen, class of 2011 and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome Back is a senior partner at McKinsey and Company, where he co leads the payer and provider digital practice globally. In addition, he is the managing partner of McKinsey's Mid Atlantic Digital office based in Summit, New Jersey. He has worked primarily at the intersection of operations, technology and healthcare, serving clients across the healthcare value chain on various topics, including large operations and digital transformations. He also leads several large, prominent high tech and telecom clients across a wide range of topics. Prior to McKinsey and business school, Basil worked three and a half years as a marketing strategist and processor architect for Intel Corporation. Basil, graduated from Penn State's College of Engineering with a degree in electrical engineering with honors and earned his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania as a Palmer Scholar. In this episode, you'll hear advice and insight from Basil on selecting Penn State in the University Scholars Program in Schreyer Honors College as an immigrant, finding community at University Park and finding lifelong healthy activities in college. How to recognize when you need to make a career shift to reach your full potential, how a Stem degree can be useful in business school and getting an MBA. What scholar should consider about going into consulting and how consultants focus on clients'potential maximization advice for scholars applying into McKinsey and other consulting firms. The three acts of structure of McKinsey and the idea of internal networking a discussion on traveling and consulting work life balance in demanding industries and setting weekly goals. The importance of mentorship, coaching and sponsorship, especially in consulting and other doors that consulting opens up for former consultants. With that, let's dive into our conversation with Basil.
Basil, thank you so much for joining me today on the show. I think this is going to be great for students who want to look into consulting. This is only growing as a field, and I think you're going to have a lot of valuable insights. But before I give too much away, if you can just share a little bit about who you are and your role at McKinsey sounds great.
[00:03:15] Speaker B: And Sean, thank you for having me. So I am a senior partner at McKinsey. I've been with McKinsey for 19 years. I joined out of business school, which was a stop between Schreyer College and my time at McKinsey. And I lead a couple of different things for McKinsey. One is I serve and lead what we call some client service teams in the high tech and telecom space because I was an engineer at Shriyer's College. And that's always been an area that I was quite passionate about. So I lead some clients. I also lead our digital and analytics practice globally for healthcare and the public sector. And what we find is it's actually quite helpful as you consult with high tech companies and telecom companies to actually serve their customers on the other side, the users of the technology and transforming themselves.
And so that's currently what I do. And I've obviously had many other roles in between over the course of my 19 years at the firm.
[00:04:21] Speaker A: Great. And we will certainly dive into those.
You've been at the same firm, which is unusual, and we'll dive through your story there. But I want to go back to the very beginning of how did you come to not only Penn State, but the United States?
[00:04:37] Speaker B: So, my family is very interesting. My mom and dad were polar opposites, but they met at the American University of Beirut. So my mom came from a very wealthy family in, you know, had world experiences, tons of resources available to them. And my dad grew up in poverty in Lebanon. And they met at the One Common Ground, which is the best university in the Middle East, which was the American University of Beirut at the time. They called it the Harvard of the Middle East, if you will. I'd like to call it the Penn State of the Middle East, but that's what they referred to at the time, and it was a melting pot for them. And they met in college, they fell in love, they got married. And then my dad's first job out of school was to open the sales and marketing office for Bristol Myers Squibb in the Middle East. So he opened it up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which was a very common place for expats. My mom was a teacher in Saudi Arabia for many of the expats. She taught a bilingual Arabic as well as English school. And they realized pretty early on that the better opportunities for their kids I was born, my younger brother was born, and about seven years in, they realized that there were going to be much better opportunities for us in the United States. They put a high premium on education. They put a high premium on upward mobility and professional achievement and self actualization, if you will. And so my dad asked Bristol Meyer SWIB to relocate him to the United States. And so we came to the United States when I was seven, and he moved the family to Houston, Texas, with literally $200 in his pocket of savings. They rented most of our furniture and the TV from Sears back then, you would actually go to Sears, and it was like a rental center. You would get a TV and you would get a monthly rate, and that's what they could afford. And we worked our way up from there as a family.
[00:06:56] Speaker A: That is incredible and I think speaks a lot to your family and the opportunities here. And certainly it's no surprise that you ended up at Penn State and the University Scholars Program with that high priority on education. But if you moved to Texas from Saudi Arabia, how did you come to find Penn State in an area that was essentially pre Internet?
[00:07:19] Speaker B: Yeah, so we lived in Texas for my seven to ten, but we moved to six different states over the course of my childhood, all the way up through high school. And we landed in Pennsylvania, so in a suburb of Philadelphia. And I applied to several different colleges, a few of the Ivies, the Penn State University Scholars Program, and other places like that. And we didn't have though my dad did a lot to improve our economic standing, and I call it clawed his way up to middle class, if you will, which was phenomenal, given his starting point. We didn't have the means to go to a private university, and he made enough to not really qualify for a lot of aid. And so I was really attracted to the University Scholars Program because of the affordability.
But it felt like you had the best of both worlds. You had an Ivy League like education in the Honors Program, where you had small classes, much more of an intimate relationship with your professors and fellow classmates, but all the massive resources of a public university. And in the mid 90s, which is when I went to Penn State, the large public universities had the best engineering programs and the best science programs because they had all the research, they had the facilities, they had the money. I think as tech has become more popular, I think the smaller universities have begun to close the gap. But it really was the best of both worlds in that it was affordable, like an Ivy League, but with the resources of a public university.
[00:09:05] Speaker A: And you just described the University Scholars Program in the 1990s. But if I didn't know that, you could be describing us today. And I think that's a unique bond between scholars, whether you graduated in the or if you just graduated last year or are a current scholar. Now, earlier you mentioned that you were studying engineering. Which particular field in engineering did you end up pursuing?
[00:09:30] Speaker B: Electrical.
[00:09:31] Speaker A: And I'm assuming that was a pretty intense bit of study for you, as is all of our engineering majors here at Penn State, especially if you're a scholar. How did you find ways to relax and take a break from studying so that you could then recharge and focus on your studies.
[00:09:51] Speaker B: Great question. So I would say it was a learned skill.
I was not the life of the party my freshman year at Penn State. I think that would be fair to say. I put a lot of pressure on myself.
To believe it or not, at the time, I thought getting a three five was going to be hard. And the scholarship, I think, was linked to achieving a certain GPA. And it took a semester or two of getting that under my belt and really making it feel like I belonged academically before I really let my hair down. So I would say my freshman year I probably was a little too book smart and not that socially adept at exploring the full university, though I did allow myself season tickets to the football team and really got the Penn State football bug that freshman year. I think as I got more comfortable with how to pace yourself, how to manage your time, how to juggle all the various demands, I think my hobbies got better. So I played a lot of sports in high school, and so I was not good enough to play at Penn State's level, but I did start participating more in the intramural sports. So I did intramural tennis and intramural soccer, which were two sports that I played in high school, both JV and varsity.
I had the privilege of going to school with a lot of my close friends from high school. Also went to Penn State, not in the University Scholars Program, but came to Penn State, and many of them transferred in. They started at branch campuses and they transferred in their sophomore year. And so we hung out a know in away games. We would watch the games, we would go out as we got know, we would check out the bar scene. I'm a huge fan of eating out, and though we didn't have a ton of means at the time, I would diligently save and we would go out for one or two nice meals a week not sorry, a week, a month, and really have a decent meal. But more than anything else, it was just hanging out with new friends and old friends and decompressing over a beer or over a game or whatever.
[00:12:13] Speaker A: I think that's good for scholars to hear that you're very successful. You're a senior partner at McKinsey, and you weren't always studying. You found a chance to take a break. And I think current scholars should definitely focus on finding those healthy ways to destress. And before I ask you about your thesis, I just have to ask still, I imagine you're probably not playing soccer anymore, but do you still get a chance to play tennis as a stress relief in your professional life?
[00:12:40] Speaker B: Not as much as I would like to, but I do.
Three of the four of us in our immediate family, my wife and my daughter play tennis a lot. I play with them from time to time. My son didn't really pick it up. I have a 13 year old son and an almost 15 year old daughter, but I do play with my wife and daughter from time to time. It's just hard with all the sports, the organized sports for them on the weekends and the chaperoning and carpooling that you need to do, as well as just the demands of the job. I would like to do more of it, but I know enough and play enough to as time becomes more free, it will certainly be a hobby that my wife and I will share for many more years to come.
[00:13:29] Speaker A: I think that's great. And for, you know, here at Penn State, this is your opportunity to find some of those lifelong hobbies that you can start cultivating now and build into your life going forward. And if that's tennis, watching Penn State football, or our other 30 some varsity teams that we have here on TV, this is the time to find those passions. But, of course, you, Basil, had to write your thesis, and I'd be curious to know if you remember what you wrote about.
[00:14:01] Speaker B: I think I had, as part of the survey, had shared with you the title, which I had to actually Google to look up, because unlike maybe some people on your show, it has been 25 years since I graduated.
So I won't try to butcher the name of my thesis, but I will tell you the basic thesis of the thesis, if you will, which is I worked with Dr. Felbrick, who was a professor in the engineering school. And the notion was that you could use, much like a bat uses waves and the length of time it takes for a wave to propagate and come back to estimate the distance of an object, that you could use similar lasers and waves to estimate the distance from the Earth to the stars, various stars. And so my thesis was about using a device.
It was a funded piece of research that Dr. Philbrick was doing. And we built this I think it was called the Interferometer or something like that. That was a device that literally worked that way. And you would shoot these lasers up in the sky. And based on the time it took for it to come back, you would know roughly how far away the star was that you were pointing at.
[00:15:19] Speaker A: And now you said you're working with telecom as part of your work at McKinsey, so it feels like it came full circle. You mentioned earlier that you went to, as you called, a B school. So you pursued an MBA? Walk us through how you decided as an engineering student that you wanted to pursue an MBA and how you picked the school that the schools you applied to and ultimately selected.
[00:15:44] Speaker B: So, my first job out of Penn State, I graduated in 1996 and it was the.com boom, late ninety s, and I got bit by the.com boom. So I moved out to the west coast. I joined intel right out of school and I joined them as a rotational engineer. So the first year at Intel, I did three rotations. I did a rotation in processor architecture where I helped architect the Pentium Three processor. I did a rotation in software development where we taught developers. I partnered with Microsoft on how to write and create compilers that use the instruction set of the Pentium Three processor to its full potential to enable 3D graphics and gaming. And then I did a third rotation in marketing, which is the decision of what to name the Pentium Three processor. And it may seem funny, but it was Pentium Two at the time. And the decision to go from two to three was actually a very important decision because it moved the entire market. As soon as you launched a Pentium Three, you stalled out sales of Pentium Two. So the manufacturability of the product was actually quite important in determining when you would actually change the brand, because people really cared in the late 90s about their processor. It seems really foreign today, but it was a big deal. And so I saw the full lifecycle of a product launch, the development, the enablement of software developers to the launch, and I quickly came to the conclusion that I did not like engineering as a job. I enjoyed studying it, I loved the problem solving, but in particular the first two rotations, it was solitary work. You really had an assignment, you went and tackled the assignment. Yes. You had interactions with your teammates on the Pentium Three architecture team when I was doing that rotation with the customers in Microsoft when you were teaching them, but 90% of your job was in a cube, working by yourself. And I'm an extrovert, so that was not a good match. Not a good match at all. And so I actually had a really hard time getting up to go to work in the morning. I've never experienced a very driven first generation immigrant, had trouble getting up to go to work. I was miserable.
Anytime I asked my managers at intel on the engineering side questions, they would look at me and say, why are you bothering me? Can't you see I'm doing something important? And I would say, but your job is to manage me. Are you supposed to give me direction? And so it was just a really bad so, you know, I learned a pretty valuable lesson in the first year at intel, which is what I didn't like, and oftentimes that's more important than what you like. And I also learned the important lesson of doesn't matter how good you are, if you don't like your job, you'll never self actualize to your full potential. And so I switched to the business side. So I joined that third rotation full time. I joined the brand management team. I had a chance to work with Dennis Carter, who was the head of marketing at the time. He was the gentleman who invented intel inside as a marketing campaign. And he had an MBA from Harvard. The entire team had MBAs from harvard, from wharton, from Kellogg. And I quickly realized about two years into the job that I would be limited in how far I could rise without an MBA. And I also was struck by for MBAs in particular. I think the brand matters a lot.
What school you go to matters a lot. So I applied to four schools coming out of intel. It was Wharton, Harvard, Stanford and Kellogg. And I made a decision based on which ones I got into to go to Wharton. My Pennsylvania roots were real.
I was always a big fan of it. And so I went and got my MBA at know.
[00:20:04] Speaker A: Obviously I'm going to put in a plug here for the smeel college of business, but it is hard to argue with somebody who has both penn state and Penn on their resume. So certainly a great choice, well respected business school at Penn in the so you go, you get your MBA. And before I wanted to ask about McKinsey, but I actually want to stop and ask quickly, how did your stem background from the college of engineering here at Penn state help you in the MBA program at penn?
[00:20:35] Speaker B: It's a great so and this has been a battle I've been having at McKinsey. And successfully winning slowly but surely, which is Penn state honestly was a much more difficult program than Wharton was, quite frankly. And I think the rigor, especially on the analytical aspects of engineering and the problem solving, as you know, many of the classes in engineering, you're either right or wrong. There's no gray areas, right? You get a problem, you have to solve it. There's a right way to solve the problem and a right answer and everything else does not count. And business school and business in general is more nuanced, it's less obvious.
But at a place like Wharton, the classes that get a lot of the students in trouble are the more analytical ones. Finance strategy where you have to really assess different scenarios and pick from imperfect options which way you want to take the company in a case and the comfort with numbers and analytics that you learned in engineering made that stuff seem really easy. And so I think that aspect of it was fantastic in preparing me for Wharton and getting my MBA.
[00:22:01] Speaker A: If you are a stem major listening to this, an MBA and other options later are there for you. So don't feel like you are limited just because you have an engineering degree. But it actually opens up in the same way humanities degrees open up a lot of doors. So something to consider if you're thinking about leadership and management in the engineering space. But going back to McKinsey, you're coming out of business school, one of the top most respected business schools in the country.
Tell me about the recruitment process and what you did to prepare and ultimately get hired into presuming an entry level role at a top consulting firm.
[00:22:40] Speaker B: Yeah, so I was pretty certain early on in my MBA career that I wanted to join a consulting firm.
And the reason was quite simple.
The rotations that I had done at intel were instrumental in shaping my career and I thought the same way which know I'm better off before I join a corporation in finance or corporation in the strategy group. It is better to go to a consulting firm where you could do almost like MBA finishing school. You can apply everything you just learned in the last two years through rotations and these traditionally three to six month studies and really learn to apply what you learned in the classroom, but more importantly, figure out what it is that you really want to do. So I was pretty dead set on joining consulting. I also was pretty sure I was going to only do it for three years, which will come, I'm sure come to at some point during this podcast about why I stayed 19 years, but I was only going to do it for three years and so I went through the process. 90% of the places I interviewed with for the summer job were in the consulting field. I interviewed with McKinsey, BCG, Bain and 2001 was a particularly tough time, which was going to be my summer. I started my MBA in 2000, my summer was in 2001, which is the.com boom that I had enjoyed had just crashed and burst and so consulting was.
[00:24:19] Speaker A: Not.
[00:24:22] Speaker B: Unscathed by all of that. And so the number of role positions for the summer class were down versus previous years. But I was very lucky to get an offer from McKinsey. McKinsey was my top choice and do it and I did it in the west coast. So I actually joined our La office for the summer of one and did my summer with McKinsey. The reason I chose McKinsey was quite simple. It was one of the best names.
The level of clients that they were serving were usually the CEO and the top team in their clients and they were the largest of the big name consulting firms. So for somebody who wanted to rotate through different industries and different functions, joining a larger firm would create more options. That was my thought process if I was to be quite analytical about it. And I enjoyed the people and so I did my summer in one and I enjoyed it. I actually did of all things, a nonprofit study. We were helping a performing arts center figure out how to bridge the gap between the money they needed to create a new 200 million dollar center versus what they had already raised and try to figure out the steps they should take to bridge the gap. Because as you can imagine, during an economic recession, gift giving gets pulled back quite a bit. And so it was a fun study and I got an offer to return full time and chose to return full time pretty early on.
[00:25:58] Speaker A: You use the word serve when you talked about your clients and I think that says a lot.
Now, I'm not a consultant, but what I think in general speak, I think it's safe to say your role in consulting is you are helping businesses, nonprofits and other entities, really, to use a word used earlier, self actualize. Right. You are helping them achieve what they are hoping to. Is that a fair assessment of your career path for any students who are listening, who aren't as familiar with the field?
[00:26:32] Speaker B: That's right. That's a great way of saying it. We call it reaching their full potential. And a lot of the work I do, especially with the clients we serve, more programmatically and at scale is really help them reach their full potential.
And serve is a very purposeful term, but it's a double edged sword in the following way, which is one of the big things you're taught at McKinsey and many of these consulting firms, is pretty early on in your career to treat senior executives as peers, intellectually and as leaders. And that's hard when you're 1520 years younger than the people you are talking. So serve, you have to be careful. It's not that you're at their full direction. Right. You're not taking orders from them and just executing it. But the term serve is important because it communicates the privilege that comes with the trust that a client puts in you to help them realize their full potential.
There is a certain humility that a client needs to have to ask for help for a consultant right. For a consultant to reach their full potential. And there's a responsibility that comes with that and not letting them down and really helping them and the focus on impact and helping them achieve their full potential in order to deliver on the trust that they've put in you.
[00:28:05] Speaker A: That's great. And you talked about things that you learned early, not just at McKinsey, but other consulting firms. And I'd be curious to take a step back. What could a shriek scholar who's interested in this line of work be doing now in undergrad to prepare themselves for either applying to these entry level jobs or perhaps they go and get an MBA and then apply for them. But what can they be doing to set themselves up for a successful interview and hiring process?
[00:28:36] Speaker B: There's three things academics, leadership and practice.
[00:28:44] Speaker A: You basically just described the honors college, so that's already a good start.
[00:28:48] Speaker B: It's a great start. It's a great start. So on academics, look, it's a privilege.
McKinsey and these consulting firms are in a privileged position.
We receive 900,000 applications for 9000 positions a year. So it's 1% roughly of the people who apply get an offer. And so academics is a pretty easy way to get knocked out, right? There is a certain level of academic proficiency and performance that is required to even get an interview.
Shriers are going to have a huge head start. Most of them are going to have good grades. They're going to need to maintain good grades in order to keep their scholarships, or at least they did when I was there. So I think that's on academics, on leadership consulting is very weird, right? I lead practices, I've led offices, I've led a lot of things. But there is no chart. Nobody reports to you at Mackenzie. Even our managing director is a senior partner that was elected by his peers, other senior partners, but he serves on their behalf. And there's another serves I use. And you have to be careful what you mean by that. He has to lead, but he can't tell us what to do. And so the other big thing is we want to see leadership because you have to be self propelled. You have to know what you want to do. You have to have some direction in order to really succeed. I mean, people will help you achieve what you want to achieve, but you need to have some sense of what it is that you want to get out of the place in order to maximize the full potential of what the place can be for you. So I think showing leadership, showing that you're capable of taking an initiative to shape something, and that you're capable of mobilizing others, many of whom don't report to you similarly, like if it's a club or another group, through influence, through purpose, through inspiration. That's a lot of if you think about how we get our clients to change their behaviors, it's through influence. You can't tell a client what to do. They don't work for you. And so you have to influence them. And so leadership is really important. And leading peers and setting direction and galvanizing and influencing is why leadership is important.
And then the third one was practice.
There is quite a bit of an art to how McKinsey interviews, which is we do these case studies and they're basically business problems, usually based on real work that we've done. And what we really try to get under is how people structure problems, how they creatively think of solutions against that problem and that structure of problems, and how they can crunch number, how comfortable they are with analytics and numbers and stuff like that. And it is a little odd at first, and so it takes a little practice. You don't want to over practice, but you want to at least be aware going into the interview what is coming at you. And those are the three pieces of advice I'd have. So.
[00:32:20] Speaker A: You mentioned these practices and you don't have an.org chart. So maybe in a succinct way, tell us how you started, worked your way up, if you will, if that even is an applicable term in this case, how you're structured and going from being an entry level to leading and being a senior partner. How does all of that work to where you've gotten today?
[00:32:47] Speaker B: Great question. So McKinsey is really organized around three axes.
You have industry sector, you have function, business function, and you have geography. So those are the three axes. Industry sector would be TMT, which is high tech media and telecom, or it could be healthcare, could be pharmaceuticals, it could be advanced industries like defense contractors and stuff like that. So that's sector functions are things like sales and marketing, digital and analytics operations, and then geography know are you in the Americas, Europe, Asia? And within those, what country or state are you in? And typically what happens is when you start at the firm, you join an office and you don't yet have a sector or functional affiliation. So your geography is your dominant access. You start with a class. That class. I started in New Jersey full time. So I transferred my summer offer from California to New Jersey because I met my wife to be and she was working for Pfizer at the time and didn't want to move across the country. So I affiliated myself with the New Jersey office, my class of twelve other people who started out of different business schools and advanced degrees. And over time, what happens is you work with people, you do these studies, and these studies all have sector and functional affiliations. So I did financial services studies, I did pharmaceutical studies, I did consumer product studies, I did telco studies, I did high tech studies, I did everything because again, that was my objective. My first three years, every industry you could think of, I did M-A-I did sales and marketing, commercial growth, I did due diligences on M-A-I did operations works, I did everything on the functional axes. And what you end up doing is coming out of those experiences. Your first two or three years, you begin to build an affinity towards either a sector, function, or both. And it's typically a set of partners that you've worked with, that you really enjoy working with, that you want to work more with, that are also affiliated with those sectors and functions. And so, you know, my journey was no different, right? I did the random walk very purposely, it wasn't that random. My first two, three years, I really affiliated myself with the New Jersey office and the mid Atlantic overall.
Those three years really confirmed for me my passion in TMT. So technology, media and telecom. So over time, as I became an Em, which is typically a role that you do, where you're kind of the project leader about two years in at the firm. I started doing a lot of TMT studies, but again, I flexed on the functional axis and then I got to know many of the leaders in TMT, many of the partners and senior partners within TMT through those studies during my two project management years.
[00:36:04] Speaker A: So it sounds like it's a combination. Correct me if I'm wrong here of you need the tactical skills, which obviously your thesis and research experience from both Penn State and Penn I'm sure helped with. There's also a heavy relational piece in this field, is that correct?
[00:36:21] Speaker B: Absolutely.
There's a lot of network building within the firm, within, you know, important, especially as you're starting out in finding your next study, finding your band of brothers and sisters that you want to work with, that you enjoy working with. And that was to me, one of the biggest eye openers and probably things that I did not expect, which is the industry and the function. The topic of the study was important, but not as important as the people you were working with. And there are certain people that you just gelled with, you really enjoyed working with the fact that the job was demanding and you worked longer hours, didn't feel like longer hours because you really enjoyed the company and you had a common purpose and sense of what you were trying to accomplish. And I think I had underestimated that when I joined. And it's something I really learned over the course of my first two, three years and came to appreciate.
[00:37:24] Speaker A: And I think that's true regardless of what industry you go into, if you're working a full time job, which is debatable and how many hours you might define that in in the 21st century. But you're around your colleagues, sometimes more than your own family. So it is really important to enjoy the people you are working with. So regardless of whether you are going into consulting or some other industry, that is really valuable advice to take that from what Basil just shared, pivoting a little bit within the consulting space still, consulting is notoriously a travel intensive career, especially at the entry level points.
Well, at least pre COVID, right? Obviously we shifted to a very zoom centric world starting in March 2020. But how do you think the pandemic has affected that side of your business in the short term? And what do you project the long term impact of the virtual versus the in person elements because it is such a relational industry?
[00:38:25] Speaker B: That's a great question, and the travel is one of the demanding aspects of the job. But I'll come back to even pre pandemic. There are ways to manage that. I think it's all in what you're optimizing for at different stages of your schreyer. So there's no question that the last 18 months has taught us a lot about how to use video conferencing to still raise the ambition of our clients, help them achieve their full potential and help them transform. And if you had asked me 18 months ago at the beginning of the pandemic, could we deliver the kind of impact at the scale we have over the course of the last 18 months, I would have told you you were crazy.
And so, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of all inventions. The pandemic really, I think, was the mother of the invention around what we used to call mindful travel, which is, I think we all fall into a rut and an assumption around how you have to operate. And McKinsey has tried for years through mindful travel, to say, you don't have to be at the client site four days a week out of five you don't. And I think the last 18 months has really taught us that. So I think what will end up happening is we will never travel the same. I think we will travel less coming out of this pandemic, even after it's behind us, than we did before, because I think we've gotten much smarter about when travel really makes a difference and when it doesn't. I think that said, there will be important. As you said, there is an element of all of this, that's relationship.
I introduced two clients over the course of the pandemic who I'd never met in person.
The whole team, only seen them on video. And when things started to open up in the summer, beginning part of the summer, pre delta, everybody was vaccinated. Those were the first trips I made.
And there is something to be said about a client dinner to really understand what makes a client tick. What are their own personal aspirations, both professionally, but how they're juggling that versus family life and those kind of connections, I think, will always be critical to what we do. And there will be no substitute for having dinner with the client.
Pre pandemic, I used to travel for an hour long meeting. I'd do a day trip. So I would fly out, get up early, fly out, go do an hour long meeting, usually with a new client you're trying to introduce, and then fly home. I don't think I'm going to ever do that again. I think that kind of travel is gone. I think the costs of that, the friction costs of the trip to the airport, going through TSA is not worth it. I think we've learned in the last 18 months how to do that meeting effectively over video.
[00:41:31] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. I can imagine that both the cost savings for both McKinsey and your clients is great. The environmental impact of traveling less is probably great. And the fact that there was presumably how many other hours in the day can you now focus on your client or other clients instead of going through TSA and sitting in the airport trying to connect to wi fi and all these things? But you mentioned a moment ago kind of the balance of everything. And you did travel a lot, and you mentioned that you have teenage children. How do you strive for work life balance, to use a very popular phrase these days, in a very demanding.
[00:42:18] Speaker B: You know, my first four years at McKinsey were pretty easy. It was just Andrea and me, and Andrea had a full time job. She played tennis at we. The opportunity cost of traveling was not that high. And then we had my daughter Madeline, and then my son Alexander. And then the opportunity cost of traveling got a lot higher, and I managed it the way you would manage anything else. So I sat down with my assistant at the time, and I said, Look, I have three goals for every week, and we need to manage my calendar to those three goals. I want to work out at least four times a week. I want to put my kids to bed more times than I don't, which means four more nights. And when I say put them to bed, I mean bathe them, get them dressed, read to them, put them like, an hour and a half, 2 hours of time with them, and then I want to be home to do Sushi dinner with them at 530. My kids love sushi. They loved it when they were four and two, they would go to the sushi restaurant. And the reason I did that, 530 on Friday is because then Friday night becomes like a weekend night. 530 is early enough. It forces you to shut down well in advance of that and really makes Friday night a real night. And then as part of that, I don't do work as best I can over the weekend, and really, I don't do a lot of work on the weekends. And those were my three. And everybody can have different threes depending on what stage they were in their life. But it's amazing, through thick and thin, ups and downs, 50 out of the 52 weeks, I'd be able to achieve those three things. And so you just need to have them as clear goals, and that's what I tell everybody, which is have three goals that you want to be able to do every week, and it can be the one I wish I had earlier in my career, is with kids. You realize the date nights between Andrea and I are harder to come by now, right? Because there's a lot of family time in the early parts of my McKinsey career. I would have probably pushed to have made it home, to have more dinners with her out on a random Tuesday or Wednesday night, with the benefit of hindsight. Could have easily done that if I had just more explicitly set it as a goal.
[00:44:46] Speaker A: Goal setting, I think, is very important. I like that you broke it down. Like, these are the specific things I want to do this week. And so if you're listening to this see how that translates. Sit down, take a couple of minutes and re. Listen to that past chunk of this episode to hear Basil's insight on that and figure out what are your three things that you want to do every week. And I'm going to try and do that myself. But it's know, goal setting is important, but also especially in the early stages of your career and really throughout is networking and mentorship. So how have you both benefited from these and how do you go about it? And also now that you're a senior partner, how do you also mentor and what recommendations do you have for scholars as they begin these processes?
[00:45:31] Speaker B: It's a great question. So there's no question that a career in consulting is more demanding than a nine to five job. It's not a nine to five job, by the way.
It's not a ridiculous hours either kind of job. But obviously I've made it work in 19 months. Happily married, two great kids who still like their dad and would probably say I haven't missed much of their lives. I think the trade off is the mentorship. It's a great question because at the end of the day, the reason you sacrifice, there still are sacrifices that come with this career is it is an apprenticeship profession and the mentorship that you get and the coaching you get is unrivaled. I really do believe that for young colleagues who are starting out because you're put in tough situations early in your career. And so when I was a brand new associate, I presented to a CEO of a Fortune 500 company with just a senior partner who was in the room with me like a year out of business school.
I would present to the boards of these companies and the top team, I would be 20 years younger than anybody else in the room.
That's the power of the trade off, right? And the development that comes with it. But what you need is good mentors and sponsors to do that. So a mentor is somebody and there's difference between the two. A mentor is somebody who's going to coach you before that meeting, rehearse the presentation with you before that meeting, really teach you to lead with the answer, pause, let the CEO take you where they want to go as opposed to doing it much more in a bottom up way. And the mentor is going to help you rehearse for that, make sure you don't fail in that situation and really coach you through something like that. That's going to be very one on one.
A sponsor is a person who will create those opportunities for you. So somebody who wakes up in the morning worried about you, worried about your development, worried about are you in the right opportunities to grow, worried if you're busy in the early days of your career. And everybody to succeed needs to have both mentors and sponsors. But you need to be clear which of the two, each individual you're working with is and have an explicit dialogue around it with them. And I think the biggest thing I learned is it's a two way street. I think if I look at people at McKinsey who are under mentored or under sponsored, they usually aren't comfortable initiating. Oh, it's a senior partner. I can't get time on their know, they're busy, they're too busy for me. And I think the biggest advice I'd give to folks listening to this podcast is it is a two way street. You need to nurture these things. And sometimes this goes back to the leadership you asked about. How do you prepare it's taking the initiative to put yourself out there, to ask for help, to engage on where you want to go on your career. Oftentimes that's the catalyst to build and cultivate those mentors and those sponsors.
[00:48:52] Speaker A: And a word you used earlier in this conversation was humility.
And I think that is key. Be humble enough to ask for help and you'll be surprised the doors that open to you. So I have one last kind of deep consulting question. You've been at McKinsey for, as you said, 19 years as of the time of recording. I'm sure you've had a lot of colleagues that you've enjoyed and they've gone on to other job opportunities. Can you just give us a brief glimpse into the kind of doors that consulting can open for you if you want to move on to other opportunities?
[00:49:28] Speaker B: So they're all over and they're wide ranging. I mean, I think that's the beauty of McKinsey is everybody is a sample of one. So one of my close friends in business school and the other person who got a summer offer McKinsey on the West Coast, so it was myself. And one other person was this friend is Sundar Pachai. Sundar Pachai is the CEO of, you know, there know, people know go join industry. And I think McKinsey really is a talent factory. If you look at, I don't know the statistics off my top of my head, but if you normalize for the size of McKinsey, it's probably the number one training ground of CEOs and business unit presidents at Fortune 500 then. So you have a lot of people who go the Sundar path, they go join an industry and they grow rise to become the CEO or Bu president. Another person I worked with on studies in my early days in New Jersey was another associate named Voss. Voss has become the CEO of Novartis. So literally in a tea room with them.
I worked for nine months with Chelsea Clinton on a study when she was at McKinsey.
So you have those that go into industry and they rise up to CEO. There's a second path which is or senior levels. There's a second path which a lot of people, they get really excited about the private equity venture capital side of what we do. So a lot of the work we do, at least in certain practices, is diligences of assets that a private equity firm may want to buy, helping, after they buy, turn around the asset to help the asset reach its full potential so that they can exit it and make more money. So you see another swath of people that go into private equity, venture capital and the investment community both in diligencing assets to buy, but then turning around the asset or helping the asset achieve the full potential and therefore an exit.
And then there's a third where people go and start stuff. They go start their own businesses. So there is a person I've gotten to know very well through McKinsey. His name is Amit. Amit started the Trevor project. And the Trevor Project is around people, the difficulty of coming out. And he went and founded the Trevor Project. And it's amazing because I have business school colleagues of mine that didn't go to McKinsey, whose kids have come out and they've celebrated them because it is still a very courageous thing to do. And they've had fundraisers for the Trevor Project as part of this. And so I look at it, and it's just seven degrees of separation. It's just so interesting. And so you have a lot of people who start new businesses either for profit or in the not for profit space, and they really exercise their entrepreneurship. And so those would be kind of three paths that, you know, most often.
[00:52:47] Speaker A: We'Re kind of at the tail end of our conversation here. I want to be respectful of your time, Basil, as well as those listening. So just rapid fire. Three questions to wrap up with. First, are there any pieces of advice that you wanted to share that just didn't come up earlier in our conversation?
[00:53:02] Speaker B: Yeah, I think they came up, but I would underscore them in synthesis or summary. One is if I reflect on my career. Pick something you're passionate about for your career. No amount of intrinsics can make up for a job you're not excited about. Two would be knowing what you don't want to do through experimentation is almost as valuable as knowing what you do want to do. And so I really encourage our scholar to try different things. And it's okay if your summer internship didn't amount to what you had hoped for. That's still important information as you cast on your journey. And then the third is balance.
I honestly believe you can make any career work well, but you have to have the courage to establish boundaries, the courage to live by those boundaries, and the courage to accept the consequences. If the career path doesn't work out with those boundaries, then it's not the right schreyer for you, and you should feel good about moving on at that point.
[00:54:13] Speaker A: Great summary, Basil. If a scholar wants to connect with you and dive a little bit deeper, one on one and seek you out as a mentor. How can they connect with think, you.
[00:54:22] Speaker B: Know, through LinkedIn is, you know, obviously through you, Sean, if you're okay with it, I think you have my I'm on the Alumni Board, and so always reachable through that way.
[00:54:35] Speaker A: Perfect. And that's something we didn't even have time to talk about, is that in addition to all of your work and family, you also volunteer with the college. And we appreciate you coming on today as one of our Alumni Board members. But I'd be remiss if I didn't wrap up with our traditional closeout question here on the show. If you were a flavor of berkey creamery, ice cream, which would you be? And as a scholar, most importantly, why that flavor?
[00:54:59] Speaker B: Oh, that's was I thought you were gong to ask me a different question. I probably will keep my answer the same, which is I would still be Peachy Paterno. Because do they still have Peachy Paterno, by the way? I think they do.
[00:55:13] Speaker A: They sure do.
[00:55:14] Speaker B: Yes. And the reason is because of the memories. Because, you know, like I said, I was a season ticket holder for five years at Penn State. I did stay on an extra semester for one more football season to get a minor in economics, but that was just an excuse.
And we would get Peachy Paterno all the time. And so I still take my son. My son still loves to go to the games and I take him to the creamery every time. And I usually get my peachy paterno. So I guess my answer is one of maybe the balanced side of my last piece of advice, which is it just brings back great memories of things beyond professional and academics, but other aspects of your life, connections with friends and family.
[00:55:58] Speaker A: That is a great reason and a great way to wrap up. Basil, thank you so much for joining me and providing all this great insight into not just consulting, but any industry that our scholars will go into.
[00:56:10] Speaker B: Thank you very much, Sean. Thanks for the opportunity.
[00:56:20] Speaker A: Thank you, scholars, for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show proudly supports the Shrier Honors College Emergency Fund benefiting scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at raise. psu.edu forward slash Shrier. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe like or Follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the college on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to stay up to date on news, events and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or a scholar alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on following the Gone, please connect with me at scholar alumni at psu.edu. Until next time, please stay well. And we are.