A BCIT student was on the first team ever to win a McKinsey Challenge in Vancouver.
The prestigious contest has been held annually in Montreal, but this was the first time for Vancouver. In its challenge, the global consulting firm invites post-secondary students to compete. Over one-and-a-half rigorous days, selected students from various schools are formed into teams that get to work with McKinsey consultants on a live case. The goal is to solve a problem that a real McKinsey client faces.
This year, the contest came to BC, where McKinsey is regarded as a leading firm in the province.
According to the McKinsey Challenge organizing team, “strategy consulting is an industry that is hard to define. The work we do is very different day to day, week to week. There is only so much you can explain on a website or at a recruiting event. So what the Vancouver office wanted to do was offer top BC students the experience of client engagement – from client discovery, problem structuring, analysis and ultimately a presentation to highest level executives of a client. The McKinsey Challenge represented an opportunity not only to see what it is like to work with us, but also to add value to a real business here in Vancouver.”
For Vancouver’s inaugural test, students from UBC, SFU, UVic, and BCIT were asked to submit applications. Only 24 were chosen. Among them was Jessica Graham, a 2nd-year BCIT accounting student.
Jessica recently spoke with us about the experience.
1. Tell us about the challenge. Why did you do it?
McKinsey & Company is the largest, as well as the leading, management consulting firm in the world. To have had the chance to participate in a case competition hosted by them was huge. A career in consulting has always fascinated me so having the opportunity to meet professionals in the industry, as well as network with other aspiring students, provided insight into what that world entails.
2. What happened over those two days?
Saturday was a full day of workshops at the client’s office, followed by a 2-hour session to formulate a solution for the client’s proposed problem. The teams presented their solutions to the Co-founder and 2 VP’s from the client, the recruiting team and 2 Senior Partners from McKinsey, and various staff members from both firms.
3. What was the scariest part?
In my opinion, the scariest part was the fact I was the only student from BCIT in the mix of 24 other highly qualified students – students with extremely impressive resumes that had backgrounds in law, business, political science, etc. In addition, a few of the contestant’s present were studying for their doctorate or master’s programs—and I have an accounting diploma. Though this was intimidating, I was one hundred percent confident that the skills and knowledge I had gained at BCIT, as well as my leadership experiences were a value add to the Challenge.
4. What was the most rewarding part?
I completely thrived off the energy of the entire Challenge. Problem solving for an extremely successful Vancouver-based start-up was absolutely exhilarating. The most rewarding part of the day was having our team name announced as the winners of the first ever McKinsey Challenge—it was completely unexpected. Knowing that our solution will be implemented by the client, an important Vancouver business, is a surreal feeling. It’s amazing to feel like your ideas can make a difference when put into action.
5. What did you learn?
More than anything, I learned the power of teamwork. From the first time, we were put into a team, we focused on each individual’s strengths and working styles. Long before the challenge began, we brainstormed potential obstacles and stress points in our group dynamic, and how we could properly resolve conflict to maximize efficiency and team morale. Knowing each team member’s strengths and communication style greatly contributed to team success in the Challenge.
8. Congratulations on the win. Who was on your team and what do you get?
There were 3 other members on the team I had competed with: Ben MacDonald (MBA, Sauder), Dorothy Ng (Political Science Undergraduate, SFU), and Sam Wong (UBC Sauder Undergraduate). We get our names inscribed on a plaque in the McKinsey Office. The prestige of having been the first team ever to win the McKinsey & Company Vancouver Challenge is a huge prize.
We were also awarded gift cards from the consulting client.
Most important, our proposed solution will be implemented by the client. It was a humbling feeling knowing that we could potentially make a difference for a company and that it could prosper from your team’s ideas.
8. Why are you proud of the milestone?
History in the making. This was the first year for the McKinsey Challenge at the Vancouver office. The fact that I was the only BCIT student in the challenge, as well as being a strong asset to the winning team, speaks highly of the quality of education we are receiving here at BCIT.
Jessica is the Vice-President of Finance and Administration for the BCIT Student Association. She is also the c-captain of the BCIT team heading to JDC West. (Update: Jessica wrote about her trip to JDC West in this post.)