What was your career background before coming to Oxford?
I served for seven years as an officer in the Royal Navy. I’m an aerospace engineer by profession, so I worked as an Air Engineer Officer, working on helicopters and fighter jets in jobs ranging from front-line operations with the Commando Helicopter Force, to working with industry, to cybersecurity and data analytics, to innovation and tech development.
All in all, it was at times fun, challenging, exhausting, and frustrating. One thing I never doubted though was that the work I was doing mattered and was having an impact. When I started to think about leaving the Navy, I knew that I wanted to find something else that would stretch and challenge me, and potentially give me the opportunity to have a long-term impact in the world.
Why did you choose to study at Oxford Saïd?
I joined the Navy with a feeling that I wanted whatever I did to have an impact in the world and a desire to be involved in global affairs at the coalface. Having now left, those guiding principles haven’t changed, but I would like to explore other ways in which I can make an impact. When I was younger, I viewed going into the private sector with distaste. As I have gotten older, however, I have developed an interest in how economics fits into public policy and grown to better appreciate the role of the private sector as an engine of growth and an opportunity for the betterment of people’s lives.
With this in mind, Oxford attracted me for two main reasons.
The first was the course itself – Saïd Business School prides itself on having a focus on impact in business, addressing the biggest problems the world faces. This focus infuses the entire MBA, from specific courses like GOTO (Global Opportunities and Threats: Oxford) and Capitalism in Debate, to the emphasis, even in core courses like Finance and Accounting, on the pressing social and environmental issues that face the world today. This focus is reflected in my coursemates, who despite coming from sixty-three nationalities and countless different industries, all share a drive to use business to effect real global change.
The second was the school’s place within the wider University of Oxford – there are few other business schools so thoroughly embedded within such a vibrant and varied intellectual environment. In addition to being a member of the School, you also belong to one of the Oxford colleges, which enables a level of intellectual exchange you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Sitting down to formal dinner in my college (Pembroke) between a physicist, a geneticist, and a practical ethicist is exciting and fascinating in ways I couldn’t have appreciated before joining.
What were your career aspirations initially and did they change after you arrived in Oxford?
The things I loved about the military were the variety and the challenge of the work, the travel, and the feeling that what I was doing was having an impact. In looking around for something that would fulfil that for me, I decided that strategy consulting (particularly McKinsey) would meet that.
I focused on McKinsey as their input is sought for the most difficult problems across both industry and government; this would give me a constant throughput of new problems to attack and systems to improve. It also would allow me to work at a more strategic level, directly affecting decisions made at the highest level of corporations and governments. While my immediate career goals haven’t changed since coming to Oxford, my experiences in class, with my classmates, and with the wider Oxford community, have all shaped my understanding of the most pressing issues the world is facing, and focused my interest on the areas I would most like to be involved in once I start work.
What has helped you the most to successfully secure your new role as Associate, Strategy Consulting at McKinsey?
The core course teaching (particularly modules like Strategy, and Technology and Operations) were great at giving me the conceptual frameworks and business understanding I needed when tackling the case interviews for McKinsey (which, to somebody not coming from a business background, were particularly intimidating).
The co-curriculars, particularly the MBA’s Consulting Oxford Business Network and the Oxford Strategy Group (a student-run strategy consulting firm) were excellent for giving me a practical grounding in consulting and an exposure to the different aspects of the industry.
Finally, the consulting careers support team (led by James Nugent) were very supportive, constantly in contact as the process wore on, providing help, support, and resources to guide me through the process.
What tips would you have for an incoming MBA student considering consulting as a career?
Start early! Seriously.
There are lots of fantastic consulting firms in the world, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore them, but if you’re serious about applying for MBB (McKinsey, BCG, Bain), the structured hiring process effectively starts in the first term. Taking the time to really think about what you want before you start the course, reaching out to people and networking early, getting an understanding of what it takes to get in and succeed in consulting – all of these things will reap greater rewards the earlier you start.
That’s not to say that you need to be sprinting toward one specific goal from day one of the course – this year is an opportunity to explore your opportunities and your future, after all – but the people who get the most out of this year are those who are the most intentional about what they want. A year isn’t that long a time – believe me, it goes fast.