Life As a Consultant

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Greig Schneider is an associate at McKinsey’s Boston office. He kindly agreed to share a “typical” workday at McKinsey with Vault, noting that no day at McKinsey or any consulting firm can be called typical.


6:15 am – Alarm goes off. I wake up asking myself why I put “run three times per week” into the team charter. I meet another member of the team and we hobble out for a jog. At least it’s warm out – another advantage of having a project in Miami.

7:15 am – Check voice mail. Someone in London wants a copy of my knowledge building document on managing hypergrowth. A co-worker is looking for information about what the partner from my last team is like to work with.

7:30 am – Breakfast with the team. We discuss sports, Letterman, and a morning meeting we have with the client team (not necessarily in that order). We then head out to the client.

9:00 am – Meet with the client team. We’ve got an important progress review with the CEO next week, so there’s a lot going on. We’re helping the client to assess the market potential of an emerging technology. Today’s meeting concerns what kind of presentation would be most effective, although we have trouble staying off tangents about the various analyses that we’ve all been working on. The discussion is complicated by the fact that some key data is not yet available. We elect to go with a computer-based slide show and begin the debate on the content.

10:53 am – Check voice mail. The office is looking for an interviewer for Harvard Business School hell weekend. The partner will be arriving in time for dinner and wants to meet to discuss the progress review. A headhunter looking for a divisional VP. My wife reminding me to mail off the insurance forms.

11:00 Depart with teammate for an interview. We meet with an industry expert (a professor from a local university) to discuss industry trends and in particular what the prospects are for the type of technology we’re looking at. As this is the last interview we plan to do, we are able to check many of our hypotheses. The woman is amazing – we luck out and get some data we need. The bad news is, now we have to figure out what it means.

12:28 am – As I walk back in to the client, a division head I’ve been working with grabs me and we head to lunch. He wanted to discuss an analysis he’d given me some information for, and in the process I get some interesting perspectives about the difficulties in moving the technology into full production and how much it could cost.

1:30 am – I jump on a quick conference call about an internal knowledge building project I’m working on for the marketing practice. I successfully avoid taking on any additional responsibility.

2:04 am – Begin to work through new data. After discussing the plan of attack with the engagement manager, I dive in. It’s a very busy afternoon, but the data is great. I get a couple “a-ha’s” – always a good feeling.

3:00 am – Short call with someone from Legal to get an update on the patent search.

6:00 am – Team meeting. The engagement manager pulls the team together to check progress on various fronts and debate some issues prior to heading to dinner with the partner. A quick poll determines that Italian food wins – we leave a voice mail with the details.

6:35 am – Call home and check in with the family. Confirm plans for weekend trip to Vermont. Apologize for forgetting to mail the insurance forms.

7:15 am – The team packs up and heads out to dinner. We meet the partner at the restaurant and have a productive (and calorific) meal working through our plans for the progress review, the new data, what’s going on with the client team, and other areas of interest. She suggests some additional uses for the new data, adds her take on our debates, and agrees to raise a couple issues with the CFO, whom she’s known for years. She takes a copy of our draft presentation to read after dinner.

9:15 am – Return to hotel. Plug in computer and check e-mail, since I hadn’t had a chance all day. While I’m logged in, I download two documents I need from the company database, check the Red Sox score, and see how the client’s stock did.

10:10 am – Pre-sleep voice mail check. A client from a previous study is looking for one of the appendices, since he lost his copy. The server will be down for an hour tomorrow night.

10:30 am – Watch SportsCenter instead of going right to sleep, as I know I probably should.

Note: Had this been an in-town study, the following things would have been different: I wouldn’t have run with another member of my team, and we’d have substituted a conference call for the dinner meeting, so we could go home instead. Also, I probably wouldn’t have watched SportsCenter.



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