Thursday, March 26, 2009

[Guest Interview #3] with Rex From University Of Melbourne, intern in Mckinsey

Guest interview series on iSteward continues, the guest today is Rex from University of Melbourne, who’s ready to share with us his recent work experience in Mckinsey and intereting stories of him. I found the content insightful and thorough, so enjoy and feel free to comment !

Interviewee: Rex Zhang
Interview time:2009 3-16 by

Some Background: Rex knew me through blogging when some day he was online searching for some consulting reading. After some discussion and email exchange, I learned he was currently working in Mckinsey Shanghai office and a sport/music guru.The position plus his perspective on studying and working both home and abroad was interesting to me and I’m sure will be interesting to readers.
1. For the benefit of readers, can you give us a summary of your background?

Iam a penultimate-year bachelor student studying Finance and Accounting in the University of Melbourne. University of Melbourne is the second oldest university in Australia, providing top education in medicine, law and business fields.

I’d say I am a quite versatile person. I like music, especially classical music. I started play the violin and accordion since seven and won several awards along the process. Once I even decided to go to a music academy. Additionally, I had been training swimming for 5 years , and got two level-2 certificates for butterfly stoke and breaststroke. I used to train Taekwondo when I was in high school and won a silver medal in a citywide competition. I also was a member of basketball team of the University of Melbourne, yet quitted because of injury.

Regarding my working experience, I took two internship from the end of 2007 to end of Feb, 2008 – one in China Life Insurance Company and another is in Xintai Securities Company. From Dec 1, 2008 to Feb 27, 2009, I worked as an analyst intern in McKinsey & Company Shanghai Office.

2. Your situation is very unique, because you're now studying in the University of Melbourne and just finished a three-months internship in Mckinsey & Company in Shanghai during your winter break (summer in Australia :P). How did you get the opportunity and what was your job like working there?

My situation is a bit interesting, originally I did not intend to take internship in China. Just like other students, I went to those companies’ websites and apply for their summer internship in Australia. Unfortunately, Australians have quite strong regional-protectionism, it is out of possibility for international students to get the job. My cousin told me that he has a friend working in McKinsey BJO and I can send the resume to her to see if there is any chance. So I tried as he told me to do. That friend is quite kind and helpful. After several discussions and revision of my resume, she agreed to send my resume to HR. Just on the same day HR received my resume, they called me from Shanghai to Melbourne to do a telephone interview. There was no case analysis during the telephone interview as I expected, just some simple questions about facts claimed in my resume. And finally, I got the job.
iSteward Note:For those dear reader don't have a cousin or uncle to help, don't feel frustrated. Firms will have information sections/networking events for campus recruitment in summer and fall. So take initiative, build your network and seek out chances, that's valuable.
Inside McKinsey, we call “analyst intern” as “part-timers”. Since most of the other interns are postgraduate students studying in Fudan or SH Jiaotong University. Unlike me who go to McKinsey 5 days a week, they only need to work 2~4 days per week. Basically, there are two types of interns in McKinsey – Regular and By case. “Regulars” are those who go to the company on specific days every week. They have their own seats and desk-top computers in China Knowledge Center – the research department. Their job is to sit there and wait for requests from any information analysts. In most cases, their responsibilities are key-in analyzing data, google search, and cold calls. In another word, to get information that analyst required. On the other hand, for by-case interns, they don’t have to go to the company every Monday or Wednesday. Instead, they just wait for calls from coordinator to be arranged in a specific project and just serve this one team for the given period.

In most of the time I only work for 1 project for a period, so you can regard me as a “by-case” intern. Due to the confidential agreement, I cannot talk too much on what I did in there. I worked 230 hours a month, I did key-in jobs, lit-search, cold calls, store check for clients and competitors, customer surveys, telephone interviews, and macroeconomic model revision. In one word, interns in McKinsey are not hired for printing documents.
iSteward Notes:Some people told me jobs are not so fancy as it sounds working as part-timer in consulting. Then try to take the opportunity to see project all the way through, ask questions and get feedback from real consultants, these are all assets. I had bloody lesson on this and found as a student there're so much to explore besides finishing your assigned tasks.
3. Old question, why consulting,what sparked your desire in consulting and what perceptions did you have about the job before you started? Any words of advice for readers, especially your peers ?

Two things attract me into consulting – Horizon and Network. Not all students know what they really like to do. They only think they might like it, but they don’t really know if that would be true. Working in a consulting firm will allow me to gain insights of various industries and finally help me decide which industry I would like to explore. For networking, this is more than obvious. For auditing firms, only people you can approach in client’s company are accountants. But for consulting firms, especially these famous ones, people you talk to, in most cases, are executives. In business world, network is not everything, but without network, you are nothing.

Before working in McKinsey, I thought those guys in there must be way too brilliant, as you stated in one of your articles, they can change world. But after I got my feet wet, I talked with various people, from analysts to CEO. My summary was that I overestimated their theurgy, they are human beings as I am! (Maybe I’m brilliant enough too, LOL). But when we unite their brilliance, it does change the world. Actually they are changing the world, at least for some parts.

4. I knew you're invited by Stanford University to attend a REE (Roundtable on Entrepreneurship Education) Fellow Program last year. Can you share with some stories and thoughts on that especially on Stanford's entrepreneur atmosphere?

I met a professor from Stanford University a couple of years ago in Beijing when I was studying English in Tsinghua University and we became good friends since then. Last year, she sent me an email informing me about the project and asked me to apply if interested. I am a kind of person who always wanted to try. I applied as she told me and finally approved to be one of the 40 students attending the program.
iSteward Notes: This story echos my previous post on Networking.
Entrepreneurship is about identifying opportunities, creating value and leveraging resources. Therefore Stanford intended to get the 40 undergraduates and postgraduates internationally and inter-disciplinarily. Finally, among the 40 students, we had bachelors, masters, MBAs as well as PhDs coming from over 10 countries and were majoring in commerce, engineering, science, and arts. You name it.

The program started from Aug 1, 2008, when we were put in groups of 4 students with different background. We were given an identical topic and assignments that aimed to help us know each other better and gain some sense about the project. Finally the 40 students and a number of top professors in entrepreneurial studies were invited to Stanford for 10 days to attend the REE conference. During the week in the US, we had some company visits in silicon valley, listened to lectures given by William Mcdonough, and Vinod Khosla, and were required to create a poster of our project. The last day in Stanford is our presentation and award were issued to groups who’d got the best comment from professors. The program is insighting, educative, and social. This was one of the most memorable events in my life.

5. You're studying Finance and Accounting double degrees in Australia. Generally speaking, how would students studying a Management/Finance related major choose their path after graduation?

I did not really talk with my peers about this issue. Most of them are just like undergrads in China, who did not really “plan” their future. They are still busy with their social activities, student union issues, and maybe they concerns more about peace of the world than their careers. LOL. I guess most of them will go for job hunting after graduation, even though the employment market is quite tight at the moment. But as students from the top university, it might be easier for them to at least get a job. May be not, who knows?

6. What's your current plan?

The financial turmoil just ruined my original plan to be an investment banker. So probably I will go for consulting firms and corporate finance in big firms. I plan to leave of absence for one semester and go back to McKinsey Shanghai to gain some more experience before graduation. Hopefully, they will still allow me to work in there for a period of time.

7. If reader who comes across this interview has something specific to ask you, how should they get in touch with you?

I am not a lively blogger like you. So perhaps email is preffered. My email address is

Thanks very much Rex !

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