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How My ESADE MBA Got Me Into McKinsey & Company

Alejandra Parra Pizarro joined McKinsey after two years at ESADE Business School in Barcelona

When Alejandra Parra Pizarro relocated to Spain for an MBA at ESADE Business School in 2013, she had no intention of joining a ‘big three’ management consulting firm after graduation.

A trained chemical engineer, she taught engineering and worked at mining and metals giant BHP Billiton in her native Chile before joining ESADE. During her MBA, she interned at a leading energy firm in Madrid.

But, after graduating in 2015, she decided to return home and change career track. A few weeks later, she landed a top job as a senior implementation coach at McKinsey & Company, where around 50% of incoming consultant hires have MBAs. Here’s How:

How did the job at McKinsey come about?

I never thought consulting was a choice for me! I had received a job offer from an energy company in Spain that I got thanks to ESADE’s career services department. But one day, I was browsing the internet and I found a job posting which basically described me.

The company wanted someone with experience in operations, a hands-on approach, and teaching skills that could be used to help implement new projects. I read the job description and it said ‘McKinsey.’ My first thought was: wait, a management consulting company? People wearing suits all the time?

I started preparing for the interview with my MBA classmates. First, once a week. Then, every day. I took a weekend course in case interviews with an ESADE MBA alum. And when I returned to Chile, I had conference calls with either my classmates from ESADE’s consulting club, or career services, every day. I soon realized that I liked consulting after all!

What does McKinsey look for in its MBA job applicants? 

At any level, McKinsey looks for people with excellent problem solving skills. People who are curious by nature, smart and creative. And people who can come up with several answers to a question and present them in a clear way. This ability is independent a candidate’s studies, and work experience. 

Most of a consultant’s work is about building a rapport with clients quickly, no matter their job position or age. We need people who can influence others, who are empathetic and can read between the lines. The only way to know what’s really happening in a company or industry, is to put yourself in a client’s shoes.

Can you tell us something about working at McKinsey that most people wouldn’t know? 

There’s no such thing as one ‘consultant profile’, because our work is as diverse as the clients we serve. Some people join McKinsey right after their undergraduate degree, others join as senior managers with 20 years of experience. Some people are great at building models. Some are best at client leadership. Some have distinctive backgrounds in particular industries or functions.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at ESADE? 

I was lacking international experience and a formal business education. Barcelona is a great city with a high quality of life as well as a diverse offering of graduate business education programs. When I came to visit ESADE, I saw myself studying there.

ESADE stands out as one of the world’s most diverse business schools. It has a strong reputation in operations and social science-type topics like ethics, geopolitics and sustainability. And its teaching methodology, which combines teamwork, lectures and case studies, was really appealing.

What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?

A business school must suit you, not the other way around. Where you choose to go should not only be defined by rankings and prestige, but also by your work experience and career goals.

It’s about personal fit. Every business school has its own character. Do some research on the school’s class profile. A big part of what you get from an MBA is related to your classmates.

Would you be where you are today without the ESADE MBA?

Probably not! Without ESADE, I would be a senior engineer or a deputy manager in a mining company doing the same job as I did before. I would be bored, with limited career aspirations.

More than anything, the ESADE MBA showed me that the world is smaller than I thought before. I now have friends from the US, Germany, India, Japan, Colombia, Spain, and more. I also learnt how to prioritize. The life of an MBA candidate is full of courses, reports, working in groups, extra-curricular activities and, of course, socializing. At the beginning, it was overwhelming. But I defined my limits and started to do what was most valuable for me.



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