How to ace your tech interview at McKinsey, according to the head of engineering

In the consulting world, McKinsey & Company is right at the very top as one of the most desirable and in-demand places to work.

The consulting firm, which has more than 30,000 employees spread through 130 cities worldwide, offers more than 90 years of management consulting by helping companies of all shapes and sizes realize their goals and transform business.

Getting hired at McKinsey can be tough: Less than 1% of applicants are hired by the “Big Three” consulting firms, but that doesn’t mean there’s no hope in trying to find your way into this one.

Ed Chang, the head of engineering with McKinsey’s Marketing & Sales team, spoke to Ladders about all things McKinsey including workplace atmosphere, company culture, and how to prepare for an interview at McKinsey.

Chang previously worked as a software engineer at Google when he went on to join GoHealth, a healthcare startup in the US. At GoHealth, he developed technologies to help others create more sound choices when it comes to healthcare.

Why did you join McKinsey?

“After more than seven years with GoHealth, I had the sense it was time to do something different,” Chang said. “I was looking for an organization with a sense of mission and entrepreneurial spirit. I wanted to solve people problems, business problems, and societal problems using technology. McKinsey offered that and more.”

I love how McKinsey lives by its purpose, mission, and values. This is evident in how we serve clients, our pro bono work, and in the way we communicate with each other here.

I took on my role as the global engineering head for Marketing & Sales Solutions in mid-2020. However, when I first joined McKinsey in 2018, I was an engineering director, using data and software to put truly transformative solutions in the hands of our clients. In that role, I led our product, design, and engineering teams building new solutions and helped client service teams reshape their use of technology.

In my new position in our Marketing & Sales practice, I’m learning what clients are doing in the ever-evolving marketing space, identifying their pain points and opportunities for growth and helping them maximize the power of technology and data.

Leading this team, and thinking about everything we do, including how we organize, design, implement, secure, and sustain our products is exciting. If you’re someone who wants to be part of an established, influential organization exploring the power of technology to shape businesses, you’ll love it here.”

What excites you about your work?

“As a data-driven consulting firm that’s been around for 90+ years and steeped in tech for more than a decade now, McKinsey is constantly looking for new ways to apply technology. There’s a continuous desire to learn here, which I think is very special and creates an environment conducive to problem-solving and breaking out of comfort zones. If you have an open mind and a willingness to learn, you can. This is so appealing to me as a technologist.”

Ed Chang McKinsey

How do you mentor and support junior technologists?

“As a mentor to software engineers, product managers, data engineers, site-reliability engineers (SREs), information-security (InfoSec) specialists, and data analysts, I help my tech colleagues understand their individual interests and strengths, and combine that with McKinsey’s needs and opportunities. Technologists aren’t always familiar with McKinsey’s work in tech even though we have 4,500+ technologists. I work help them understand who and what McKinsey is, and create impactful tech career opportunities that engage their passions and experience. That intersection is where interesting work and meaningful growth happens.”

What advice do you have for technologists preparing for a McKinsey interview?

“Do a bit of homework. Some people might look at a McKinsey job posting, and assume it’s similar to a typical software engineering role at another organization, but there’s really no comparison.

We’re looking for inquisitive, collaborative and sharp people who are good at using analytics and creativity to solve business problems. Take time to think about what you want to accomplish with your career, what you’re good at and where you want to grow.

At McKinsey we’re driven by serving others and working alongside our clients and colleagues to solve some of the world’s toughest problems: from using artificial intelligence to help support human-trafficking survivors to building a global tech platform to get emergency COVID-19 medical supplies to save lives. If this type of meaningful, challenging tech work is up your alley, you’ll be especially happy here.”

How would you describe McKinsey’s culture?

“First and foremost, McKinsey’s culture is values-driven and we aim to create a non-hierarchical and inclusive meritocracy.

One value that stands out to me is the obligation to dissent. Everyone – from junior engineer to senior leader – is expected to share their thoughts, perspective and, even, disagreements. Sometimes junior team members are closer to a problem and can provide much-needed insights and robust solutions. As a McKinsey technologist, you have the responsibility to exercise your expertise and apply your technical and business knowledge to guide your team in the right direction.”

How has McKinsey supported you outside of work?

“At an early age, the gift of learning to play the violin was forced upon me by my parents, and when I got to middle school I was very ready to quit. Interestingly, two of my three children have a serious interest in music and want to pursue careers in composing and music education. During the pandemic, my children have been playing music together in our driveway for our neighbors here in the Chicago area.

Their love for creating and performing has renewed my interest in music and led me to discover amazing musicians within our firm. From the annual McKinsey Music Festival, which is typically a three-day jam session in Kitzbühel, Austria for firm members around the world (check out our 2020 virtual festival here) to band competitions in local offices, McKinsey values and celebrates our diverse and passionate community.”