Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The McKinsey experience

This post is one week late. I've been busy and lazy. Mostly lazy. Hehe.

Anyhow, I applied for McKinsey Youth Leadership Academy, got interviewed and got into this year's programme! In the next 7 weeks, we'll be divided into teams and we're supposed to come up with a social entrepreneurship initiative which will be presented to our mentors at the end of the tenure.

But first, we had to go through the first workshop which was about a week ago. Got to rub shoulders with some of the impressive industry leaders and learn a whole lot from their stories and advice. 

First half of the day, we had 3 guest speakers who came to share their experiences in their respective fields. Mark Chang; CEO of Jobstreet, Khairy Jamaluddin; UMNO heartthrob and MP of Rembau as well as Azran Osman Rani; CEO of AirAsia X.

Mark Chang talked about his humble beginning as he hailed from a poor family in Kampar, Perak. Today, he is the CEO of a company worth more than RM700 million. Mark said the 4 pillars he holds to when managing his business are 1) Make sure the company is profitable 2) Create a happy working environment 3) Leave an impact on society 4) Humility

These are not magic recipes, by any means but they are noble pillars to hold on to and clearly, it has paid off well for Mark Chang. 

Next up was KJ who spoke on his leadership experiences in politics. A politician with one of the best oratory skills around, no doubt. Some of the points he touched include the need to diagnose a problem thoroughly before initiating any actions. Also, as a politician, one must be relevant not only within the party but outside of the party too. KJ also stressed on the need to have policy-oriented politics instead of politics based on people's dirty laundry that we often see these days.

Which led me to ask him some very touchy questions at the end. Since he doesn't believe in championing just the Malay rights (or so he claims), I asked if he thinks race-based politics are no longer relevant in Malaysia and if we could do a way with it in the future? On top of that, despite having great vision for changes, many top leaders in UMNO do no agree with him, so does that mean his leadership is not the best fit for UMNO culture?

And he went, "Haah, I might as well go back home now." Hehe. He did answer them, in a very round-about way. Good boy. I'm not a fan of UMNO but I'm certainly a fan of KJ. There, I said it. 

Then we had Azran from AirAsia X. Out of all our guest speakers, I thought Azran had the most exciting, colourful life stories. He was jumping from one job to another but they're all so interesting! While the other 2 speakers before him kept telling us to have a vision, to plan for the future yadda yadda, this guy came in and broke all the rules! 

He told us it's impossible to plan for the future when the world is changing by the minute. Taking example from his job at AirAsia, he said there isn't a point of having a 5-Year or 10-Year business plans in an industry like aviation because there are so many variables that you can't control. Like oil  prices fluctuating every day, unforeseen natural phenomenon like the Iceland volcano eruption that put a halt on Europe air travels etc etc. How do you plan for these things? 

You can't! What you can do is learn to analyse and make decisions quickly but most importantly, not be afraid of making mistakes. He said, "Ask 5 level of Whys for a problem and Why Nots for an idea" every time you're about to venture into something new. Impressive stuff.

We spent the evening working in our teams alongside our assigned McKinsey consultants. We learned first hand how these people work while they impart some of their invaluable tips and guidance for our projects. For free! McKinsey consultants working with you for free, how cool is that? Outside, their consultant fees would cost some serious bucks we would not be able to afford. 

Then we had our dinner with our mentors at KL Hilton. This year, we have 23 mentors who will help us with our projects and gosh, they're such amazing people! Some of them include Johan Merican from TalentCorp, Dzameer Dzulkifli from Teach For Malaysia, Tunku Abidin from IDEAS, Dr Habibah from Ministry of Education and many other astounding industry leaders.

Each team gets 3 to 4 mentors and I'm excited to have this unique access to these people who clearly have done some amazing stuff in their lives. My team has come up with a project on the table but more on that later. Still in the planning process and I hope it goes well. 

Some photos from the day.

KJ speaking on his leadership in politics. 

Clockwise: With Johan Merican; CEO of TalentCorp (he's also one of my mentors, yay!), Dzameer; co-founder of Teach For Malaysia, Azran; CEO of AirAsia X and Tunku Abidin, Chairman of IDEAS

Of course I had to take one with this man too.

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