The value of being at the bottom

The most valuable lesson I learned at McKinsey was NOT making presentations or structured thinking, as valuable as they were.

The best lesson was the experience of being at the bottom of an organization.

Before my MBA, I was running a 3,500 strong police force, heading the law and order of a city. Every day, all you see is instant compliance with every order you give.

And then, after the MBA, when I joined McKinsey as an associate, I almost felt like a college fresher. The only person I could order around was myself. I was a newbie, starting my life from scratch.

To be fair, McKinsey is very egalitarian and everyone is very respectful. Still, being at the bottom of the ladder can be quite instructive.

It taught me humility. To get time for a client meeting or a data-request, I learned to be gently persuasive, and occasionally, even smile!

Before this experience, I was used to looking at people in terms of rank and position, as is the norm in bureaucracy. Now, I could see them as individuals, without using the lens of rank and status.

I will not pretend that being at the bottom was always nice, but every experience has value, even the uncomfortable ones. In fact, especially the uncomfortable ones.


– Rajan

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