The alumni of top consulting firms are part of all types of organizations around the world. Consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain, and BCG can claim world leaders, public company CEOs, heads of non-profits, entrepreneurs and even musicians.
These firms produce many impressive alumni because they tend to recruit and attract some of the most driven young people around the world, the work is oriented towards helping senior leaders of top companies, and the fact that there is an expectation that most people who work at these firms will not spend their entire careers at them. When you work at a place like McKinsey, BCG or Bain you are always publicly sharing what you might want to do after leaving the firms.
Most Famous & Infamous Alumni
It’s a bit shocking when you start to realize how many famous and notable people seem to have spent some time at top consulting firms. Here is a short list of some of the most notable as well as some of the more notorious alums as well!
McKinsey & Company
- Sundar Pinchai, CEO of Google
- Jim Collins, Business author
- Angela Duckworth, author and professor
- Tom Peters, author & influencer
- Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
- Jason Wright, President Washington Football Team
- Chelsea Clinton, Clinton Foundation
- David Sacks, entrepreneur & tech influencer
- James McNerney, CEO of Boeing
- James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley
- Yul Kwon, Winner Survivor Cook Island
- Kesong Lee, CEO of Carlyle Group
Bain & Company
- Mark Pincus, Founder of Zynga
- Meg Whitman, former CEO of HP and Ebay
- John Donahoe, CEO at Nike
- Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express
- Susan Wojicki, CEO of YouTube
- Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit
- Roland Berger, co-founder of Roland Berger
- Michael Murphy, Former Olympic diver
- Peter Fenton, General Partner at Benchmark
- Zach Perett, CEO of Plaid
Boston Consulting Group
- Mitt Romney, US Senator of Utah
- Benjamin Netenyahu, Prime Minister of Israel
- John Legend, Musician
- Steve Hafner, CEO of Kayak
- Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi
- Jeff Immelt, Former CEO of GE
- Jim Kock, founder of Boston Beer Company
- Martin Roper, founder of Vita Coco
- Bill Bain, founder of Bain & Company
- Jeff Jordan, CEO of Open Table
Most Infamous Alumni
- Rajat Gupta, insider trading (McKinsey)
- Jeffrey Skilling, Enron Scandal (McKinsey)
What Some Of These Famous People Learned In Their Time In Consulting
Many leaders of companies, governments and other institutions started their careers in consulting but have not spoken extensively about their experiences and what it taught them. Here are some various perspectives from different successful people on the impact of their consulting experience.
Grammy winner John Legend (BCG)
Many people don’t realize that John Legend graduated from an Ivy League school and spent the first two years of his career at Boston Consulting Group. Surprisingly he says this helped him immensely as he entered the music world:
“I learned a lot. I met a lot of great people, I’m still friends with a lot of those folks, too. I think it just ups your level of expectation for the kind of business you want to work with. And how you work in teams, how you come to good decisions as a team, and I think all of those things helped me in my career, as a musician.”
Former CEO of Pepsi, Indra Nooyi (BCG)
Indro Nooyi was the CEO of Pepsi and now works with the Yale School of Management as well as working with the state of Connecticut on the Covid-19 rollout.
She gives credit to her time in consulting for being able to become a CEO:
“I don’t think I could have gotten here without a strategy consultant background because it taught me inductive thinking. It taught me how to think of the problem in micro terms but also to zoom out and put the problem in the context of its broader environment and then zoom back in to solve the problem”
Jason Wright, President Washington Football Team
Jason Wright might have one of the most interesting backgrounds on these lists. He was a professional football player before going to grad school for an MBA and then becoming a Partner at McKinsey. He recently joined Washington’s Football team. When asked what he was bringing to football from McKinsey, he was quoted:
There’s obviously some very tactical things that will apply in helping various different organizations. Our team will be navigating, from an operational and strategic standpoint, and operating in the context of COVID-19. Every business in the world has been grappling with this and therefore, as an advisor to those businesses, I’ve helped them think through that. I can bring over the stuff that I talked about on changing organizational culture — those will come over. My familiarity with boosting financial performance? That will come over. There’s a lot of things that will come over. There’s a lot of things I’ll need to learn too. It’s not like I spend a lot of time advising on suite sales. When I was at McKinsey, there’s a lot to learn about relationships with sponsors and vendors and all of that stuff in the context of professional sports.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel (BCG)
Benjamin Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. After he graduated from MIT with a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science, he worked as an economic consultation with BCG.
Famously he worked with Mitt Romney while at Boston Consulting Group and when reflecting on the experience he described it as a “intellectually rigorous boot camp.”
Although he only spent a year there he credits being able to work closely with the firm’s founder, Bruce Henderson, as core to his ability to understand economics in a deep way
I thought that year that I spent there, in the presence of the founder of the Boston Consulting Group, who was a real genius. He was a very eccentric genius. His name was Bruce Henderson, and I remember that I came in on the first day, never been to a business thing.
I spent five years in the Army. I was an officer. I was a soldier and a commander in the Special Forces Unit. Went to MIT, finished my undergraduate, finished my graduate studies. Got into this consulting firm, and the first day Bruce Henderson is this, you know, very imposing figure. He must have been in his early 70s, a Virginian, he tells me, “Come inside, shut the door. Sit down.”
And he says, “You know, you’re not going to be here very long, because you’ll go back to your country. So, study everything can you here because one day it will help the State of Israel.”
And I thought, “This guy is bonkers. What is he talking about?” You know, I’m 27 years old, and he tells me to pick up what I can because it will help the State of Israel. He was absolutely right because I learned something about how economies grow. They grow with the firms. The firms make the economy. You have to make it profitable for the firms to grow the economy.
Peter Attia (McKinsey)
Peter Attia is a medical doctor, extreme athlete, scientist and now full-time entrepreneur. He felt there were three types of alums from top consulting firms and that he fell into the category of loving his time at the firm:
The McKinsey alums I talk to fall into three categories. Some alums say it was a horrible experience. I don’t think there are too many of those. I think there are a lot of people in the middle bucket who didn’t like it too much when they were there but are really glad they did it. I think there are people like me who are glad they did it and enjoyed every moment of it. I would say it was the professional highlight of my life. Certainly, it was the most amazing experience I’ve been a part of in terms of there being clarity about it being a meritocracy and a great system of values. For me, above all else, it was the most amazing mentorship experience you could have outside of a traditional apprenticeship.
Laszlo Bock, Former CHRO, Google (McKinsey)
Laszlo Bock wrote the famous book, Work Rules!, which detailed the innovative people operations practices that google implemented in the early 2000’s. He’s now gone on to run a startup, humu, but credits consulting for giving him a lot of experienced before he went to work at google:
“Consulting was like finishing school for MBAs,” Bock said in a telephone interview with IBD. “I felt I had a lot to learn. The courses I enjoyed the most (at Yale) were statistics and operations management. And McKinsey promised to move you around so you get to learn a lot of different things. It seemed like a great place to keep learning.”
Kewsong Lee, CEO of Carlyle Group
Less is the head of the famous Private Equity group with more than a quarter of a trillion dollars under management. He says, “I owe a lot to my experience at McKinsey, because I think it was quite formative.” It enabled him to develop a clear-thinking perspective to truly understand the very essence of a problem.”
Beyond that, he also found that his experience at McKinsey enabled him to think about large-scale organizational change:
Then there’s also the whole notion of being a catalyst for change and understanding what needs to happen in an organization to drive change. These were skills that I started to pick up at McKinsey. I’m trying to push Carlyle to have more lateral thinking, horizontal connectivity, and I imagine a management structure that is lateral as opposed to vertical in terms of execution. All of these ideas were really put into my brain in the four years I was at McKinsey.
Pete Buttigieg, Politician (McKinsey)
Pet Buttigieg, a mayor of South Bend, Indiana famously ran for president in 2020 and got a lot of pressure for his experience at McKinsey & Company early in his career. Buttigieg was an entry-level analyst and never seems to have worked on anything consequential but gives McKinsey credit for being able to make sense of information:
As a consultant at McKinsey, I learned the value of data and the ability to shape that information into an answer.