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Shelbi Hendricks '16: Attending McKinsey’s Women’s Undergraduate Summit Confirms One Student’s Career Focus

Shelbi Hendricks ’16 didn’t go directly home after she completed her six-week London internship. The business administration and psychology double major from Louisville, Kentucky flew to New York City to participate in the McKinsey & Company Women’s Undergraduate Summit, which was held July 26.

When Hendricks came to Washington and Lee University, she thought she wanted to go into industrial and organizational psychology. Businesses conduct research on employee behavior and use “I-O psychology” to determine the best ways to hire, train, and assess their workers.

“I thought the two degrees would really complement each other, and while each does enhance the other, over time I realized I was focusing more on the business side,” said Hendricks. “The psychology will always be important though. Business is still about dealing with people.”

These days, Hendricks plans to pursue a career in consulting. She spent the spring term in Copenhagen, taking Corporate Social Responsibility with accounting professor Elizabeth Oliver and business administration professor Rob Straughan. Their class project was done in partnership with Deloitte Denmark. From Copenhagen, Hendricks went to London where she interned with the business development team of an engineering and strategic consulting firm, Parsons Brinckerhoff. Both experiences helped Hendricks get a better feel for the consulting field.

According to Consulting Magazine, women make up only a quarter of all consulting professionals. The hours are long and consultants, particularly those who are in the early stages of their careers, can expect to be on the road every week. Women who want to start families can find it difficult to balance competing priorities at work and home.

Global management consulting firms like McKinsey are aware of these challenges and are doing what they can to recruit and retain exceptional women. To that end, McKinsey launched the Undergraduate Women’s Summit to introduce talented collegiate women to the consulting profession. The one-day program, which takes place in New York, offers an industry overview, guest speakers and case studies that help sophomore and junior women see how their problem-solving skills could be applicable in a consulting career.

“Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it’d be very formal—mainly a recruiting forum for both us and them. But that’s not what it was like at all,” said Hendricks. “It was very interactive.”

McKinsey introduced the summit’s participants to female staffers who work as both business analysts and associates and who are based in the New York office as well as offices in New Jersey, Houston and Dallas.

“They were these incredible women who were doing exactly what I want to be doing in two years,” said Hendricks.

Much of the afternoon was dedicated to working on a case study. The McKinsey staff showed Hendricks and the rest of her cohort how to apply the “McKinsey formula” to business problems, and guided the young women through real-world scenarios. By the end of the afternoon, each group had put together a brief presentation that summarized their recommendations. For Hendricks, the entire experience was inspiring and cemented her desire to go into consulting.

“I learned so much, and it was so great to see these women and what they were doing,” said Hendricks. “There’s definitely a place for women in consulting. You just have to be comfortable with who you are.”