Meditation on McKinsey

2030 2

Earlier this year, our basement suffered from significant water damage (not fun 😒), and as I cleared out some old boxes in a closet that were affected, I found a Business Card, from more than two decades ago, and it brought back a whole stream of memories.

In 1993, I moved to a different apartment (I was single), Woodhawk Club, off McKinght Road, close to Ross Park Mall, and more importantly, to Mad Mex (and Taj Mahal). There I bumped into another single Indian chap, Chandru, also an undergraduate from IIT,  MBA from Wharton, who was working in the Pittsburgh office of McKinsey&Company

We played tennis on the weekend, and he would attend parties in my apartment with ample food and wine.

In 1994, I started to date GK (now my wife, spoiler alert😏), got engaged in 1995, but we had a long-distance relationship as she was working in Washington DC. Encouraged by my tennis buddy, GK interviewed at McKinsey one Friday during her Pittsburgh visit, around Thanksgiving in 1995, and before she reached back in DC on Sunday, she had an offer.😊

We were invited to McKinsey’s Chrsitmas Party in December 1995, where I sat next to then head of the Pittsburgh Office, Steve S. GK began as an Associate in January 1996 (and was made Partner in June 2000, at that time a record speed 😳, beating the previous holder, Lou Gerstner, who was by then the CEO of IBM).

In 1998, I was approached by a McKinsey Senior Partner Anjan C. (they were called Director then) to become a Consultant to the Firm, to advise teams in the areas of Lean Operations, JIT and Supply Chain Management. I happily agreed. This was facilitated by then recent Tepper MBA alums who were in my OM classes, Aurobind S. and Shubham S., both IIT-alums, who are now Senior Partners at McKinsey.

During these years, I made many friends at McKinsey, including Laxman N. (now CEO of Reckitt Benckiser) and Vivek S. (now CEO of Albertsons).

In 1999, McKinsey approached CMU for a custom executive education program at the intersection of technology (the Internet, really) and business, with a focus on Supply Chain Management. This program was a lot of fun, and several of us faculty, got to travel all over the world. My three favorite spots to do McKinsey exec-ed:

Kitzbühel, Austria; Munich, Germany; Stockholm, Sweden.

In 2000, when I decided to found SmartOps Corporation, I raised an angel round. 

The first angel was Jane K., previously a Partner at McKinsey, and more than 50% of the more than $1 million investment came from McKinsey folks, including Steve and Anjan (and Rajat G., who was then the Managing Director of McKinsey). 

Steve also became an Observer on my Board, and introduced me to Bill K., then CEO of Wabtec, who also became an investor, and joined the Board of SmartOps. (Both Steve and Bill are Ops MBAs from U. Chicago, now Booth.)

AJ (a Cornell alum, Engineering, like me and HBS MBA), who was one of the associates in the exec-ed program, joined me at SmartOps, and was the chief architect of the SAP-SmartOps partnership. Martin B., another Cornell Engineering alum (and Wharton MBA), who was an associate in the Pittsburgh office, joined SmartOps in 2001, to lead our “consultative sales” approach.

We decided to raise VC money in 2001, and I was put in touch with Joe M., then head of venture arm at Hillman Corporation (now head of Hillman), a friend of Steve, and previously at McKinsey. Joe said that Hillman rarely invested directly, but instead, were Limited Partners, the money behind the money, in several VC and PE firms (including General Atlantic and KKR), and locally, at Adams Capital Management. In 2001, ACM made a Series A investment into SmartOps, Joel A. (Tepper MBA alum) joined the SmartOps Board, and we were off to the races.

In 2013, we sold SmartOps to SAP, and Martin B. led that exit negotiations, and then joined SAP as a senior executive in their global supply chain.

In 2011, I created a social enterprise OrganJet, and was wondering how best to scale it. In the US Healthcare system, one needs to connect with the payers in some meaningful way.

Paul M., then head of global health insurance practice, a McKinsey Senior partner, previous head of the Pittsburgh office, someone I have known since 1997, introduced me to Don F., the Chief Medical Officer at Highmark.

Paul also connected me to Regina H., a remarkable professor at HBS (Paul’s alma mater) who is on the Board of several Healthcare firms, who teaches a super popular MBA elective (and also attracts students from HKS), who made OrganJet a student project in her course in 2014.😊

A 3-person student team from her class did an amazing project and created the Business case for why private insurance should embrace OrganJet, which I forwarded to Highmark, who created an internal team to redo the analysis, on their data, and upon completion, agreed with the recommendation.

The leader of the HBS student group, Pooja G., rejoined McKinsey as an Associate after her MBA, previously having been a Business Associate after her undergrad (at CMU). Her dad is a fellow Charter Member in TiE-Pittsburgh. It is a small, small world.

When we lived in Weston, for several years, one of the parents I met in my kids’ school was Navjot S., head of the Boston McKinsey office (also IIT-alum), who held monthly get-togethers (good food and wine, of course😏) at his house, also in Weston, where we were invited, to hear invited speakers who were thought leaders in:

Driverless Cars, Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain. 

Returning back to Pittsburgh, in 2017, GK and I were having coffee at Sewickley Starbucks one morning, when an Indian man approached us, and asked (my wife):

Are you GK?


I am also Gunjan K. Heard about you for many years, and I wanted to introduce myself.

He is the current head of Pittsburgh McKinsey office (and Senior Partner, and IIT-alum). We have become fast friends now and enjoy excellent wine and food together on a regular basis.

The OR/OM PhD students at Tepper (in non COVID times) created a student-conference, YinzOR Student Conference at CMU. It needed funds. So, who was a major benefactor of that in 2019? You guessed it:


What about my basement? I am happy to report that it is now fixed.


  1. Enjoyed reading it as usual. You are uniquely gifted in remembering all the names and affiliations (not only in this issue, of course).

  2. Interesting!!

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