THE EMERGENCE of "women power" is witnessed in almost every part of society these days. The percentage of women who pass the state examinations is increasing, and the number of female lawyers has exceeded one thousand. This phenomenon has led to a growing social recognition of women's status, and female leaders have emerged into the spotlight. At the center of such recognition is Kim Yong-ah ('92, Dept. of Business Admin.), a Partner (Principal) of McKinsey & Company, who tells us about her passion as a management consultant and the meaning of true leadership.
Annals: Tell us about your job as a management consultant.
Kim: I am currently a partner of McKinsey & Company. A partner is a person who participates in deciding important policies of the company. Our staff members usually work as a team when carrying out projects. My job is to supervise these teams, communicate with clients, and be responsible for the results of each project. Although McKinsey & Company's main consulting clients are companies seeking to produce profits, it also analyzes current issues that are considered important for society and suggests solutions to them, which can eventually have an impact on the public. Special projects aiming at the elimination of HIV in Africa or restoration of cities devastated by tsunamis are led by McKinsey and various nonprofit organizations in order to promote public welfare. Among such various kinds of projects, I was in charge of those related to the medical and financial sectors.
From 2002, I started a research about the medical system and services of Korea, and submitted the results to governmental organizations in the medical sector. Korea's medical service system has not developed as much as other advanced countries, and I realized that the whole medical system needed fundamental changes for more efficient management of hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. As an undiscovered field in this country, the medical sector had enough value to be studied. In addition, I was fascinated by the fact that a lot of patients could benefit from the development of the medical system. After finishing my work regarding the medical sector, I changed to finance. In this era of globalization and localization, the development of financial businesses will lead to market expansion and more employment. Eventually, it will become a decisive factor in a country's rise in global competitiveness. I hope that my work will contribute to Korea's emergence as a regional champion in Asia.
I also delivered speeches in many seminars or lectures about McKinsey's Women Korea project. It was the theme of my company in 2000, which emphasized making use of women power in society. We brought up many examples of women power in other countries, analyzed them, and suggested the prospective results of making use of women power.
Many Yonseians are interested in taking an MBA course. Having completed your MBA at Harvard Univ., can you share your experiences there?
After working three years for McKinsey & Company, I went to Harvard Univ. to take an MBA course. At Harvard, I studied and read real cases, and presented my opinions in class. Such experiences developed my debating skills and ability to express my opinions clearly. During the summer, I applied for internships in financial companies like Merrill Lynch or Morgan Stanley to learn practical business. In addition, a lot of celebrities and notable scholars came to Harvard to give lectures or attend seminars. There were so many great opportunities that I was always worried about which opportunity to choose and how to spend time meaningfully. But most importantly, I could understand more about people as a whole. During class, everybody gave a different opinion on the same case we studied. From this, I realized that it is important to accept diversity in backgrounds and perspectives in order to lead an organization harmoniously, and I try to apply this at work as well.
The MBA course gave me a lot of advantages even after I completed the course. When I first met clients or other important people, my MBA from Harvard became a great tool to make them trust me. Therefore, my experiences at Harvard not only developed my knowledge and skills, but also my career path. On the whole, those two years I spent at Harvard were a time of refreshment and intellectual growth for me.
Tell us about your college life at Yonsei Univ.
At the time I was attending school, there were about 400 students in the School of Business, which made it hard to get close to each other. In order to strengthen our cooperative spirit, our class (ban) decided to issue an anthology. The process of producing an outcome made us work hard, which enhanced our teamwork. It was interesting to find others' talents in writing, and we became very close friends. These experiences at Yonsei Univ. remain as joyful memories even now. I was also the leader of a marketing dongahree named MARP. I learned a lot about marketing, which helped me even after I graduated university. Especially, being a leader gave me precious opportunities to learn what leadership is and to build up confidence.
What are the special qualities needed to be a leader in this globalized era?
I believe that a leader should have high goals and provide his or her followers with a clear vision. Furthermore, an understanding of the human mind is indispensable. To make different people work towards a single goal, a leader should have excellent communication skills and the ability to inspire them to cooperate for a common goal. You should make others trust you through your words and actions. Another essential factor is forming a network with various kinds of people. This world is so complex and rapidly changing that no one can live by oneself. By creating your own network, you can receive support from others and succeed.
What kind of mindset do you need to achieve your dream?
My motto is "A dream that doesn't scare you is not a dream." I heard this memorable sentence in a lecture, and it still remains in my heart. I think it is very important to have a big dream, one that is great enough to scare you. A big dream is definitely very hard to achieve and often requires you to take risks. However, if taking those risks is valuable enough, it is worth doing. Also, we should always be ready and plan for the future. I once heard a professor asking, "What are you doing today to accomplish your dream after 10 years?" Although 10 years from now seems very distant, we have to seek for chances and start challenging them one by one from now on. To be the person one imagines now, it is important to check future plans and past achievements.
Any last words to Yonseians?
I think every Yonsiean should be proud of his or her school. Yonsei Univ. has a long history and has great influence over Korean society. Your seniors also are in prominent posts with a strong enough authority to change the entire country. After you graduate, you will notice that a strong bond called "Yonsei spirit" is unifying us all. Therefore, you should be confident. In addition, be a creative person. Before entering society, you should carry out experiments of your own and have diverse experiences to discover your dream. As Yonsei Univ. has an academic tradition of freedom and originality, I advise everyone to have diverse experiences at school and become the "one" in every field of society.