Daimler Qiao’s path to McKinsey was anything but ordinary.
He joined the firm two years ago as an Associate Partner from a major state-owned chemicals manufacturer, where he was vice president of their environmental business unit, a division that generates 5 billion renminbi in annual sales.
Before his stint at the state-owned firm, Daimler was a partner at another consulting firm, where he served state-owned giants in the resources sector. This followed a six-year stretch building Procter & Gamble’s supply chain system in China.
Since joining McKinsey, Daimler has devoted about two-thirds of his time to serving city governments and privately-owned real estate developers on urban planning topics. The rest of his time is focused on conducting operations transformations for clients in the power and mining sectors.
We recently caught up with Daimler in-between his busy client schedule to chat about how he’s handled the transition from corporate executive at one of China’s biggest state-owned companies to management consultant. He also shared how he balances a busy work schedule with spending quality time with his three young children, while writing (and publishing) historical novels in his spare time.
What kind of support did you get during your transition from the corporate world into the Firm?
I was lucky to have the support of Martin, my Development Group Leader (DGL)early on. He was a very senior executive at a multinational firm before joining McKinsey, so he could relate to my experience. The best piece of advice he gave me was to understand how McKinsey’s unique culture works, and how we get things done. He also suggested that I proactively reach out to other colleagues to build a network of support.
What kind of advice do you have for experienced hires trying to adjust to McKinsey?
First, learn to adapt quickly, regardless of how senior and successful you were with your last employer. McKinsey is a unique place where you can reshape your career, but you need to learn how to fit in.
Second, you have to be a fast learner to keep up with your colleagues. And third, be resilient: You’ll make mistakes, you’ll experience failure. Learn from your experiences because they’ll only make you stronger. The corporate world is totally different from consulting and experienced hires may take a little longer to fit in.
What surprised you the most when you first joined McKinsey?
I get to work with so many brilliant people at McKinsey, and the work I’m doing is extremely rewarding, but frankly it took me a while to adjust.
On my first study, I was impressed by how capable my team members were. After one team problem-solving call, I learned that about half of the pages in my deck needed to be reworked. This meant I had to re-do 20 pages – and in just one day!
I worked late at the office and of course I was completely exhausted. But then I discovered that my team members were quite used to doing that kind of work. You can imagine what a challenge it was for a 40-year-old like me, who had just joined the Firm from the corporate world, to just keep up with my younger colleagues.
How do you balance a busy work schedule with raising a family?
I’m away from home a few nights every week, so spending quality time with my family is very important to me. I like to play video games with my kids on our Xbox. When my kids beat me in the virtual world, they get a big sense of accomplishment from that.
You’ve published one novel and you’ve got another on the way. What inspired you to start writing?
My interest in writing started from my days in Xi’an, which I think is the most glorious ancient capital in human history. I visited the remains of the Wei Yang Palace (未央宫), where the emperors of the Han Dynasty lived. It’s six times bigger than the Forbidden City in Beijing. The scale of the palace impressed me so deeply, that I started back in 1997 to study the history of the Han Dynasty.
After years of conducting research and making several site visits, I decided to write a novel about the Han Dynasty that I hoped would help bring back to life the greatest era of Chinese history. Episode 1, “title goes here”, was published in August.
In 2015 Xin Hua Press released my first novel, “Moments of China” （江山浩然）. It touches on some of the topics in the news these days like the anti-corruption crackdown, the transformation of government, and environmental protection initiatives. The title is a tribute to Lin Yu Tang’s famous novel, “Moments of Peking（京华烟云）”, which covered some of the same themes that I wrote about in my book.