Profile with Elizabeth Young McNally

Elizabeth Young McNally

Elizabeth Young McNally (Connecticut & Worcester 2000) is an Associate Principal at the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.  Prior to joining McKinsey four and a half years ago, Ms. McNally spent 8 years in the U.S. Army, which included two year-long tours to Iraq. She currently lives in New York with her husband, John, and their two children. Ms. McNally holds an MPhil in International Relations from the University of Oxford, and B.S. degrees in International Relations and History from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Rhodes Project: What is your favorite thing to do in New York?

Elizabeth Young McNally: Currently, my favorite thing to do in New York is to stand under the big whale at the American Museum of Natural History with my two children. My son is a toddler and he absolutely loves to explore that room in the Museum, and I love the fact that when we’re in it, we don’t feel like we’re in the city. It’s this oasis, and the energy of just being in there is one of my favorite things right now.

Rhodes Project: What was the first job you ever held?

Elizabeth Young McNally: During the summer when I was in high school, I would work in the hospital where my father worked. I did everything from filing medical records to answering phones to making copies. Basically, just  being on the ground level and seeing how a hospital works.  And before that, I baby sat.

Rhodes Project: What was the last book you read for pleasure?

Elizabeth Young McNally: The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass. And I’m currently reading The Round House. A couple of years ago, I realized I wasn’t reading enough, so I decided one of my goals would be to read the winner of the National Book Award every year.  Baby steps!

Rhodes Project: When you were a child, what did you aspire to be later in life?

Elizabeth Young McNally: I think this shows my varied interests and my desire to do a lot. When I was little, I wanted to be a lawyer, a doctor, a mom, and a ballerina -- all at once.

Rhodes Project: What is the best part of your job now?

Elizabeth Young McNally: There are two parts of my job that I really love. I work as a management consultant. I love working one-on-one with clients on some of their most important issues. Helping them address their challenges and take their organizations to the next level is very gratifying. I also love acting as a mentor within the Firm, especially to other young women who are coming up the ranks.  Forming those relationships is something else I both find very gratifying and feel is my responsibility to do.

Rhodes Project: What would you say is the most challenging part of your job?

Elizabeth Young McNally: I think the most challenging part of the job is just how demanding it is.  It is a daily struggle to try to fit everything in, and know what trade-offs to make in order to get the job done at the level I want, but also stay within the confines of how much I want to work so I can still be present at home.

Rhodes Project: What advice would you give to a young woman in your field?

Elizabeth Young McNally: I’d tell her that while you can’t have it all, you can have a lot. And a few lessons will help you have a lot.  Number one, I do espouse what Sheryl Sandberg says, “Don’t leave before you leave.” I think that a lot of women worry so much about how we are going to accomplish our work when we have kids long before actually have kids. I certainly did. I now realize that while you can be strategic to some degree about what job you do, you shouldn’t over-think it; you’ll figure it out when it happens. Take life a day at a time. Number two, some advice that someone gave to me once was, there’s no good time professionally to have children. Figure out when the right time is for you personally, and do that. Number three, think long and hard about who you decide to marry or partner with. I think that person will have probably the largest impact on your life, on your happiness, and on how much you are able to accomplish. I am very fortunate that my husband is a really remarkable person, and I wish that for other women as well.

Rhodes Project: If you could have lunch with one famous female figure, who would it be and why?

Elizabeth Young McNally: Hillary Clinton. I have always been fascinated by her, and I think she would be a really interesting person to get to know better. I would like to better understand her journey and the lessons she has learned along the way.

Rhodes Project: What do you do for you?

Elizabeth Young McNally: The two things I still try very hard to find time to do are cook and scrapbook. I love to cook, so I try to carve out time to do that. And like many a young mother, I’ve become a pretty prolific scrapbooker. I do the online photo scrapbooks, and I have a lot of fun doing those.

Rhodes Project: What brings you the most joy in your life?

Elizabeth Young McNally: Without a doubt, watching my children when they are truly happy. And just watching them grow and develop is by far the greatest joy I’ve ever experienced.

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