There’s no one particular qualification, and you can shape your own direction along the way.
Mette Hindborg Gade
Associate Partner
McKinsey

Facts

  • Mette Hindborg Gade
  • 31 years (1986)
  • Master's in Engineering from DTU
  • Associate Partner
  • McKinsey
  • Married
  • One son, aged 1
  • Lost 8 Blackberry phones during the first year at McKinsey

The future is all about relationships

It isn’t the skills she gained from her master’s qualification that Mette Gade values the most. It is the ability to build relationships. She believes this will also be the most important skill in the future.

“You can never automate empathy and the ability to create relationships, which is why they will be some of the most important skills in the future. The world is becoming more and more changeable, so it’s all about being able to think creatively, solve problems and, above all, create relationships.”

Mette knows from her own experience that it can be a good idea to learn the technically difficult at an early stage and acquire the soft ones later. Not everyone should be an engineer, but according to Mette, it’s OK to be a bit nerdy. She also believes that technology will be an inevitable part of all qualifications in the future.

“There’s no one particular qualification, and you can shape your own direction along the way. The most important thing is to navigate according to what makes sense and challenges you, because then you become more resilient. You have to be so passionate about what you do that you don’t realise it’s got dark.”

The goal is interaction

Mette likes to explain management consulting by saying she solves big problems for large companies. Unpacked, it’s a little more complex, with technical and financial analyses, strategy implementation and navigation in management dynamics. At other times it involves creating a more alternative foundation for interaction.

“We can come up with all the analyses we like, but they don’t help unless we can get people to play together. In one of my first projects at McKinsey, we had to get two organisations to work together. They only became a single unit when I had them play football with mixed teams.”

Mette Gade scored zero for respect for authority when she was once personality tested, and she had no idea about the consulting industry when she went to DTU. She ended up at McKinsey via an old friend and today knows that success in the industry depends more on the ability to solve complicated challenges than a specific type of professionalism.

Take your place

“It’s also about taking your place. As a junior partner in the consulting industry, it’s distinctly not an advantage to be blonde and look young, like I do. That’s why I’ve worked on my posture and how I fill a room. For example, I stand up a lot.”

Mette Gade has always been careful never to allow herself to be limited either by gender or appearance. But she has nevertheless been amused to encounter assumptions about her position in the hierarchy that don’t quite match the facts. Upon closer acquaintance, some clients have also admitted that they almost automatically underestimated “the young blonde one” at first glance.

“As soon as the dialogue starts, the dynamics always change, but appearances are important. I encourage our younger consultants to be aware of this. Natural humility is appropriate, but it’s important not to make excuses for yourself. Women in particular should challenge ourselves and take up a little more space – especially when we commit ourselves to top management positions.”

Gender roles at home

Mette Gade’s approach to tasks is both scientific and human. She is the mediating middle child with a structured engineer as a father and an empathetic specialist educator as a mother. In her own marriage, the roles are the opposite; the engineer is married to a school teacher.

“We have very different professions but very similar values. We both want to help other people to develop. Only our target groups are different. Gender roles, status and level of education have never been an issue with us, and we have each spent six months on parental leave with our son.” It helps Mette Gade’s career to be married to a schoolteacher who has slightly more humane working hours than she does. He’s also a great help in keeping track of Mette’s stuff, because she is constantly distracted and often loses things – everything from keys to mobile phones.