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A Formula that Works: The Story of McKinsey in Costa Rica

MARCH 10th 2020

*Article published by Nearshore Americas. 


McKinsey & Company is, without question, one of the most influential consulting firms in the world. Of its 30,000 colleagues (the preferred term for employees at the organization),  almost 1,100 work at the firm’s Costa Rica delivery site. That makes it one of the biggest by headcount around the globe, offering services in a wide range of areas – from visual graphics and media to IT, research analytics, and new ventures.

But for Robert Tesoriero, Senior Manager of Research and Analytics at McKinsey in Costa Rica, the metric that matters far more than headcount is the value generated by accelerating processes and harvesting the innovation that comes from having a diversified team working together under the same roof.

“The magic happens when you have those evolving capabilities sitting under one roof. These people talk. They talk in the kitchen; they talk in the café. I think we have a really nice environment, which is conducive to collaboration. If you go to any other of our offices, you don’t have as much diversity as we have here, in terms of our different teams and what they’re doing,” Tesoriero told Nearshore Americas in an interview at their site in Ultrapark II, a business center in Heredia, Costa Rica.

The seven-story building the firm occupies is also emblematic of its Costa Rica journey. When McKinsey & Company first started operations, ten years ago, it had one floor in a shared building with only 50 colleagues.

“I think we have a very unique environment here. When you walk into our location here, it feels like McKinsey, and I’ve been in five different offices,” Tesoriero said.

And it is McKinsey, with a Costa Rican touch. With decorations that include traditional tile patterns from San José’s historic architecture, as well as pictures and inspiring allusions to the country’s natural beauties, the building manages to merge the company’s global and local identities. We talked with Tesoriero on a floor dedicated to Costa Rica’s most famous beaches, which has a fantastic view of San José’s skyline and mountains.

“We came here ten years ago -I know you probably hear this from many folks who have large operations in Costa Rica, particularly in shared services- because of the talent,” Tesoriero remarked.

Complexity and Career Paths

McKinsey’s service lines continue to evolve. Tesoriero says originally the role of the Costa Rica center was focused on supporting McKinsey’s consultants worldwide. Now, at times local teams are part of the consulting practice and support the company’s customers.

In the research area, which houses an analytics solution, data engineers work directly with clients. The visual graphics team went from preparing PowerPoint slides and reacting to consultants sending sketched pages, to “becoming consultants to the firm’s consultants” on how to communicate more effectively with clients.

“It’s difficult to predict what functions will expand,” Tesoriero said. “One function that we see that continues to grow quite rapidly is our executive assistants. These essentially help with the scheduling and planning for our senior firm leaders and also our consultants. So, planning meetings, planning travel, etc.”

“I’d say we are going to continue to see more client-facing, client-enabled capabilities here, and the sophistication of that continuing. So deeper experts, more sophisticated data scientists, more sophisticated data engineers,” he added.

The collaboration and the diversity of the teams are key factors in driving innovation.  “Innovation between analytics and one of our industry research teams, between visual graphics and one of our research teams on how to better do development of new clients. That innovation, because we are so diverse and under one roof, I think it will really be a big thing for us going forward,” Tesoriero said.

This increasing complexity and innovation are also a byproduct of the commitment McKinsey’s has made in talent recruiting and training, which includes career path support.

“With that evolution is also coming the evolution of our people. So, they are following career tracks, making it here at McKinsey, and some of them actually moving out of Costa Rica to other offices as well, in Europe, in North America or Latin America,” the senior manager said.

The Role of Automation

In an environment that continues to become more sophisticated, what role is automation playing? Tesoriero says that the first approach has been through the introduction of chatbots to assist the IT helpdesk.

They have also implemented automation in logistics tasks, for instance, when needing to replace a broken laptop for a consultant.

“If we have a consultant that has a broken laptop at a client site, it’s a huge cost to us in terms of the impact that a person can have by then not having the right tools. So, we now have a process where we can just ship a laptop very quickly, and they literally open the laptop, and it’s ready in 30 minutes. It automatically sets up, whereas previously, it required a lot of setup time,” Tesoriero said.

At the moment, the Costa Rica operations leverage automation to reduce transactional tasks and focus on more complex processes.

“We’re not seeing people who’ve been displaced from their roles. In fact, what we’re seeing is people actually getting some of the transactional work taken away from their plate, and then they’re able to focus on the more sophisticated and more challenging type of work, which given the Millenials and the type of folks we have here is working very well,” Tesoriero said.

The Costa Rica Experience

Originally from Australia, Tesoriero has been living in Costa Rica’s Central Valley for over nine years now.

“I’ve been in McKinsey for 20 years. I started in London, actually, and I’ve moved around quite a bit. I’ve been based in Australia, in Boston, Singapore. And personally, Costa Rica is a great place. My family is very happy here. We have a great life here,” he said.

“We’ve actually now had a big discussion in the household because I’ve just taken on a global role where I’m not only overseeing a team here in Costa Rica, I’m also now leading teams in Boston, Poland, two in India, and one in China. So, there was actually an opportunity to relocate. But, given the excitement that we have here in our location, and also how personally attached we are to Costa Rica, we do plan to stay here,” he said.

Not everything is perfect, of course. Tesoriero’s main complaint is the traffic challenges in and around San Jose. It has an impact on the employees’ quality of life, and also in the costs of logistics.

However, McKinsey’s Senior Manager of Research and Analytics in the country, thinks that Costa Rica’s Central Valley has a unique ecosystem for the shared services industry.

“It’s a very well-connected ecosystem, and I’ve been in other shared service center centers in different parts of the world, and it doesn’t feel as collegial as it feels here,” he said.

For him, that is one of the reasons that, despite the vast quantity of multinationals operating in the country, there is still no saturation. “You could think of the industry as competing for talent, but you could also think of the industry as jointly developing a talent pool. We’re all pushing the envelope in terms of what we’re doing, and that’s developing all the talent here,” he concluded.