Rising Star 🚀: He has learned from the best at McKinsey, Harvard and Revolut. Today Philip lives in Silicon Valley and works for one of the most promising Fintech companies

21/02/2021 Graduateships Min.

Education

2012-2015: Copenhagen Business School, BSc International Business
2017-2019: Harvard Business School, MBA

Experience

2015-2017: Business Analyst, McKinsey & Company
2018: Senior Summer Associate, Antler
2019-2020: Senior Manager, Revolut
2020-Now: Chief of Staff, Nova Credit

I’m originally from a small city called Kalundborg 100km from Copenhagen. I lived there my entire youth and teenage years and I had what I guess you can call a very normal childhood. I played quite a bit of Handball and ended up playing at a high-level. I think it’s an interesting point, because I wasn’t particularly gifted, but I was very committed and trained a lot. I really enjoyed the feeling of caring about something and being on a team which has the same purpose as you.  This feeling is something I have carried with me in my career. 

 

What I also found was that I was able to replicate my approach to handball to my studies and my professional life. It enabled me to step it up a notch in high-school and then afterwards in University. 

 

Gaining an international perspective as part of GLOBE

 

As a kid, I’d never traveled outside Europe, but it was something I knew I wanted to do once I finished high-school. I read about a programme called GLOBE which was part of the International Business BSc at CBS. It also had the highest GPA at the time in Denmark and overall an attractive programme. 

 

While studying I was fortunate enough to have the chance to study in the US and Hong Kong. It really widened my perspective on the world and I started to think more about what I wanted to do once I graduated. I started to look at people that I aspired to be like and I was keen on applying my learnings instead of just continuing to my MSc. 

 

Building out his toolbox at McKinsey

 

I decided to apply for McKinsey after my BSc at CBS. I have always wanted to try and work in consulting and thought it would be a great place to start my career.  Once again I was able to find a culture similar to what I found when i played handball. There was this feeling of being on a team with the objective of winning. 

 

McKinsey is an amazing place to start out your career: You get access to the C-suite of the biggest organizations in the world and work with them on some of their top priorities with top-notch colleagues. In terms of starting out your career professionally, there’s really no better academy than there. With that being said, I do think the role as a management consultant tends to be overly glorified. You have to put in a lot of hours and you often don’t get to see the fruits of you labor as you move onto the next project before the strategy you worked on is rolled out. You can still build an amazing career at McKinsey long term, but for me I was more intrigued to move in another direction.

In terms of starting out your career professionally, there’s really no better academy than McKinsey
Philip Sørensen on working at McKinsey

While working I got the opportunity to travel around Europe and work with a lot of different clients. It was obviously a lot of hard work and in some ways I do think that working at these renowned companies are overly glorified. 

Accepted into Harvard Business School

 

I learned a ton from McKinsey, but I was always curious to know what else was out there. For me life is really a sequence of experiences and I think it’s about taking a step at a time and enjoy the different chapters. Long term planning can end up becoming more constraining than enabling. 

The biggest difference in studying in Denmark vs The US was the focus on solving cases as a team. In Denmark I feel like classes and exams are more focused on individual performance, which is very far from how real-world problems are solved. 
Philip Sørensen on studying at Harvard

I started to explore universities and knew that I wanted to study abroad. I applied to Harvard Business School and was lucky to get in. It was an amazing experience, particularly due to the people I met during my studies. The biggest difference in studying in Denmark vs The US was the focus on solving cases as a team. In Denmark I feel like classes and exams are more focused on individual performance, which is very far from how real-world problems are solved. 

 

As part of my studies I also did a summer internship in Singapore at a startup incubator called Antler. It was the first time I was really involved in a scrappy startup experience. Unlike my time at McKinsey I felt how important execution is vs creating perfect analysis and presentations. That really appealed to me. In the start-up world, you’re solving for speed of iteration. That means that your first draft should never be perfect – very different from modus operandi from management consulting.

 

Revolutionizing fintech with Revolut

 

I had been exploring startups in the fintech space and had a keen eye for the banking sector and the disruptions that were going on. I managed to land a role with Revolut which was originally founded in London, but was looking to expand to the US. When I joined we were around 5 people and over the course of my time grew to 60 people in the US only. 

 

Not to sound like a broken record, but once again I got the feeling of being part of a team. I really enjoyed the way of working and the culture which existed. The culture has been scrutinised a lot by the media, but for me it was a great experience. It was an intense culture for sure, but also a culture where you were rewarded if you focused on execution and getting shit done. You were able to get a lot of responsibility at a young age and I got more responsibility than I would have gotten in a more normal company. 

 

I highly recommend joining a company at this hyper growth stage. You will be able to learn so much and get to work with some truly exceptional people along the way. 

For me life is really a sequence of experiences and I think it's about taking a step at a time and enjoy the different chapters. Long term planning can end up becoming more constraining than enabling. 
Philip Sørensen

A Framework for career decision-making

 

One of my professors at Harvard, Jeff Bussgang, has developed a framework for the different stages of start-up, helpful for making career decisions. Think of start-ups as three different types of roads. They all provide different learnings, so its important to think through what you want to get out of it. 

 

 

  • In the Jungle: This is the really early stage of a company’s life cycle,  where you are in the jungle and trying to pave a way through 
  • Dirt Road: You are now out of the jungle and on to the dir road. Its still not smooth sailing, but you have some kind of product market fit. This is roughly where Nova Credit is (my current job) 
  • Highway: You are now out of the woods and have found product market fit. Its all about growth now and just hammering through. This would be the stage Revolut was at when I joined 

 

The right-hand person to the CEO at Nova Credit

 

Currently I’m working as a Chief of Staff at Nova Credit which is a SF based fintech startup. We recently raised 50 million USD and are now looking to scale the product further. I was looking to join a company at this stage and found that I was a really good match with the company and the values of the founders. 

 

In my role I’m basically the CEOs right hand and I work on a lot of different projects. You can say the objective of my role is to increase the CEOs capacity with 100%.  I really enjoy the role and its super interesting to work with the leadership team on everything from our product strategy to our recruiting strategies. . 

 

What do you want to do in the next 5 years?

 

I’m really happy where I am right now and I still have a ton to learn, but referring to my framework above then I do want to try out the “Jungle” path at some point. The idea of creating something from scratch is very appealing to me and a chapter I need to try out at some point.

 

What are the common traits you see in the best people you have worked with?

 

I would say that analytical skills and managerial abilities are table stakes for the places I have been. At McKinsey you simply need to be really good analytically and likewise at Revolut or Harvard you need to have certain skills. 

 

What I found that set the best apart is empathy. You need to have the ability to understand other people without them having to say something to you explicitly. You need to be able to inspire people through your actions. Thats what I have found in the best leaders I have worked with. I don’t think certain personalities make great leaders. Our CEO at Revolut was for an example not the most outspoken, but he still managed to get the best out of his team. You can only scale through people and to build a successful enterprise, you need scale.

10 rapid-fire questions

 

1. How much do you sleep?

7-8 Hours. Sleep is super important to me.

2. Favourite Book?

Promised Land by Barack Obama

3. Do you believe in god?

No, but I do believe there is something larger than life

4. Do you feel lucky?

Extremely fortunate. 

5. Best piece of advice for talents?

Be comfortable being uncomfortable

6. Do you meditate?

No but I should

7. Who are people you admire?

Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is a force of nature and has a great attitude towards life. 

8. What is your super power?

I’m very adaptable and can adjust to most environments quickly.

9. What is your best and worst habit

Best habit: I call my family frequently

Worst habit: I’m quite bad at answering messages

10. Something you believe to be true that others don’t

I think inequality is very bad. It has the potential to undermine the foundation for our society.