“If you take the Armenian out of me, there is nothing there. I am an Armenian through and through. Not a day goes by when my heritage doesn’t connect me with someone new.”
Ari Libarikian’s expertise and counsel is in high demand among the heads of the world’s largest insurers. He is as passionate about solving problems as he is articulate in conveying them.
Libarikian advises insurers on growth, business-performance improvement, operations and technology at the leading multinational management consulting firm McKinsey and Company. Based in New York, he heads the Northeast division of McKinsey’s global business technology practice and the firm’s global insurance analytics practice.
In our conversation, Libarikian talks about his jump from engineering to consulting, his advice to young professionals striving for success and his reasons for donating to AGBU.
What was your childhood like?
My childhood was great. I was born in Athens to Armenian parents from Lebanon, but traveled extensively across the region as a young boy. My father was an executive at Kodak and took the family from Beirut to Athens, from Dubai to Cairo. As I grew up, my interest in engineering led me across the Atlantic to North America where I studied as an undergraduate at McGill University in Montreal and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. At first, I thought I would continue in a doctoral program, but I was too eager to put my knowledge into practice.
How did you go from engineering to consulting at McKinsey?
I was always motivated to find a career opportunity that would put me in a position to solve problems and have game-changing impact. By the time I graduated I realized that the scope of impact I can create at a place like McKinsey is much bigger than if I were to pursue the engineering path. In the span of a year, I can work on a variety of different engagements, ranging from strategy development to organizational redesign across industries, interacting with people with unique experiences from every region of the globe, all in the spirit of pursuing significant impact for clients. For me, it really has been a fascinating experience, particularly to be able to have gained such a breadth of experience so quickly.
What advice would you give to young professionals?
I’ve been a senior partner for the past three years and have enjoyed the opportunity to have an impact on my colleagues’ professional development by helping them determine their next career steps. I urge young professionals to be very thoughtful about the early years of their career. Specifically, I like to give three pieces of advice for a successful and fulfilling career.
First, I recommend choosing a role early in your career to maximize your professional development. Compensation, location, and industry are clearly important, but in the early years of a career, make an investment in yourself and in your future–pick something that will help you develop.
Second, work with inspirational colleagues. That will give you a lot of energy and you will accomplish so much more. You will also apprentice in being a mentor yourself, which you can pass on to the next generation. Lastly, focus on a field that is best suited to your skills and your conscience. Find something that lies in the intersection of your passion and skills.
What does your Armenian heritage mean to you?
If you take the Armenian out of me, there is nothing there. I am an Armenian through and through. Not a day goes by when my heritage doesn’t connect me with someone new.
Some of the strongest connections I made occurred in 1999 during the AGBU New York Summer Internship Program (NYSIP), where I bonded with thirty other young Armenians with diverse backgrounds from various corners of the world. The program allowed me to build a global network of really close friends. Until this day some of my best friends are the Armenians I met during my AGBU internship program. In the evenings, everybody got together, shared their life and work experiences and built bonds for life.
Beyond NYSIP, what has been your connection to AGBU?
Part of my Armenian upbringing included my family’s close involvement with AGBU. My mother, Sylva, is a prominent leader in the AGBU community, serving as the chairperson of AGBU Lebanon Education Committee (2008-2015) and more recently as the Secretary of AGBU Lebanon District Committee. My father Levon, was also active in AGBU, playing basketball with the Antranik team in Lebanon from 1964-1972.
Along with my wife Luba, I have continued that tradition by financially supporting AGBU schools in Lebanon. We do this because we want to do our part in helping the Armenian community in Lebanon, one that is so critical for the global Armenian community. We recognize the impact of the Syrian crisis on both the many families in the region and the school system and would like to help the school as much as possible during this time of great need. We hope, ultimately, that our donations will help many children get a quality education that will form the basis for a happy and successful life and provide a degree of relief to their families along the way.