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Jane Z. Lee

Jane Lee, an associate based in Singapore, works in youth leadership across Asia.

What has been your journey to where you are today in McKinsey?

I’m a consultant based in the Singapore office, and I’ve been at McKinsey for nearly three years now. Just before joining the firm, I studied for an MBA at Yale. Before that, I was a full-time mountain climber. I admit that this is probably not a typical career path into consulting!

I caught the climbing bug on a hiking trip in Nepal, when I was 18, and never looked back. Since then, my expeditions have included the world’s seven highest peaks. In 2009, I led the first team of Singapore women to scale Mount Everest successfully.

Singapore has always been my home, but I also love traveling, and I serve clients across Asia. One of my personal passions is developing youth leadership. It’s been great to continue pursuing this goal at McKinsey.

What can McKinsey bring to addressing societal challenges?

We bring our people and our values. Whatever we’re doing, we are always thinking about how to make things better, trying to imagine new possibilities and what “best” looks like. Going above and beyond—over-delivering—is in our DNA.

Our firm’s values include putting our clients’ interests first, maintaining an independent perspective, and upholding the obligation to dissent, so it’s natural that our people want to take on society’s toughest challenges.

Fundamentally, McKinsey people are dreamers. We push the boundaries and try to foresee a better future. This is true whether we’re serving a private-sector client or a public- or social-sector organization.

Is there a project that you are particularly proud of?

The societal challenge I’m most passionate about is youth leadership. In my experience, children in Singapore can grow up with quite narrow perspectives and, often, little appetite for risk or spirit of adventure. That is one of the reasons I first started mountain climbing—to challenge and stretch myself. After a while, I found that I could use the experience of my journey to conquer Mount Everest to inspire and motivate other young people in Singapore and beyond. Everyone has an Everest!

Given my passion for this topic, I was so excited when I joined a new project the firm was undertaking to help an Asian government build social commitment among the country’s youth. The country already had a volunteering program for young people, but it was ad hoc in nature. We helped to develop a strategy to nurture young leaders prepared and committed to becoming the catalysts for change in their communities.

This led to the creation of the Youth Corps, a flagship program for youth volunteering in the country. The organization equips teams of young people with skills to design and deliver projects that address a wide range of social needs such as elderly care, environmental issues, and at-risk youth mentoring. In late 2014, we helped run the first pilot, with around 100 students. The Youth Corps has already produced over 350 young volunteers and now has a full-time staff of 28 people itself.

So McKinsey has enabled me to have an impact at scale on the societal challenge that is closest to my heart!

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