Creating enduring, positive change through tech and advanced analytics

From PhD and startup to McKinsey

My background combines artificial intelligence (AI) and chip design. Prior to joining McKinsey, I did a PhD in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Michigan while working on my AI chip startup company. I enjoy translating innovative ideas into reality, and realized my passion is to work on topics that improve the lives of people.

I had never considered a career in consulting. At the end of my PhD, I intended to pursue opportunities with a startup or in the tech industry. However, a connection with a McKinsey recruiter changed my life. I had extensive chats with the recruiting team and firm members; I was deeply impressed by the diversity and sincerity of the people with whom I spoke. I realized the breadth of the firm’s work would give me an unparalleled opportunity to explore and grow.

Since joining, I’ve discovered that qualities and skills from my PhD training in STEM research and engineering and my work experience with a startup are perfect for consulting. For example, my intellectual curiosity pushes me to dig deeper to solve complex problems under ambiguity.

Support to grow

McKinsey is an amazing place to learn and grow. In the first few months, I served clients in telecommunications, media & technology and semiconductors on different topics, such as digital transformation, infrastructure cost transformation, global growth strategy, and product go-to-market strategy. Every day, I tackle new challenges in areas outside of my comfort zone.

I’ve met and built relationships with several mentors and friends who have been the foundation of my transition into consulting. These colleagues provided feedback to help me improve and grow and set aside time to assure I adapted well to my projects and responsibilities. With their strong support, encouragement, and trust, I quickly developed expertise in new areas, such as financial modeling and analysis, and developed leadership capabilities. I love it because I can see my professional growth as I figure out and handle each new question. It is the most satisfying and rewarding part of being a consultant.

Pursuing passions and exploring opportunities

An entrepreneur at heart, I keep my innovative drive alive at McKinsey. For example, during one project in which we helped a telecom client in China cut costs and improve its sales and operations, I used advanced analytics to develop new solutions. The problem involved multiple entities and was difficult to model. The team soon realized traditional supply chain best practices were not suitable. We quickly adopted a divide-and-conquer approach and leveraged big data to deliver something completely new. Our new approach enabled our client to simultaneously optimize demand forecast, inventory strategy, and supply chain management using a single model. By presenting them with this end-to-end view, our client could identify the right strategy to balance their customer mix and achieve their cost transformation goal. Additionally, McKinsey has many exciting paths for me to explore. For example, I am currently helping an AI-powered retail company build the blueprint for their global expansion. The potential to learn new things, expand my expertise and grow can only happen at McKinsey.

To learn more about the Greater China office and opportunities, register for the Summer Reception here.

More about Alex

Alex is an associate in Shanghai. He holds a PhD in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Michigan. At McKinsey, Alex’s work focuses on digital, advanced analytics, and transformation and growth strategy for telecom, media & tech and advanced industries sectors.

Outside of work, Alex enjoys coffee, a glass of aged whiskey, traveling to new places (pre COVID-19) and meeting new friends.

Never miss another post

Receive new stories once a week directly in your inbox