Helping clients streamline manufacturing, increase clothing sales, define a smartphone photo component, and more

I have always been a hands-on person. I used to fix my car, write scripts to build a smart home, and I even took my own wedding photos. When a McKinsey recruiter contacted me about an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) consulting role and said I could make recommendations and help clients execute them, I was immediately hooked. The role involved designing digital transformation blueprints for clients and helping them deliver and sustain results so I was all in.

Making things real

Before McKinsey, I had admittedly stereotyped management consultants to be people who purely made and presented slides. However, after joining, I realized I was very wrong.

At the firm, I work with teams and clients to generate ideas and bring them to life. For example, I worked closely with a group of user experience (UX) designers and software developers to create a software used on a factory shop floor to improve manufacturing efficiency. I also designed a product segmentation framework that improved the sales of a luxury clothing brand. I now take pictures on my smartphone using a client’s component that our team helped define and manage. Working with clients on execution is the most rewarding part of my job.

Making things real is beyond making the product itself. A UX designer once said, “One thing I like about McKinsey is you streamline the process before making the software.” In McKinsey’s IIoT Hub, we treat digital solutions as a way to standardize, sustain and scale positive impact. For example, before designing a digital solution that works on a touchscreen or tablet, I work with the clients to prepare a standard process on the shop floor with whiteboards, pen and paper—everything is very hands on, which I love.

The best teams make a difference

The best part about McKinsey Implementation is collaborating with and learning from diverse colleagues and clients at all levels. My mornings usually start by checking in with shop floor teams to review production performance. Later in the day, I join a problem-solving meeting with the client CEO. I love the work because I can influence mindsets, behaviors and ways of working to create measurable impact.

On one transformation project, a client manager identified a growth opportunity in the Pacific Islands. He approached me to discuss his findings but uncertain how to present the idea to the CEO, given the importance of this topic. For transformation projects, we welcome any ideas that would make business impact, therefore we worked together to define the business case, prepared presentation material and presented it to the CEO. Six months later, I received a message from the client that he had been promoted to general manager of the company’s Pacific Islands operations. As a consultant, the best part of my job is to establish a partnership and achieve successfully with my clients. It was so rewarding to know I helped him on that journey.

Living a full life, especially when things are on track

Transformation projects are usually long—sometimes more than six months each—and challenging. Changing the way an organization works and operates is not easy. However, when processes are streamlined and on track, it definitely creates more free time to enjoy things that are important to me like exercise, trying different local foods and exploring new cities. Teams make extra efforts to host activities, so we can have fun and get to know each other. During one project in Singapore pre-COVID, we scheduled a team-building activity every week, like “dark dining” in a blacked-out restaurant. We also went go-karting ahead of the Formula 1 race. These social activities help me bond with colleagues and help us all relax and recharge.

Find a role like Darren’s

More about Darren (Yifan)

Darren is a specialist with McKinsey’s Asia IIoT Hub in Shanghai. He holds a master’s degree in supply chain engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and a dual bachelor’s degree in business administration and English language and literature from Zhejiang University.

Prior to McKinsey, Darren was a business analyst in the supply chain department of Tesla Motors and digital analyst at Special Broadcasting Services (SBS) Australia.

Outside of work, Darren enjoys traveling, photography and specialty coffee. He lives in Hangzhou and visits one specialty coffee shop every week.

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