How McKinsey’s helping me become my best self

Read more about: Community | Diversity | Emerging markets

Not long after my fifteenth birthday, my nation proclaimed I had no human rights. My home country’s Supreme Court upheld legislation mandating prison time for homosexuality, so I fled to the United States on political asylum to build a life for myself in a country that acknowledged my humanity, accepted my identity, and would allow me to become the best and fullest version of myself.

Though my new life had a sense of optimism and possibility in America, nothing came easily. I didn’t speak English, so every day at school, I felt isolated and alone. I refused to give in, though, and instead grabbed a seven–inch–thick Webster’s Dictionary and began the slow process of mastering a strange language. Every day thereafter, I tore out a page and memorized every word on it. On the same day I tore the last page from the dictionary, I also tore open the envelope containing news that would change my life again: I had been admitted to Stanford.

Han Lee Inline
Han Lee Inline

Even with support from my mentors and friends at Stanford, the path to asylum was long and arduous. Beyond the financial and time toll the process involved, I had to face an irrevocable reality: if my case was rejected I’d be deported and if I succeeded, I could never return home. In the end, I succeeded in gaining asylum, but I missed my father’s unexpected funeral.

Now, looking back, I value these hard times. They steeled me and tested my mettle. They made me a deeply impact–driven leader, because they taught me what it means to live on the margins of society.

Naturally, I was drawn to LGBTQ+ causes early in my life. During my sophomore year at Stanford, I teamed with friends to create one of the first LGBTQ+ undergraduate organizations in order to bring together business students, school administration, and leading corporations.

I came across McKinsey while planning various events for this group. I sent a cold–call email to McKinsey’s Equal at McKinsey organization without really hoping for a response. To my surprise, McKinsey replied very enthusiastically. A Equal at McKinsey consultant – who is now my coworker and close friend – brought me into the San Francisco office and explained what makes McKinsey a one–of–a–kind place to work.

After the coffee chat, I fell in love with McKinsey for three reasons:

  1. McKinsey’s strong values. I chatted with more than 30 consultants ranging from junior–tenured business analysts to senior partners. Everyone seemed to live and breathe the firm’s values. This really resonated with me.
  2. McKinsey remains nimble despite its size. Recent acquisitions LUNAR and Veryday are good examples of how and they piqued my interest. I was really interested to learn more about designing business solutions that emphasize the user experience and cultural relevance.
  3. McKinsey is not a strategy firm per se – it’s a leadership firm. While other organizations talk about strategy and analysis, McKinsey instead talks about leadership and impact.

I came to America out of a deep and profoundly personal need to embrace the fullness of my personality and humanity. At McKinsey, I can continue this process. Though I began with nothing, I never lost the belief that I could achieve anything. With McKinsey, I am thankful to be taking the next step in what has been a wonderful personal and professional journey.

Learn more about possibilities at McKinsey here.

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