Back to Careers Blog

Embarking on a new adventure

Instead of a life in academia, Jason chose McKinsey because he wanted to solve real-world challenges that could drive positive, enduring change.

I was born to be a scientist, and before I joined McKinsey, I was on the track to get a position in academia. I was a PhD student at the California Institute of Technology studying quantum technologies.

Jason Luan
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at:

However, deep in my heart, academia didn’t feel like the right choice for me. Life should be an adventure. Instead of spending my whole life solving problems in a specific area, I wanted the freedom to move around and tackle all kinds of tough problems in the real world.

After receiving my PhD, instead of sticking to my planned career trajectory, I joined McKinsey as an associate. After 18 months at the firm, I still feel it was the smartest decision for me. McKinsey offers me the space and resources to explore cutting-edge topics, such as carbon neutralization and sustainability, and my work enables me to make a measurable difference in the world.

Connecting my academic background to business strategies

My first project enabled me to use my academic expertise on a real-world business problem. We helped a leading semiconductor manufacturer develop a five-year growth strategy.

Because I have a PhD degree in applied physics, I understood the jargon used by the R&D team. I helped them translate into business language (e.g., “customer preferences”) and tech speak (e.g., “target specifications of the product”). This work helped earn the client’s trust because it showed we understood the product. Combining business insights with technical savvy, we helped the client develop a competitive product roadmap and increase their revenue by 20% the next year.

Since that first project, I have diversified industries, and I am using the knowledge I gain in each to develop innovative solutions for other clients. For example, on a recent project, I leveraged my experiences in decarbonization and renewable energy to help a client from the financial sector develop a carbon emission trading platform. The platform will facilitate the most efficient implementation of climate action and promote carbon neutrality across different industries.

Support to try new things

A project in finance exposed me to a new industry. McKinsey provided the resources and support to ramp up quickly. My project team members were also helpful and caring, and they patiently answered my questions and guided me to focus on the client’s most critical problems.

Near the end of the project, the partner invited the team out to dinner. We laughed about some funny moments and shared some personal stories. At one point, the team brought out a birthday cake and wished me a happy birthday. I didn’t expect they would remember it, much less celebrate it. I was touched. At McKinsey, we are not just people working together. We are more like old friends or a big family.

Why I would choose McKinsey again

My adventure continues at McKinsey. The firm has provided me with the platform to create sustainable real-world impact, the toolkit to move fast, and most importantly, the confidence to help solve some of the world's most challenging problems and drive change that matters.

More about Jason

Outside of work, Jason enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with family.

To learn more about opportunities for those with advanced professional degrees, sign up for the McKinsey Greater China - APD Information Session.