McKinsey satisfies my passion for tech and wanderlust

I’ve been at McKinsey for two years, but I have been a software engineer for more than 10. Before joining the firm, I served in typical tech lead roles for several different organizations, mostly marketing agencies and development studios. I knew it was what I wanted to do, but something about software engineering didn’t quite line up with where I saw my life. I liked the activity but not the lifestyle.

I had a turning point during an interview with this big prestigious bank, when the interviewer said, “One of these desks can be yours.” It kind of bummed me out. I’d be sitting at the same desk for years. I would show up, do my work, and leave. Software engineering lent itself to being in one place, and I saw my life differently. I wanted to travel and work all over the place.

McKinsey satisfies both a passion for tech and wanderlust

At one point, I fired off an application for McKinsey. I hadn’t heard much about the firm, but the job aligned with my skills. I remember asking the recruiter what’s the worst part of the job, and she said, “You would have to travel frequently.” I decided to proceed right then and there. I joined in the fall of 2019 as a software engineer in London. I got in about eight months of traveling to train and meet with clients in different countries before the pandemic hit. Even though we are grounded right now, the work is exciting. I work with smart, passionate people, and I do what I enjoy, and now my days are so much more diverse than they used to be.

Find roles like Yuan's

Overcoming an existential crisis with pro-bono work


I had this moment in my career when I started to ask myself, “What am I doing in my life? What good is my work?” I wanted to make a difference by doing some pro-bono work. While my previous companies offered that type of work, it was more of a side thing. McKinsey supports pro-bono efforts whole-heartedly.

One of my most meaningful projects was a pro-bono engagement for Oxfam. The charity receives much of its funding from its retail shops, which were closed because of the pandemic. The charity needed answers on how to continue its mission with a critical piece of its funding gone.


We did diagnostics for them, evaluated their pain points, applied the learnings we had from similar commercial experiences, and offered them a roadmap to stay solvent enough to carry on their mission. They’re still operational and our work helped to keep them that way.

Driving results on the racetrack

The diversity of the clients is one thing I love about McKinsey because it keeps me learning. I went from Oxfam to a motor sports project, working with the most talented engineers I’ve ever met, including the McKinsey’s QuantumBlack team and the client’s engineers. We’re developing software race engineers will use to inform strategy and maximize a driver’s performance.

As the cars go around the track, they emit telemetry about the state of the car, temperature of the battery, and all sorts of figures and speeds, which can change depending on the scenario like weather or if there’s an accident.

I assembled a team to build the tool that will provide data the race engineers need to help them get as much out of the car as possible, given the situation. They were using Excel, and while it is a powerful tool for number crunching, it’s limited in the calculations it can do and makes collaboration difficult. We’re building in advanced analytics and machine learning so the computer does the work. Our tool runs in real-time so they can make precise decisions during the race. It’s more accurate and intuitive. In racing, every millisecond matters. Seconds wasted because of confusion can cost them the competitive edge; our tool brings clarity so they can focus on strategy.

Being a software engineer at McKinsey

I can be a software engineer anywhere. However, at McKinsey I am learning how to do what McKinsey does well, which is strategy and problem solving. Regardless of the client we’re supporting, chances are we have either seen similar problems and learned from them, or we can use our network of experts to work it out quickly.

More About Yuan

I’m involved in McKinsey’s Software and Cloud Engineering Guild and the climbing interest group. I also head up the social committee for team leads. In my free time, I love to rock climb for the cardio and the unique bird’s eye view it offers.


To see more of McKinsey’s latest research on the value available in the cloud and ways to capture it, visit

For more information on McKinsey's software engineering career paths, visit

Never miss another post

Receive new stories once a week directly in your inbox