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From Silicon Valley to Shanghai

Yusi joined McKinsey in China after gaining experience in Silicon Valley. Learn more about the parallel he found between the two.

Early last year, I joined the McKinsey Shanghai office as a consultant, after 5 years in Silicon Valley as a Ph.D. student at Stanford University. It was a pivotal transition, as the life at McKinsey is so different from Silicon Valley.

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I used to research nanoelectronics and nanophotonics. apply machine learning algorithms, design iPhone hardware at Apple, and hang out with geek friends from tech giants. Now, I’m wearing suits every day, solving multi–million dollar business problems and working with MBAs on corporate finance and business strategies. However, I found one thing in common between Silicon Valley and McKinsey: entrepreneurship. And the fact that it’s all about technology, talent and transformation.

Technology. In Silicon Valley, I was surrounded by cutting–edge technology: big data, AI, blockchain, IoT, advanced electronics, etc. Now I’m still living with these technologies day–to–day. However, rather than learning and applying these technologies as an individual engineer or scientist, I’m working with C–level clients of Fortune 500 companies, trying to apply these technologies to their strategy and operations, and create real financial value. For example, I’ve worked with a team of data scientists, data engineers, software engineers and UX designers to create a big data strategy and a tangible software tool for R&D engineers. This experience helped deepen my understanding of technologies and their impact.


Talent. There is an old saying that one takes on the attributes of one’s associates. In the past, I worked with top technology gurus to solve challenging engineering problems. Now I’m working with people with more diversified backgrounds, ranging from senior partners with 25 years’ experience in strategy to manufacturing experts with years of operation experience to my peers who all seem to be experts in something even if they recently graduated. Every time I talk with them, I develop new insights and absorb new knowledge.

Transformation. People in Silicon Valley like to brag about disrupting traditional industry with new technology. Here we’re helping our clients with disruptive transformation to increase their competitiveness. I love working with different stakeholders within the organization and help them build up capabilities and change their mindset. The discussions we have with clients to understand their perspectives are some of my favorite moments and have helped me transform from a scientist/engineer into a more holistic entrepreneur.

My 1 year and 3 months experience at McKinsey has been challenging and constructive and the most exciting thing at McKinsey in China is helping my clients grow into global industry leaders. And during this journey, I have grown much more rapidly than I could ever imagine.

About Yusi

Yusi is an associate in Shanghai. He loves to travel, ski and learn about history.

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