Yvette joined McKinsey in October 2017 as a business analyst based in Hong Kong. When she’s not busy consulting, she swims. She’s been swimming since age three and she competed in the Rio Games in 2016. As the Winter Games get underway, Yvette reminisces:
“I failed to qualify for the Beijing Games by about one second. I missed London by 0.1 seconds. A tenth of a second! My biggest mistake came outside of the pool, though. I didn’t acknowledge my disappointment. I thought I had to put on a front and say everything was okay. I thought athletes should act strong.
“In the midst of depression, I quit swimming and, at the encouragement of one of my coaches, sought help. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. I had become so obsessed with results I forgot how to enjoy being in the water. Swimming went from a happy thing to a big burden.
“About three months after my diagnosis, and in the middle of my studies in cognitive science at UC Berkeley, I began training again. I focused on the present and things I could control. I resolved that, as long as I gave my best, that was enough. After I graduated in 2015, I went to Edinburgh to train. My performance improved, and I qualified for the Rio Games (watch a live interview with Yvette on Next News or read more on CNN or in the South China Morning Post).
“It’s very hard to describe what competing at the Games was like. It had been my dream since I was a little child. It went by a blur – you can read more in this blog on the Hong Kong Sports Institute website if you’d like.
“After the Games, I wanted to explore some of my other strengths and interests. When I graduated, I thought I’d pursue a psychology PhD or go to a tech startup working in the realm of cognitive science. Then, I heard about consulting. It seemed like the perfect way to explore and learn new things. The abundance of kind, talented people at McKinsey made the firm very appealing, and the longer I’m here, the more I appreciate my colleagues’ focus on serving clients and each other.
“The best coaches made me a better swimmer and a better person; my colleagues at McKinsey have the same approach. The team dynamic is very similar, too. Coaches used to emphasize the need for all the swimmers to hold each other accountable – inside and outside of the pool. The McKinsey mentality matches that – nothing truly great happens without a team.
“I’m still swimming – one or two hours a week now instead of the 30 hours I spent preparing to compete on the global stage. It’s about training smarter, not harder. I meditate and try to focus on the now, which is consulting. I’m also sharing my story – like I did in a TEDx Hong Kong talk in 2017 – to help the next generation see failure as an opportunity to grow.”
Read more about Yvette and other professional athletes at McKinsey here on our New at McKinsey blog.