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McKinsey and Company: Meet Our Alumna Peggy Liu

There is an impressive list of McKinsey alumni who are changing the world with extraordinary passion and focus, including Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE) chair, Peggy Liu. The non-profit, which she created is at the forefront of sustainability in China.

It was a random conversation over peanuts and a Diet Coke that brought me to McKinsey. My dad was sitting next to someone from McKinsey on a flight home and told me it sounded like a great place to work. I was at MIT then, and none of my friends knew what management consulting was.

My friends absolutely thought I was making the wrong choice and that I should take a serious technical job at IBM or Microsoft; if I had taken the latter path, I'd be a billionaire by now! But, I have no regrets. McKinsey challenged my brain in every way; it also brought me into a new world of business leaders, exciting travel, insightful presentations...and high heels.

One of the most unexpected assignments for someone like me—with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science—was working with the Los Angeles Philharmonic to re-structure their programming. It combined a deep dive into spreadsheets and listening to the artists perform—a powerful connection between our analytical work and the effect it has on the reality of an organization’s everyday life. That taught me a lot about the relationship between theory and practice.

When I was considering my professional options, some advice my father gave me stuck in my head. He taught me that a business leader must be able to see the forest, but also plant the trees. My time at McKinsey was invaluable in giving me the big vision of the forest. From there I went to Symantec as a product manager to refine those tree-planting skills. I left there to start Channel A—one of the earliest ecommerce companies in Silicon Valley.

Flash forward, I’m living in China and am the chairperson and founder of JUCCCE—which stands for the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy. For the last 7 years, I have been working to bring sustainability to China—to help China go green faster. We are creating systematic change by focusing on the drivers of energy use: urbanization, industry, power grid, and consumer consumption. As for balancing all of this, sometimes my most notable accomplishment is to stay on top of the constant tsunami that is my life. McKinsey helped prepare me for this life challenge.

McKinsey has provided remarkable support to me as an alumna. In 2007 Managing Director Dominic Barton approved creating an eight-person team to help JUCCCE build an organizational strategy. Ever since, McKinsey has been a backbone of support for our work to green China in too many ways to list. In some ways I feel even more connected to McKinsey than when I was a business analyst. The McKinsey alumni network really does pop up everywhere. I’m proud to be part of it.

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