Pomona ’14 Alumni Yi Li: Life Beyond a McKinsey Consultant
Updated: May 15
By Yutong Niu
I met Yi in a cozy afternoon in early March. As we walked around the Claremont Village, she introduced me to her favorite bakery item, as if she has never left college. The youngest member of the Board of Trustee at Pomona College, she traveled back to Southern California for an annual meeting, which, however, was moved to online because of the spread of COVID-19.
A senior analyst at McKinsey, an adventurous traveler setting footsteps over 30 countries, a blogger writing about her college, work and life experiences: this is how I knew Yi even before coming to Claremont.
Entrepreneurial Mindset Starts in College In college, Yi tried on different roles to engage with the community as an international student. The winner of “47 things trip challenge” in her first year, ASPC Class President as a sophomore, and an international student mentor, she served the community and made use of its resources to explore her interests.
In her junior year, Yi co-founded Pomona’s first alumni mentorship club, SagePost47. Starting from a grassroot student organization with three members, she used personal connections to reach out to Pomona alumni, and managed to secure over 50 alumni mentors by the time she graduated.
“Mentorships from Pomona alumni have in a way shaped my college experience. And I want such inspiration to continue onwards,” Yi said as she reflected on her college life.
Now, SagePost47 is the largest alumni mentorship network that works to support students.
Life at McKinsey “Consulting might be a place most akin to liberal arts colleges in the corporate world.”
Many people, and even students like myself, have various stereotypes and misconceptions about the consulting industry and people working in it. However, for Yi, consulting fulfills her career aspiration as a continuation of liberal arts education.
“In McKinsey, we have time to explore the industry of interests, just like exploring majors in college. We can choose cases to work on with different partners and managers, just like deciding classes to take with professors. We can also study abroad—being allocated to an overseas office. Finally, when we graduate from McKinsey, we become part of the alumni network,” Yi easily drew the parallels as she reflected on her work experiences.
Four years into corporate life as a McKinsey consultant, Yi has spent a year in Los Angeles, and moved to Beijing for two years, and is now based in Nairobi, Kenya. The frequent reallocation allows her to explore different continents and the cultural contexts. While talking about her identity as a young woman in the workplace, Yi openly shared her thoughts after experiencing the distinct cultural environments. “When you move to a new environment, you see different things. We don’t necessarily need to magnify the problem or challenges, but rather just keep the momentum to resist any stereotype.” Building Communities: A New Home Finding new friends and maintaining our friendship might be a problem that bothers many of us who enter a career. After leaving school, we lost the natural source of friends, and have to navigate our way through the social network that is slowly built. For Yi, moving to a new environment means looking for a new community and friend circle.
Yi actively builds her community through exploring similar hobbies and hosting parties to engage with a broader friend group. An experienced traveler, she planned short trips with friends in Beijing. During trips, she would also create opportunities to foster deeper friendships through trying exciting activities and having intimate conversations. In Nairobi, Yi regularly invites f
riends who have worked in the UN or with expertise in African studies to share their work with a larger group of people.
“One of my self-perceptions is a community builder. I love introducing friends to meet each other. If they could connect and create deeper relationships, it would be a huge source of meaning to me,” Yi openly shared her understanding about community-building and networking mindset.
“Back in college, if someone told me that I would have a job where I could make so many friends across the world, be allocated to three different continents within four years, and have three months of holiday to travel every year, I wouldn’t believe them. But now it all happens.”