Li-San Chan, Chief Operating Officer at KPMG China Consulting, talks us through her globe trotting career since graduating in 2004, and how the University Careers Service helped her translate skills into opportunities.
|Biological Sciences (BSc) Pharmacology (Hons)
|Year of Graduation
Your time at the University
I came up to Edinburgh on an open day, and something about the city completely drew me in. I wanted to go to University somewhere very different to home, which is London for me. Something about the Scottish accent made me feel like I was far away enough!
I have so many memorable moments. I made friends that I know I will keep for life. I waitressed at a restaurant called The Outsider on George IV Bridge, I remember Why Not on a Monday, Cavendish on Wednesday, Teviot or Potterow on Fridays. I have no idea how I did it and kept up with my studies!
And if I had to choose the thing I associate most strongly with Edinburgh, it would be the smell of the brewery, and running around Arthurs Seat.
There was an unforgettable summer where I took part in a research project on high altitude sickness. A group of over 100 medical and science students spent a few months in laboratory on the top of the Bolivian Andes. We had to be high enough to induce high altitude sickness, so this did the job. It gets better. We were testing on ourselves, the effectiveness of a blood vessel dilator on the symptoms - the drug of choice: Viagra.
I would really advise everyone to visit the careers fairs. Even if you already know what your next step is. It's the best way to understand a profession and company.
Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University
I started thinking about my career and CV a little late in the day and have been one of those people who never knew specifically what I wanted for my future. I did know that I wanted a “career” and that I wanted it to stimulate and challenge me, and if I was lucky, take me places. But I had no grand plan. In my last year at university I started to worry slightly when my parents and their friends kept asking me what I was going to do when I graduated, and I had absolutely no idea!
I actually stumbled across a careers fair in Potterow by accident, or my subconscious panic lead me there. I took the opportunity to talk to everyone. I asked what might have been very stupid questions but everyone was very welcoming and keen to sell themselves. I would really advise everyone to visit the careers fairs. Even if you already know what your next step is. It's the best way to understand a profession and company. Different companies have very different cultures and the deciding factor for me when choosing between job offers has always been the people.
I ended up in a KPMG “pod” on George Square (this used to be a parking lot if you can believe) and got talking to someone who invited me to a KPMG dinner. The graduate recruitment procedure was a 4 stage knockout with online tests, presentations, group debates and a couple of interviews. This was where the careers office was invaluable. I had a meeting with a careers advisor who helped me think about what I wanted, and gave me material to prepare for the recruitment process. I watched videos of debates, did practice tests, and thought through how I would answer interview questions. This is such a great service that the university provides, I can’t stress enough - USE IT!
I joined KPMG in Financial Sector Audit and became a Chartered Accountant. It pretty much ticked all my boxes in terms of being challenging, stimulating and it took me to Dundee, Newcastle and Glasgow. After 4 years I joined Standard Life in Edinburgh, after which I moved back to London to join Bank of America Merrill Lynch in their EMEA Planning and Strategy team. I loved my job at BAML and was very lucky to work with some very smart motivated people but I got itchy feet and decided it was time for an adventure. I was born and brought up in London, and I am Chinese, so I thought Shanghai would be a great place to discover. I also thought my Chinese was better than I found out it was.
I rejoined the KPMG family, as the Chief Operating Officer of China’s Consulting practice. We are a very fast growing successful business, I work in a great team and have mentors that I respect hugely.
I’ve been in Shanghai for one and a half years now, and I absolutely love it. It’s such a fast paced city, and work is no different. As a London born, Pharmacology Honours graduate, who became an accountant on the way to moving to Shanghai, (who now takes weekly Mandarin lessons), I can honestly say I have no idea what’s next.
What I didn’t appreciate was the huge and amazing variety of people you meet at university. I found once I left university, my immediate circle shrank to the friends I have time to keep in touch with, colleagues, and then any groups/societies I join. Of course the potential is always infinite but at Edinburgh you are smack bang in the middle of this amazing population of students from all different backgrounds, countries, with different interests.
I also have a list of things I struggle to find the time to do. Probably much like a lot of people’s lists, it has on it photography, a long reading list, running a 4 minute mile, all the sport I miss doing, travel, improving my Chinese, etc.
I’m making slow progress and can’t believe I didn’t join more clubs and meet more people at university. I would say, find time to do everything you enjoy, and try everything you think you might enjoy!