Crystal Wan (Mathematics 2008) works for BlackRock, one of the world’s largest asset managers. After graduating in 2008, the unsettled financial services industry awaited Crystal. Thanks to her Imperial degree and experience she had the confidence to work through the difficult times and came out even stronger and more experienced. We asked Crystal about her time at Imperial and beyond.

Why did you choose Imperial as the place to follow your interest in STEM subjects?

Imperial is one of the best places for these subjects and is known for innovation and unparalleled work ethic. I was looking for “serious” training in the technical field and thought Imperial was better than other institutions to pursue these skills and knowledge.

How did you find life at Imperial as a woman?

While it was one of the most noticeable characteristics that there were way more men than women attending the course (and the difference was even starker in the engineering departments), I actually felt Mathematics as a department was very balanced – this was owing to the fact that we had very strong female leadership (Lynda White was our senior tutor and provided us not only mathematical content but also invaluable guidance throughout our time there) and we had a good representation from prominent, female lecturers. 

Who did you find inspiring at Imperial and why?

I found many people inspiring during my time there, including my lecturers, researchers (I still remember the PhD students who helped us with our projects) and fellow students. The collective Imperial truly inspired.

What is your fondest memory of your time here?

This may sound strange but all those late nights working together with course mates to research and complete our thesis remain unforgettable. Many of us are friends for life!

Please tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now...

I currently work in the Official Institutions Group at BlackRock. BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager, with assets entrusted to us by pension plans, sovereigns, corporations and individuals across the globe. My team is responsible for working with public institutions, such as central banks, sovereign wealth funds, multilateral institutions and agencies. Our work is varied and exciting, and has a strong purpose – to assist and partner with leaders and governments on important matters. I believe economics is, and will always be, an important factor and means to affect change. It is a great privilege to be entrusted with these responsibilities and trusted that we will do the right thing.

How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?

When I graduated from Imperial with my undergrad degree in Mathematics, I joined the financial services industry like many others. The year was 2008. It was difficult to start a career in such turbulence, but also exciting. In some ways, having graduated from Imperial gave me the confidence to work through noise, difficult times and issues that life throws at us. Whenever I cross paths with other Imperial alumni, there is always a spark of cheer and recognition.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to further my work in the current field, and pay it forward whenever I can, having been fortunate to receive help and guidance along my journey so far.

What advice would you give to girls who are thinking about studying STEM, particularly at Imperial?

Just do it! This is a place where you learn not only technical skills, but it gives you a strong analytical mindset that can be applied in any field. In a field where diversity is still a challenge, we can learn from great people and break the mould at Imperial.

What makes you proud to be an Imperial alumna?

Our constant strive for excellence and natural curiosity has been extremely important in breaking new grounds and pushing boundaries. Being amongst such an amazing calibre of people is really a great pride.

What one word or phrase would you use to describe Imperial alumni?