Date posted: 16/08/2021

Chris Chan CA on overcoming obstacles through mentorship

Are you looking to grow personally and professionally? We speak to Australian Ninja Warrior Chris Chan CA about the power of mentorship in overcoming obstacles.

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“Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky enough to form relationships with people who have taught me some crucial life lessons that have helped me to not only grow in my career, but become a better person,” says Chris Chan CA.

If there's anyone who can provide a testament to the life changing power of mentorship, it’s Chris. He grew up with a stutter, was terrified of public speaking, and found it difficult to make friends.

So, how did he become the 2016 QLD Young Chartered Accountant Speaker of the Year in 2016, an Australian Ninja Warrior semi-finalist, and today, Financial Controller at group fitness community Fitstop?

He focused on visualising what his future could look like, and found mentors who were invested in helping him accelerate his success.

It was Chris’ Year 11 English tutor who first showed him what having faith in another person and genuine encouragement looks like, and inspired him to start believing in himself.

“She got me to pick up a book, and read a page facing the mirror every night. She didn’t give me techniques to stop my stutter, but she gave me the belief that I could speak well if I started practising,” says Chris. 

Chris Chan CA
Chris speaking at the CA ANZ New Member Ceremony

“So after all that practise, I kept public speaking, and in 2016, I got the Young CA Speaker of the Year Award. That was a very proud achievement for me.”

As a young finance graduate, Chris seized opportunities to be mentored by leaders around him who he says changed his mindset on personal and professional growth. He made the decision to become a CA after recognising that his team leader, manager and CFO were all CAs.

“Growing up, I was always focused on my education and doing my job well. Although that focus was important to get to where I am today, it was my manager who told me that if I wanted to be successful, I would have to spend time getting to know my colleagues, building bonds and making friends over a cup of coffee,” says Chris. 

Having generous mentors who led by example helped Chris to recognise the value of his work in the finance and accounting space. Not only did their encouragement propel him on his professional journey, it taught him how he could make a difference through his work.

“I really started to shift my mindset into thinking about how I could contribute to the community and the business. I think it’s very important that we see value in what we do as CAs because we have an opportunity to impact the lives of others,” says Chris.

“Even by doing something as simple as a tax return could mean that your client has the opportunity to pay for flights to the UK and reunite with their family. So when you think in that mindset, for me, it completely changed the game to focus on what might impact others, and not myself.”

Chris feels his purpose is to teach others - from his peers to young people - that they can pursue a life in which family, friends and fitness all have a part.

Chris Chan CA

Chris was a semi-finalist in the Australian Ninja Warrior series

“As a Ninja Warrior, I am in a sport that kids admire, so I saw an opportunity to give back to them by running Ninja Warrior courses in local parks. I want to teach them that hard work really does pay off, and inspire them to believe they can do whatever they put their mind to - because they can!” says Chris.

“When I challenge kids in my class to do something that they haven’t done before, they sometimes get upset because fear gets into their head. By literally saying ‘trust me, I believe in you, you can do this,’ they have a go - and that’s the most rewarding part of my job.”

His advice for students considering a career in business, is to look beyond the theory and start making moves that will help you to get experience, advice and shape your career decisions.

“Accounting is an enjoyable career and something that you can make a real difference in. Start by asking around. Reach out to people like myself, or people you know around you who are accountants already and just ask them, “What is your job like? Can I see a day in your life?” says Chris.

“When I was in high school, I worked for a Thai restaurant. I ended up working there for a good eight years. But towards the end of it, I knew I was really seriously thinking about a career in accounting. So I just asked the boss, “Can I have a look at your books and try to apply some of the things I learned in school?”. I wasn’t getting paid for it, but that wasn’t the point. It was just getting that experience, and just getting a feel for what things are like.”

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