Lt Sharon Felicia Chan CPA juggles full-time work in the professional services sector with being a commissioned officer in the Australian Defence Force.
By Megan Breen
The combination of finance and defence might seem strange for some – what does being an accountant have to do with military skills and weapons handling?
For Lt Sharon Felica Chan CPA, becoming involved in the Australian Army Reserve was a natural extension of her commitment to help others in any way she can. It was a journey she began as a student, when she led the charity committee at Kambala School in New South Wales and volunteered as a first responder with St John Ambulance (NSW).
On the fast track
Chan’s career in finance started before she graduated with a bachelor of commerce degree from University of New South Wales. In her penultimate year at the university, she was chosen for a sought-after management trainee internship with ING in Hong Kong. From there, she moved into a consultancy role with Aon, working in an actuarial team for retirement benefits and insurance, and serving clients across the Asia-Pacific region.
Since 2017, Chan has been based in Sydney, working as relationships manager with PwC. Her role in global mobility involves implementing strategies, formulating policy reviews and providing recommendations.
“My first role at ING was learning how to thrive in the corporate world. It was a really good foundation to build on and set a high standard with a strong focus on governance and compliance.
Then, consulting at Aon was like a rollercoaster. Everything moved really quickly, and it was really dynamic. I developed relationship skills and learned how to be solution focused – that’s helped me in my current role, where there are lots of discussions, advisory and ultimately partnering with the business,” Chan says.
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Front and centre
Building her finance skills has been central to Chan’s career plan. After completing her undergraduate degree, she obtained her CPA Australia qualification, and then an MBA from IE Business School in Madrid. However, her next decision – to commission as lieutenant in the Australian Army Reserve – has perplexed many people.
“As a petite female, people are really interested in why I joined the army. There are a few answers to that question. One is being able to give back to the broader Australian community that provided so much opportunity when I was growing up.
“I’m interested in leadership and management skills, and how to employ them in challenging environments,” she says.
“Also, my brother is a surgeon in the Army Reserve. That has definitely influenced me. Besides, I was always a fan of the TV show MASH, growing up.”
In April 2020, Chan was deployed to help in Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a privilege to play my part and serve my country as a part of the national COVID-19 response,” Chan says. “It’s been fantastic, utilising my skills in an operational environment – in roles such as the planning and execution of processes in hotels being used for quarantine across Sydney. It is so interesting.
“Once the pandemic has passed, there will be a time to pause and reflect,” says Chan, but she is already preparing for her next challenge – progression to the rank of captain in the army.
One piece of advice
Don’t be afraid to be thrown in the deep end, absorb like a sponge, and be flexible at all times.