Exclusive Interview: Ms Yvonne Chan, Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade)

By I’mACE Team

The I’mACE Team had a chance to sit down with Ms Yvonne Chan, Deputy Consul General (Commercial) to Vietnam and Senior Trade Commissioner to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Below you will find our interview with her:

Q: Can you us a little bit about your background?

A: I was born in Hong Kong, and I moved to Australia 25 years ago. I did an MBA in Australia with the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM), University of New South Wales. That actually changed my whole perspective about my career because my first degree was in hotel management. After my first degree in Hong Kong, I worked in the industry in the convention centre and also for the hotel industry for the first 6 years.

When I got the opportunity to move to Australia, I said to myself that perhaps it is good to stop and reflect what other things that I would like to do in my career and then I decided to do an MBA. I stopped working for 2 years and then I studied at school. I really enjoyed the education that I had in Australia. It changed my mindset on what studying can actually do for you. After I received my MBA, I started working for Australian companies looking for business development in Asia. I still felt that I needed to use my skill set because I have language ability in Mandarin, Cantonese and English and I still wanted to be a sort of the bridge between Australia and Asia.

I was very lucky to get a full-time job with Boral which is a construction and building materials company. When I finished at 1995 and at the beginning of 1996, Boral was actually launching into Asia; China was one of the key markets. I was very lucky with my study and they saw that I could be the bridge of the two cultures, Australia and China. In 2003, I joined the Australian government. I have been with the Australian government for 16 years. I have been posted in four different locations with my job. My first location was in Guangzhou, China then I moved to Taiwan and then I went back to Australia, and then I was posted in Hong Kong and now in Vietnam since April 2016. I believe this is the right time for Australia to do more work in Cambodia. I would like to continue to work on and education is one of the key sectors that I believe Australian education sectors can make more different and fill the skill gaps through this market.

Q: What observations have you made about the education sector in Cambodia?

A: Obviously, you know that the Cambodian economy is growing so fast and there is a rise in the middle class and with the rise of the middle class there is a demand for better opportunities. Education is one of the key sectors that I believe all people in this country will see it as a way of receiving continued sustainable economic growth. Australia has a very high reputation in this market, especially IDP because IDP is one of the leading agents in promoting Australian education in the Cambodian market. ACE is another great example of Australian education in this market. I see the growth can also be two-flow: sending students to Australia and by the other model, that ACE has been very successful at in this market, is bringing more in market delivery in addition to English.

Q: Is there anything else the Australian Government is looking at?

A: Another area that we would like to continue to grow is in products of premium food and beverages and that is link to the growing middle class. They also demand healthy, safe and quality food. Australia is well-known for our safe, green and healthy products. Not just for the middle class and rising middle class, but there is a growing expat community in Phnom Penh, many international companies that attract the international workforce in this area.

Q: What advice do you have for students who are getting ready to study in Australia?

A: I think being an Asian Australia; we have been taught in our generation that we just have to accept whatever your teachers or seniors say to you. I think the great thing about Australia education is the emphasis on expanding our horizon. I really want to encourage all the potential students to expand their horizon as wide as possible in Australia because I think you will get the best out of the Australian education that way, rather than just sit and listen to the teacher. Be engaged with the education system and be able to share openly about what you are thinking and your opinions.

When I arrived in Australia I learned this saying, “agree to disagree.” We don’t need to agree with everything, but if you have a mindset of, “I can agree to disagree” you still have an agreement to move forward. I learned that I can be myself and I speak my mind and I can be confident to share with others that what I am thinking. It doesn’t need to be the right answer but it can actually help you to go to the right answer because you explore your thinking along the path.

I also encourage all of us to take education as a lifelong learning. You should not stop after you have your first degree or second degree. This is a life learning journey. The more you learn, the better it is for you to work professionally and in your personal life.                                    

I’mACE would like to thank Ms Yvonne Chan for her time, insights and words of advice.

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