Michael Tan

Vice-president, finance, Damon Motors, Age 37

Michael Tan

Who or what is responsible for your work ethic?

My immigrant parents, working 14 hour days, 365 days a year, running a corner grocer! Also my 20-plus years of training and teaching Choy Lee Fut kung fu.


What is your guilty pleasure?

A traditional, hot, Hong Kong milk tea, filtered 12 times, paired with a fresh, warm, pineapple bun with a pat of butter.


What is the best book you would recommend?

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. 


Now that you are (or are close to) entering your forties, what goals have you set for yourself?

I hope to better encourage the next generation of leaders to use their education and expertise to serve and better the communities they are a part of. 


What was your childhood career dream?

My dream career as a child was to own a corner store, as I saw how my parents’ work would put smiles on so many people’s faces. 


Name your happiest place.

The pond at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown. 


What was your toughest business or professional decision?

Choosing to confront a more senior executive about their decision to take a conference pass meant for an under-represented group and giving it to a white male colleague. It is always difficult to take a stand but I don’t regret doing so.


What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Be gracious, be humble, but never sell yourself short. Your work can change the world and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Make the most of every opportunity, and sometimes, you need to make your own luck. Go for it!


What is your best habit?

I habitually put myself in someone else’s shoes. Empathy is critical to relationship building.


Tell us one improbable fact about yourself.

In university, the student association organized a food-eating contest. I thought it would be hot dogs but it turned out to be cold spaghetti and chocolate pudding. Out of a dozen eaters I’m proud to have come in as runner-up!

Best piece of advice ever received?

To not fret the naysayers, however do heed those you trust, especially when they challenge your views. 


Biggest learning (about life or business) during the pandemic?

Systemic inequality is pervasive in our society. We need to be vigilant in working together towards better outcomes for everyone. 


What career highlight are you most proud of?

Building out the finance teams of not one, but three of Vancouver’s most prominent tech companies. But what I’m most proud of is during the pandemic, leading the charge to get 1,500 vaccinations administered to low-income seniors in Chinatown facing systemic barriers to access.