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Sheena Yap Chan: “Make the first move”

Make the first move — If you want things to happen, you have to learn to make the first move. It can be scary but it’s how we can create the opportunities that we want. Embrace rejection — Don’t be afraid to get rejected. Most of the successful people you see in magazines and TV have had their fair share […]

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Make the first move — If you want things to happen, you have to learn to make the first move. It can be scary but it’s how we can create the opportunities that we want.

Embrace rejection — Don’t be afraid to get rejected. Most of the successful people you see in magazines and TV have had their fair share of rejection but kept moving forward. Even Colonel Sanders got rejected 1000 times before someone said YES to his fried chicken idea and look where Kentucky Fried Chicken is today.

Keep moving forward — We all face roadblocks and challenges in our life but it’s how we move forward that matters the most. Fall down seven times and get back up eight times. You can achieve the American Dream if you truly want it and keep moving forward even when times are tough.


Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.

As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sheena Yap Chan, a keynote speaker, coach, podcaster, consultant, and bestselling author on building self-confidence. She currently inspires women through her award-winning podcast called The Tao of Self Confidence where she interviews Asian women about their inner journey to self-confidence. Her mission is to help Asian Women boost their confidence to live their authentic selves, help Asian Women create a voice in the world, and create a stronger representation for Asian women. Sheena has been featured on MindValley, slice.ca, Marketing in Asia, Manila Times and more. She is also the TOP 100 Filipinos to follow on LinkedIn for inspiration and learning in 2020. She is also the co-author of the International bestselling book Asian Women Who Boss Up.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in Cebu City, Philippines and moved to Toronto, Canada with my family when I was 7 years old. We actually went back to the Philippines when I was13 years old because my grandfather was sick at the time but a couple of years after his death, my parents decided to move back to Canada.

Growing up as a child in Canada, I did not see any Asian role models that I could look up to. All I ever saw on TV, magazines and billboards were Caucasian people and because of that I wanted to be a blond hair, blue eyed girl named Heather because I was ashamed of my Asian background. Also, English was not my first language so when I started school, I had to take English speaking classes because it was difficult for me to create full sentences that would make sense for people.

In Canada, we grew up in a normal household. Both of my parents had full-time jobs and I started my first part-time job when I was 16 years old. I went to college and graduated with a diploma in accounting. After college, I decided to study further to become a certified accountant. I eventually quit the first month because I could not see myself studying numbers for the next 10 years just to get a certification. I also had a full-time job for 12 years and after that decided to forge my own path.

Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?

What triggered my parents to move to Canada was to provide a better future for their children. They realize that living in the Philippines might not give us the same opportunities that are given in the US and Canada. Even if you graduated from a well known university in the Philippines and decided to move to North America, you would still have to go back to college since it was not recognized by the United States and Canada.

Even when I went back to Canada at 16, I already graduated high school in the Philippines but had to redo high school all over again in Canada because of that same reason.

Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?

I remember asking my dad where we were going because we were going on so many plane rides and at the time, I thought we were just on a long summer vacation. I remember he told me that we are going to be living in Canada. Then I started asking him a bunch of questions like:

“Canada? Where is Canada?”

“Is Canada part of America?”

“Is there a Disneyland in Canada?”

When he said “No” on the last 2 questions I was pretty bummed out. As a 7 year old kid, my dream was to go to America and visit the happiest place in the world, Disneyland. My dad assured me that Canada was like America and I was going to love it. So I believed him since he is my father.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?

When we landed in Canada, we stayed with one of my relative’s in-laws to help us get settled. They accepted us with open arms even though it was our first time meeting them. Anything we needed help with, they were always there to lend a helping hand and I am proud to say that we are more than just acquaintances and friends, we consider them as family. They are still there for our family when we least expect it and they always support me in anything I do in my business. People like that are a rare gem and I am super grateful to have amazing people like them in my life.

So how are things going today?

Things are great. Of course I have days where I am not always 100 percent great because I am human and life is a roller coaster especially during the pandemic where our mental health issues have heightened due to the restrictions. When times are challenging, I know that it’s temporary and that there are better days ahead. I am grateful that I have a great support system to lean on.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Yes, one of my personal missions is to elevate Asian women’s voices because we are so underrepresented. I started my award-winning podcast 5 years ago called The Tao Of Self Confidence where I interview Asian women about their inner journey to self confidence. I am also part of an International bestselling book called Asian Women Who Boss Up where we profile 18 Asian women about their stories of how they are able to forge their own path, overcome obstacles and thrive. The book was a great achievement for me because you never see 16 Asian women on the front cover of a book.

I also help women break out of their shell so they can live an authentic life and thrive through coaching and speaking. I also speak up for things that matter to me such as the recent increase of Asian hate crimes due to the pandemic. It’s important for me to bring awareness to this because there are still so many people who are unaware of the situation.

You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?

Three things to improve the Canadian immigration system:

Clear and simple information that everyone can understand. There are certain terms mentioned in the immigration process that can have many open ended meanings.

State that speaking French is optional. My parents took French classes in the Philippines because they thought it was a requirement to move to Canada.

Be able to choose where you can live during your immigration process. Some people have to live in certain provinces or cities that the government chooses for them during their immigration process. My family and I were lucky that we were able to move to Toronto during our immigration process.

Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.

Make the first move — If you want things to happen, you have to learn to make the first move. It can be scary but it’s how we can create the opportunities that we want.

Embrace rejection — Don’t be afraid to get rejected. Most of the successful people you see in magazines and TV have had their fair share of rejection but kept moving forward. Even Colonel Sanders got rejected 1000 times before someone said YES to his fried chicken idea and look where Kentucky Fried Chicken is today.

Keep moving forward — We all face roadblocks and challenges in our life but it’s how we move forward that matters the most. Fall down seven times and get back up eight times. You can achieve the American Dream if you truly want it and keep moving forward even when times are tough.

Feel the fear and do it anyway — Fear can stop us from going after the things we want. To be fearless doesn’t mean you don’t have fears. It means that you acknowledge your fears and you do it anyway. When you can conquer your fears, it gives you the confidence and courage to keep achieving your dreams.

Ask for help — This is probably advice that you don’t often hear but don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help can speed up the process to achieving the American Dream. Most people forget that you don’t have to do this alone and having support to help you achieve your dreams can go a long way.

We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?

Kamala Harris — I think it’s great that the US has Kamala Harris as the first female vice president who is a woman of color. She can bring a different perspective on ways to help solve the country’s problems. She also shows little girls that they too can be a person in leadership.

#MeToo Movement — This movement has helped so many women open up about their stories of being sexually abused on a global scale. Women have been silenced for too long and were never taken seriously but this movement has given women a voice to speak their truth and also can heal in the process. The #MeToo movement has been able to put predators in jail for the crimes they have committed.

American Companies creating programs to help women succeed in business — I believe in bringing women up because women can help solve many of the problems we face today. When I see companies like Goldman Sachs and Dell create initiatives to help women win, I can see a brighter future for the US.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to connect with Sandra Oh and Michelle Yeoh because they are Asian women who have paved the way in the entertainment industry and never gave up on their dreams. I would love to sit down and interview them on my podcast or just have a private chat about their life and the steps they went through to get to where they are today.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

They can check out my website: https://sheenayapchan.com

The easiest way to find me is by searching my name on Google because I am the only Sheena Yap Chan on the internet.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


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