Shih Chieh Chang (“Mins”) is an Employment Legal Consultant based in Canterbury.
Mins holds several titles: she is the Director of Work Fair Limited, a Legal Aid provider with the Ministry of Justice, a member of the Employment Law Institute of New Zealand, and a full member of Multiethnic Young Leaders NZ. As a migrant herself, Mins understands the challenges individuals can face in a new country, such as language barriers, fear of job insecurity due to visa status, or financial hardships. Through her work, Mins aims to be a voice for New Zealanders, especially those from migrant backgrounds who are experiencing difficulties, by promoting access to justice and empowering the migrant community.
In this interview, we discuss meaningful mentorship, navigating new cultures, and the importance of kindness.
What led you to pursue a career as an Employment Legal Consultant?
Ever since I was a child, I’ve always found myself advocating for people who are afraid to speak up. After moving to New Zealand, I witnessed several unfair employment experiences, which made me think that something wasn’t right.
Through my connections, I spoke with employment advocates and representatives and became really interested in learning about employment-related issues. As I am fluent in both Mandarin and English, I recognised the potential to make a meaningful impact by assisting vulnerable groups of people.
Throughout your professional journey, who has had the most profound impact on you?
Definitely my mentor, Ashleigh Fechney, who is also known as Ashleigh the Advocate. Ashleigh possesses remarkable depth of knowledge in employment law and demonstrates exceptional skill in navigating complex legal matters. Her dedication to client advocacy and upholding justice are truly inspiring.
However, what truly makes Ashleigh special isn’t her expertise. Her mentorship and guidance have had the most significant impact on me. She generously shared her insights, offered constructive feedback, and provided valuable advice at every step of my professional journey.
To this day, our relationship is transforming from mentorship to friendship. Ashleigh continues to inspire me to strive for excellence, to prioritise ethics and empathy in my practice, and to make a meaningful impact on the lives of individuals facing employment-related challenges.
What an amazing mentor. What’s your advice to someone who wants to find a mentor?
You have to put yourself out there and probably need a bit of luck. You won’t be able to find anyone by sitting in your room.
Well, not really. Let me rephrase because I was sitting in my room when I took the initiative to start a conversation with Ashleigh [laugh]. Believe it or not, I found her online. Thanks to the internet and technology, we can now easily reach people in today’s world.
I saw an article about Ashleigh and her work in the employment legal space. So I messaged her to say hello, congratulated her for what she’s done for people, and told her I was interested in learning more from her. Ashleigh then agreed to be my mentor, and we eventually became good friends.
So my advice is to have a wee bit of courage and take the initiative to start a conversation, even if online.
It’s great that you and Ashleigh are becoming friends! I’m keen to learn more about your culture and upbringing and how they have influenced your perspectives. Can you please tell me a little about your background?
I was born in Taiwan and moved to Malaysia when I was fifteen. Taiwan is a multicultural society that respects elders, family values, and traditions. The diversity enriches our cultural landscape, promotes tolerance, and fosters an inclusive society. This is reflected in our food, from traditional beef noodle soup to the famous bubble tea, showcasing the fusion of different culinary influences.
My upbringing in Taiwan instilled in me a deep appreciation for my heritage, a sense of community, and a respect for diversity. It has also influenced my values of humility and a strong sense of responsibility. Moving to Malaysia then exposed me to more ethnicities, languages, and traditions. It taught me to embrace cultural diversity and nurtured my ability to connect with people from different backgrounds.
What do you usually do to help yourself adapt to a new environment?
Whenever I go to a new place, I try to mingle and meet different groups to better understand their culture. I’m also interested in learning different languages. Although not fluent, I pick up phrases from whomever I meet or date [laugh]. I make an effort to put myself out there.
Recently, while driving on a rural motorway, I saw a hitchhiker. My friends worry about my safety in these situations, but this hitchhiker was alone and stranded in the middle of nowhere, needing a ride. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we need a bit of help, even if from a stranger. Her desired destination was along my route, so I offered her a ride without any trouble. She expressed her gratitude, reminding me of the profound impact small acts of kindness can have on someone’s day. Helping her brought me great joy. In fact, I make it a point to pick up hitchhikers whenever I can safely pull over and if our destinations align. It not only allows me to assist someone in need but also gives me the opportunity to listen to their stories and experiences. It’s amazing how these encounters create connections and offer unique perspectives.
Another wonderful way to connect with people and experience Kiwi life is through housesitting. It’s a fantastic way to save money on accommodation while travelling to different regions and countries. Essentially, you get to meet the “locals” (homeowners), and I’ve become friends with many of them through housesitting. Surprisingly, not many people know about housesitting or have tried it. Even now, after settling down, I occasionally housesit just for fun, to have a little holiday. Before buying a home, I housesat in different suburbs to determine the area that suited me best. Talking to homeowners during those experiences provided me with valuable advice when it came to purchasing a property.
I can tell that you are someone who is always happy to help and serve others. What do you hope to bring to the world? And how do you plan to achieve it?
That question has really made me think. I feel it’s a deep and important question that everyone should ask themselves.
For me, I hope to bring kindness to the world. I believe kindness has the power to create positive change, foster connections, and make a meaningful impact. I try to bring kindness to both my personal and professional life.
In my personal life, I strive to approach others with empathy, compassion, and a willingness to help. Small gestures like offering support, listening attentively, showing genuine care, picking up a hitchhiker, or paying for a stranger’s meal can go a long way in brightening someone’s day and fostering a sense of belonging.
Professionally, I strive to create a safe and supportive environment where individuals feel heard, understood, and empowered. By approaching each case with empathy and compassion, I seek to guide my clients through the legal process with sensitivity and respect, helping them navigate challenging situations while upholding their rights and dignity.
For example, I often share my knowledge through seminars, presentations, and social media posts. My aim is to encourage clients to engage in open and honest communication with their employees or employers, reminding them of their obligations and responsibilities. By doing so, they not only save on legal representation fees and gain valuable experience but also develop the ability to advocate for their friends and family in the future.
In essence, my goal is to foster a culture of kindness wherever I go, recognising that even small acts of kindness can have a ripple effect. By embodying kindness in my interactions and advocating for it in the legal field, I hope to contribute to a more compassionate world, one person and one case at a time.
About the Interviewer: Ke-Xin Li (李可心) is a Chinese migrant who came to Aotearoa 13 years ago. She loves the diversity and open-mindedness offered by Auckland. Pursuing her dream in journalism, Ke-Xin hopes to highlight the joys and sorrows of ordinary people and bring change through representation.
About Rising Voices: Rising Voices seeks to highlight, amplify and celebrate the stories, aspirations and voices of our next generation of leaders in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Disclaimer: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. The essence of the conversation remains intact, and any changes made do not alter the meaning or intent of the interviewee’s responses.