Innovating a career path: Colin McLellan CA

Colin and Sir Brian
By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

3 October 2017

Colin McLellan CA, Innovation & Technology category winner of the ICAS 35 CAs under 35 competition, held in association with Investec Click & Invest, talks to Eleanor O'Neill about pursuing his aspirations.

The Innovation & Technology category sought out the young CAs who have embraced the digital age and incorporate new technologies into their everyday work. The ability to keep up with a fast-paced environment was commended.

Colin impressed the judges with his rapid career trajectory and his adaptability in unique working situations. He has experience in senior financial and executive roles both in the UK and abroad.

Colin joined travel metasearch engine and price comparison website Skyscanner in 2013. Since then, he has overseen a joint venture between the company and Yahoo! Japan while acting as Interim CEO in Tokyo, played an integral role in Skyscanner’s acquisition by Ctrip last year, and was recently promoted to the position of CFO.

About Colin

  • Qualified as a CA with KPMG.
  • 2004: Assistant Tax Manager at KPMG.
  • 2008: IAS39 Hedge Accountant at Scottish Power.
  • 2010: Group Accountant at Worldmark.
  • 2013: Group Financial Controller at Skyscanner.
  • 2015: Interim CEO at Skyscanner Japan.
  • 2016: Finance Director at Skyscanner.
  • 2017: CFO at Skyscanner.

What did you enjoy about the 35 CAs under 35 competition?

The interview process was an interesting experience; getting to talk to such experienced and inspirational people is a real honour. The questions they asked and guidance they offered was really insightful.

The awards involved talks from some of the best speakers I’ve ever heard: straight-talking, engaging, courageous people who left me feeling that anything is possible.

What do you enjoy most in working with a technology-centric company?

The pace of it is at the opposite end of the spectrum from being dull or repetitive. Every day presents a new opportunity to think through.

Also, the mindset is unique. Being at the forefront of an industry means not following a well-trodden path. That’s exciting but it also means being prepared to get things wrong sometimes, to recognise when that is happening, pivot and learn from it.

Who inspires you?

Largely, the people I work with. I respect anyone who can visualise what a better world will look like in 10 or 20 years’ time – whether that’s with social, cultural or technological change – and can work hard and risk derision to make it happen.

What is your advice to entrepreneurs just starting out?

A willingness to get things wrong in the pursuit of getting it right. The Thomas Edison quote is very apt: “I did not fail. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Innovative ideas are essential, but they are only a tiny spark in the process: hard work and experimentation are the fuel that turns sparks into fires. Edison, again, said: “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.”

How has the CA qualification helped you in your career?

I recognise now that it’s helped me more than I’ve realised in the past. The ‘risks’ I’ve taken with my career (I haven’t followed a straight line to where I am now) have only been possible because of the high esteem in which the CA qualification is held by employers. If any of my career moves hadn’t worked out, I would still have been employable, mainly as a result of the qualification.

Also, the ICAS network is huge and full of really interesting and experienced people – it’s really valuable to learn from others about what has worked well (or not) in their experience. There are very few situations in life that someone else hasn’t been through before.

Investec Click & Invest, headline sponsor of the ICAS Young Leaders’ Summit and One Young CA Awards 2017, is a new online actively managed investment management service for UK residents with £10,000 or more to invest.


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