Michael Ho: Rising to the occasion

Photo of a man with black hair and glasses, wearing a collared shirt. He is smiling at the camera.
With a full-time job and a second baby on the way, Michael Ho knew he was taking on a lot signing up to an MBAX (Social Impact) with the Centre for Social Impact and AGSM at UNSW Sydney.

But Michael had a strong conviction that this course would help lead him to expand his responsibilities, develop his leadership skills and make a greater contribution to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance - where he works as a Therapy Services Manager, Greater Western Sydney.

So, with the support of a scholarship he enrolled in the degree and commenced his studies in early 2020.

While he didn’t expect a global pandemic last year, in a happy coincidence his first subject helped equip him for its challenges:

“The initial assessment was to build a leadership plan,” Michael explains. “It's really different, the way that you manage your team virtually versus in person.”

“When COVID hit I had to come up with a more considered approach to keeping everyone engaged and together as a team. The first unit in my course helped me understand how to adapt my leadership style, get out of my comfort zone and pivot to telehealth.”

Michael adds that sharing stories and strategies with other students in the course also helped him, as many of his peers work in international teams who already connect virtually.

As a result of COVID Michael did end up pausing his studies in 2020 to accommodate his responsibilities at work and home, and despite the initial overwhelm of the past year he has risen to the occasion - thanks in part to his previous experience working in challenging environments.

Earlier in his career he took on a volunteer placement in Bangladesh supporting the growth and development of a speech pathology program, which was at that stage only 10 years old and had been put together by “different volunteers from different countries with different perspectives on what was important.”

Michael had a year to review the curriculum and with minimal support.

Ultimately, he stayed on for two years, realising that the task required more time and expertise than initially envisaged:

“I knew that if I didn't complete the review and implementation of this program and if I had only handed over what I had started, it was unlikely it would get finished. You don't really want to be that guy that's walked in and then left,” says Michael.

Michael credits his own experiences of arriving in Australia from Taiwan as a young child with his family, for also helping to instil the values that are core to his career and contributing to the way he sees the world.

“Whenever my parents went back home to Taiwan, Mum had connections to various orphanages and services and I was always a tag along. I probably never really understood why, but that forms a part of who you are over time. When you grow up you start to understand the value of those experiences."

Michael has an enthusiastic passion for his work in disability services, first as a speech pathologist and now as a manager.

He brings the breadth of all of these life and work experiences to the role, both in his attitude to the families he supports and to his colleagues:

“A few years ago there was an opportunity to take on the leadership role in Western Sydney and for me it has always been a passion to support clients from very diverse backgrounds. I love seeing the diversity grow within the team to reflect the community.

“Particularly during COVID, our families have been better supported because we have members of the team who can speak their language. When you're doing things over telehealth, there's only so much body language and gesture that you can rely on.

"Just to see that reflection coming through the team, now that I've been here 18 months, is fantastic. It's really not hard to love my work."