Embracing Diversity for Leadership Growth

20 Dec 2019
Jessica Hoo
Senior Assistant Director
Seconded to Rainbow Centre as Allied Professional Manager
Occupational Therapist mid-careerist; entered social service sector from healthcare

I’ve spent a number of years in the healthcare and private sectors before I started working part-time in a social service agency in 2013. During that period of time, my colleagues in that social service agency often shared about the needs of the sector and how the sector could improve its services for service users. On hindsight, this was likely one of the biggest push factor for decision to come into social service full-time.
At the start, I believed that skills that I’ve gained from the private and healthcare sector could be of use in the social service sector. And had hoped that I would be able to contribute and challenge the status quo in ways that we can serve. I also wanted to share my knowledge with others in the sector and serve the service users who may not have all the means and knowledge to access comprehensive services.
I was introduced to Sun Ray by a friend who is in the scheme. We were having conversations about possible areas of work that I could contribute to with the skill set I have. We also talked about my hopes for services we can provide to better support persons with disabilities. The sharing on the scheme perked my interest and I went ahead to find out more. Ultimately, I decided to join the scheme as it provides a wider platform where I can contribute, learn about the sector’s needs beyond an organisation, and be exposed to opportunities for personal and professional development.
Through the scheme, I’ve had the privilege to tap on the expertise and experience of the “big brothers and sisters” in the scheme! Sometimes, just sharing my leadership challenges with them and listening to their own leadership journeys helped me build perspectives. I think I have taken a lot of steps forward in terms of my confidence and abilities as a leader. My ability to see issues and challenges from a wider perspective has definitely changed as well. This has enabled me to work more effectively with different stakeholders.
That said, I did face some challenges. For example, parachuting into an organisation is never a straightforward path. Rainbow Centre, the agency that I’ve been seconded to since 2017 has been inclusive and welcoming from the start. That, together with the conscious effort I have made, to be with my colleagues who work on the ground, hearing their stories, understanding the joy and challenges they faced daily, and working side-by-side with them have helped me to be a contributing member of the organisation.
My advice to those considering joining Sun Ray Scheme? Build up clarity on what you are able to bring to the table and how you see yourself serve in the sector.  It’s helpful to have clear hopes and aspiration for yourself and the sector. Ask questions! Talk to people who are in the scheme. The path that you take will unlikely be a straight line, so be prepared for an interesting ride.