Our Story
Great Minds Think Alike
Vimallan Manokara
Head, MINDS Institute of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities(MIIDD), MINDS
Published on 11/02/20
As Head of the MINDS Institute of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (MIIDD), Vimallan works closely with the rest of the senior management as well as the Board of MINDS. He oversees its key work in the areas of applied research, evidence-based practice, programme innovation, curriculum development as well as staff training, education and development. 


Roots of Compassion

The decision to join social service is deeply personal. When I was just a young boy, my aunt was diagnosed with mental illnesses that rendered her vulnerable, and she was admitted to the Institute of Mental Health, where she received care as a long-term patient. During the festive seasons however, my aunt would spend her time at home with the family, and it was then that I got to know her better.

Despite her condition, she had her own visions of living a good life, and I saw how important and meaningful it was to help those in need live a life of dignity. Having a differently-abled family member strongly influenced my desire to help others and make a difference in the community.

Over the years, I was especially drawn to the stories of individuals driving social impact and change throughout history. Great leaders in society such as Martin Luther King moved me as they championed for social change, justice and a better life for all members of society. These guiding factors were instrumental to me pursuing a career in psychology.

A Journey of Growth

In 2010, I joined MINDS as a Psychologist. Being at the forefront was an exciting and fulfilling experience as I worked closely with individuals with intellectual disability to help them overcome their challenges. However, after six years, the inception of the MINDS Institute of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (MIIDD), provided an opportunity in the form of a new role. That year, I was offered a dual role of Senior Practitioner & Research Manager, and I accepted it eagerly.

The new role provided me with everything I was searching for—new insights, challenges, and above all, professional development. I also worked directly with my superior in a lean, two-person team as we developed the Institute’s model of operations and critical thrusts. He played an instrumental role in shaping my professional growth.

Additionally, all my training and practice in psychology gave me the much-needed leverage and acumen to carry out my new role with confidence. It helped me consider and prioritise the needs of our clients as I evaluated our programmes, services and areas in which we could improve and innovate.

When my superior left in 2018, I was offered the position of Head of MIIDD, which I accepted with the same enthusiasm as I did two years ago.

Lessons in Leadership

My professional journey so far has been bolstered by strong leadership. I credit my career progression primarily to having leaders who were role models whom I could both work with, and learn invaluable lessons from.

The leaders I worked under were inspiring individuals who reinforced the simple but grounded philosophy of always prioritising the client before anything else. They reminded me that our clients were the reason why we’d all joined the sector to begin with, and it’s stayed with me ever since.

They were also influential in their managerial style. For example, in every project entrusted to me, my former boss would provide clear and judicious starting points, before handing the reins over to me. He gave me equal parts autonomy and sound guidance to seek and propose new ideas before working together to bring the project to fruition. His unshakeable trust in me was empowering, and this shaped me not just as a social service professional, but as a leader who today, leads a team of my own.

The Effects and Impact of Change

Having been in the sector for close to a decade, I’ve seen it evolve. As society changes and we move towards a more technologically advanced economy, the support needs of clients also changes. In view of this, improving their lives involves understanding and applying contemporary evidence-based best practices based on relevant conceptual frameworks and new technological developments.

Hence, the research and innovation work that I do with programmes and services is crucial to ensure that they stay focused on improving client outcomes and are relevant to the changing needs of persons with disabilities across time. The aim is to build a more inclusive society by empowering persons with disabilities to be contributing members of society with a good quality of life. When this happens, the economy, and the country as a whole, tend to benefit.

I’m fortunate enough to do something that I innately enjoy—in fact, I daresay I don’t suffer from Monday blues at all! I derive great satisfaction from the very principle of my job—to improve our programmes and services through research and innovation, so our clients and their families may lead deeply fulfilling and enriching lives, and for that, I am grateful.

A role in psychology is one of many in social service. To find out more, read about a career in psychology.
Vimallan works with his team to innovate new programmes to empower their differently-abled clients.