Alumni's COVID-19 response shows a defining spirit of helping others
During this tumultuous time, we asked Southern Cross University alumni from across the globe how COVID-19 has impacted them.
What we discovered were many unsung heroes – people who focussed on the things that really mattered – and realised they were in a position to help.
Some alumni are working in hospitals and placing their own safety at risk to care for those who are ill, while others are using their initiative and business nous; flipping their businesses upside-down to carry on and provide us with the goods we so desperately need, like hand sanitiser.
Their stories and advice, both business and personal, are below.
Phil Barton - From festival cancellation to Zoom collaboration
From planning to perform at a major music festival in the UK, Phil Barton found his music world turned upside down when international travel restrictions were announced as part of the global response to COVID-19.
The Nashville-based Southern Cross University graduate was in London to perform at the Country to Country Festival when the curtain came down.
Trying to get out of London and back home was one of many hurdles Phil has traversed since.
While the days of working together with other musicians in a studio to craft new songs is a memory, he has embraced the Zoom platform to collaboratively write new songs with artists around the globe.
Ashley Marshall - Ensuring delivery in challenging times
Australia Post has repurposed and opened 15 new processing facilities and commenced recruitment for 600 casuals as part of the COVID-19 response.
For Ashley Marshall, a Southern Cross University MBA graduate who is Acting General Manager, Government at Australia Post, the logistical challenges alone have been massive.
There are fewer aircraft flying to carry parcels, coupled with a huge surge in e-commerce business and parcel volumes similar to Boxing Day and Black Friday sales.
It’s a challenge that requires a massive team effort, one that Mr Mashall is proud to be a part of.
Mohit Trivedi - Study Gold Coast's swift response
The international education sector has had to quickly provide meaningful solutions and strong accessible student support.
Mohit Trivedi, a Student Experience Program Manager at Study Gold Coast, says COVID-19 required a swift and agile response to deal with the disruption of the pandemic.
One example of this has been the establishment of a Virtual Gold Coast Student Hub.
“We identified areas that were scalable to an online platform, made meaningful value adds to suit the online environment, learnt lessons from this process and continued seeking input from our stakeholders,” he said.
Aula Muntasyarah - Dealing with COVID-19 in Indonesia
Aula Muntasyarah studied Forestry Science and Management at Southern Cross University in 2019.
She now finds herself in a challenging new role, helping to establish a system to assist COVID-19 impacted communities in Indonesia, while also home schooling and doing her bit to help a local family.
“I remember advice from an Indonesian lady saying that during this outbreak, if we still have financial ability, we should take action by helping at least one impacted family.”
“I think people will stay at home if they have food for them and their family.”
Kevin Fullbrook - We crave face-to-face human interaction
Prior to the COVID-10 outbreak many schoolchildren may have liked the prospect of a sleep in and wearing pyjamas around the house all day, but now they are realising just how much they miss school, says Kevin Fullbrook.
Kevin, deputy director of a large bilingual school in Kuwait, says his school is no different to any other around the world in having to adapt quickly to deliver a new way of learning.
“I think the current circumstances have highlighted just how important personal and social connections are to people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds. We crave face-to-face human interaction,” says Kevin.
Kushla Gale - Navigating a strategy for the tourism industry
The tourism industry has been hit with double devastation. First it was the horrific bushfires then the COVID-19 crisis.
For Kushla Gale, who works as a regional tourism and events officer, the future is more than overcoming these two huge hurdles.
Climate change, she says, must also be factored in for the industry's recovery and future wellbeing.
“I expect the government will support tourism and events with grant funding in coming months, but I wish it was now as now is the ideal time for strategic planning, event revitalisation, and new product development,” she says.
Kirsty Jagger - Time for resilience and recovery
Across the country communities are dealing with compounded trauma.
First drought scorched the land, then bushfires. In some places storms and floods drenched it, hail battered it, dust suffocated it. Now there’s the additional impacts of COVID-19.
Former Southern Cross University student Kirsty Jagger works in the field of resilience and recovery.
She’s keen to remind people that the bushfire recovery effort is still underway, all that has changed is the manner in which the work is being undertaken.
Callum Baxter-Walters - Comfort in ambiguity
Callum Baxter-Walters has found working from home to be both positive, with reduced commute times and more time with family, but also really challenging – being so isolated from those he typically works closely with.
Callum, an Employee Relations Principal for BHP Billiton, says one of the most interesting aspects of the COVID-19 has been is the almost overnight acceptance of ambiguity and quick decision making, without the liberty of comprehensive data.
“Making decisions with little information is difficult at the best of times. Within my role it is often complex, dealing with trade unions and workforces, trying to manage expectations and emotions that often run high in uncertain times. Getting comfortable with ever changing decisions takes some getting used to.”
Jessica Johnston - Safety and Task Force SENTINAL
COVID-19 has had a profound impact on all emergency services personnel, including the police force.
The virus has impacted everything from 000 calls to jury trials, while leaving the public at home, frustrated.
Victorian Detective, Jessica Johnston gives us an insight into the way police have had to pivot and adapt.
“There is frustration starting to creep in with being isolated away at home and we understand that. Hang-in there, we are seeing the results," she says.
Anna Davidson - Sphere of influence
It is what the bystanders do that changes the course of history, particularly those who don’t just stand by. Southern Cross University graduate, Anna Davidson is one of those people.
When Ms Davidson, who owns a GP clinic in Nelson Bay, noticed hand sanitiser was in dangerously short supply, she stepped up. When she realised she was not alone in her plight, she stepped up again and again until, with the help of others, she was able to deliver the necessary ‘armour’ to clinics in need.
“I took a good hard look at my sphere of influence and decided to trust my instincts and act.” The venture was successful but ongoing efforts to find funding for it have not yet gained traction. “This has frustratingly meant that hand sanitiser has not just been able to flow out to where it is needed most.” The battle continues.
“I now constantly think of the Clinic in terms of war. Usually in business cash is king. But wars, while they require cash, are won and lost on supply chain. As a practice owner, it is my job to ensure both cash and supply chain. I have responsibilities far greater than just ensuring solvency.”
Pamela Brook - Eyes on the prize
Pamela Brook has seen both challenges and opportunities as a result of COVID-19.
As the co-founder of Cape Byron Distillery and Brookfarm, and Chair of Northern Rivers Food, Ms Brook faced an onslaught of changes.
While one of her businesses pivoted to start producing an entirely new product, another had to send the office into remote mode and rearrange everyone else’s work shifts in order to reduce the potential for crossover and risk to others still on site.
Northern Rivers Food faced a different set of challenges again.
Craig Burke - Crisis ready
Many inventions are born out of a desire to solve a problem.
Patienteer is one such product. Born from the need to remove fallible human subjectivity from the decision-making process during a patient’s hospital journey; Patienteer is now finding new uses in the COVID-19 crisis.
Patienteer’s CEO, Craig Burke, finished his nursing degree at Southern Cross University in 1988. He now finds himself working 60-hour weeks in a hospital command centre alongside specialist doctors, keeping an eye on his software as it alerts doctors to a patient’s deteriorating condition.
He has both business and mental health advice to offer us all.
Photo by: Matthew Harris
Dermot O’Gorman - Manage your mindset
Some of the best business advice Dermot O’Gorman has to offer during these trying times is this:
- Be agile and move fast on your key skills
- Manage your mindset, and
- You can’t over communicate
As the CEO of the WWF-Australia, managing more than 100 staff remotely, the COVID crisis has had a similar impact on Mr O’Gorman’s workday as it has on others.
He advocates being mindful and understanding the effect of people’s emotions on productivity.
Jackson Jones - People rallying together
Jackson Jones is one of many emergency nurses on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He believes the experience has brought many organisations together and has forged a stronger bond between his team members in the Northern NSW Local Health District.
“As confronting as this virus is, I would not change the profession I have chosen, I love it, I go to work every day ready for what comes next,” says Jackson.
Katie Brown - Exercise and the alphabet
While NRL reporter and presenter Katie Brown is a strong advocate for going easy on yourself at this difficult time, that doesn’t mean ‘don’t work out’.
Finding herself at a loose end during the COVID-19 crisis, Ms Brown developed an exercise for every letter of the alphabet, that you can do at home.
If that’s not your ‘cup of tea’ she also has some other suggestions for how to keep yourself entertained.
She’ll do anything to avoid sitting still, especially while the future of her industry hangs in the air.
Melissa Harvey - Dreaming up a new world
Not even the art world has remained untouched by the impact of COVID-19. The space to dream and explore ideas has now been confined to the home, accessible only via distance. Yet the ability to dream up a new world has never been more important.
Melissa Harvey did her Bachelor of Visual Arts at Southern Cross University, Master of Fine Arts at Sydney College of the Arts and now works for the Art Gallery of NSW.
She’s exploring new ways of working and has been forced to look at new materials.
Michael Metcalfe - Above all, be kind
The disability sector is one of many to be hit hard by COVID-19.
Michael Metcalfe, who graduated with an MBA from Southern Cross University in 2006, was better placed to handle the fallout than some.
As the founder of Kynd, an online platform and mobile app which simplifies NDIS support and disability work, Mr Metcalfe says Kynd has benefited by building a digital first venture.
“A virtual and remote work capability has meant our transition to ‘work from home’ has not interrupted our team or service.”
Other NDIS providers may not be so lucky. “This industry has been forced to reassess everything," he says.
Poto Williams - Governing from home
It’s one thing to be dealing with the effects of working or self-isolating at home, quite another to be doing this while also trying to govern the process.
Like a large proportion of the world’s employees, for New Zealand MP Poto Williams, working from home is the new reality.
This equates to new systems, processes, tactics and surprises.
“In situations like this, and a ready example is the Christchurch Earthquake sequence, we take a civil defence response," says Ms Williams. "However, with the added component of being unable to see our problem, the virus, typical responses are not appropriate.”
Ruth Kallman - Challenges of teaching in China amid COVID-19
Ruth Kallman was a teacher at an international school in the Sichuan province of China when COVID-19 hit. It was traumatic.
The intense fear, combined with the sudden evacuation of teachers and the pressure to keep online lessons afloat, despite teachers now finding themselves both lacking resources and in different time zones; meant technological challenges piled on top of mental and emotional and challenges.
However, Ms Kallman is hanging in there, teaching in an empty classroom with one other teacher, both wearing masks.
She says a global response to the crisis is needed.
James O'Keefe - You are not alone
Behind the scenes, in hospitals around the world, nurses are facing their days with strength and enthusiasm.
They face not only the daily challenges of dealing with the pandemic, but also public scrutiny.
Many, such as James O’Keefe, are Southern Cross University graduates.
John Wong - full digital banking and new virtual banks
COVID-19 will irrevocably change many industries. While the pandemic has seen a move toward contactless payments in the short-term it has also pushed the banking industry towards full digital banking, says CEO of Fidelity Asia Bank in Malaysia, Tze Yow Wong (also known as John).
John a Southern Cross MBA graduate says opportunities for new virtual banks will grow further as a result.
He says the key lesson he says he has learnt from the COVID-19 experience is that history always repeats.