Following his curiosity at the University of Melbourne led Michael to his purpose-driven career as the founder and managing director of Beyond Value, a social procurement consultancy.
Growing up in a Chinese-Singaporean immigrant family in Melbourne’s western suburbs, Michael wasn’t always sure where his studies would take him. However, a mentoring program in Year 10 sparked something inside Michael that set him on the path he is on today.
“Up until that point, I had never been asked about my education. One of the first things they asked is what do you want to learn? You had to decide for yourself, which you’ve got to pitch back to your parents, your teachers, and the school principal, who at the time…we weren’t great friends,” Michael laughs.
“That program was transformational…there were mentors that were helping you to get to the next stage.”
Considering all his options led Michael to looking for an undergraduate experience which would let him explore his interests, and ultimately to the Bachelor of Arts at Melbourne. On learning he had been accepted, which Michael says is “one of those memories that I’ll never forget”, he set about finding a community of supportive peers and staff at Melbourne. These connections have continued to influence him along his path from high school through to policymaking.
After trying a broad range of subjects, it was a first year politics subject and a third year Public Affairs Internship that cemented Michael's sense that his future would be in social impact. Working with internship coordinator Dr Lea Campbell was a pivotal moment for Michael, and she has continued to remain a presence in his life. “She is, in short, a legend at the University. She went above and beyond to help me find an internship, and she’s been instrumental in helping me turn my theoretical knowledge into a practical opportunity, and an opportunity into employment.”
“The Bachelor of Arts offers very practical options for you to reach into industry. I took up every practical opportunity that I had during my degree and then also networked as much as I possibly could with my tutors who would know people in the sector.”
"Social impact is a real business problem. I’ve been able to help businesses navigate the whole range of social impact policies that they have to abide by while simultaneously creating positive social impact. This is a win for business, this is a win for community, and this is a win for society."
One practical experience came during a social impact consultancy subject which involved collaborating from Melbourne with a not-for-profit organisation based in India. “It really opened my mind up…there is a world out there where the skills that I’m tangibly learning and applying through my Bachelor of Arts degree can be used to solve real-world problems.”
Leveraging these networks, including volunteering through student enrichment activities available to Melbourne students, resulted in Michael being offered the role of CEO of CHASE, a Victorian charity aiming to empower Victorian youth through health education and community engagement. Taking these learnings from his time at CHASE gave Michael the confidence to then found his own business Beyond Value.
“Social impact is a real business problem. I’ve been able to help businesses navigate the whole range of social impact policies that they have to abide by while simultaneously creating positive social impact. This is a win for business, this is a win for community, and this is a win for society.”
This work has not gone unnoticed, with Michael being awarded the 2023 Faculty of Arts Rising Star Alumni Award. Reflecting on his achievements so far, Michael feels a sense of gratitude for his experiences at Melbourne, as well as a responsibility to continue to effect change.
“For me, I hope I can create more opportunities that give historically marginalised communities or people more freedom, choice and autonomy in what they’re able to do in their day to day lives”.