As Australia’s largest residential building association, HIA has over 20,000 member businesses with a membership reach of around 60,000. Built over the last 75 years, they support members by providing practical guidance and support, up-to-date regulatory and compliance information and advocacy to government on issues that impact the building industry.

HIA reached out to AGSM Executive Education in early 2023 to investigate leadership enhancement programs that aligned with their own internal leadership development program. The General Manager program seemed the most relevant for the goals of the organisation, and they sent this first cohort of six regional and general managers to participate in early 2023.

One of the HIA participants, Donna Heryawan said “I think it's important to continuously learn. And the General Manager program was a great way for me to get a taster of what it’s like to study at AGSM and the kind of level to expect for an MBA,” she says.

Practical tools to lead through change 

Donna’s main highlight was the calibre of the facilitators, who kept the group on their toes for five days. With frameworks and theories that can be applied to many different organisational challenges, she left feeling better equipped to approach future challenges and problem solve.

“There are tried and tested theories you can consider and apply if you’re going through a change process or digital transformation” Donna says.  

“Along with the theory, the facilitators were also very emphatic on the importance on communicating the why to people as a leader. Because if you don't engage them and make it resonate so they feel like they have skin in the game, they're not really going to care and you won’t get the buy in you need for success.”

Donna Heryawan , General Manager – National Membership, HIA Photo: Supplied

Donna’s standout facilitator was Jo O’Reilly, a comedian and improv performer whose specialty is designing experiential programs where people in business learn relevant performance skills to enhance their impact in busines

“When she spoke to you, you felt like you were being really engaged with. When it came to giving direct feedback on how to present, she knew her stuff. It was extremely valuable and practical, something I believe can make a real difference to the impact of your leadership.” 

Jo is the program director of Authentic Communicator: Activating Prescence, a two-day program offered by AGSM@UNSW Business School.

Putting leadership learnings to work

Being with HIA for six years, Donna says the program was a great opportunity to step outside and see other practices look like in other industries, to explore new ways of implementing ideas and making change that is meaningful and worthwhile

“Having six of us go through the program together, we can remind each other to apply our learnings and back ourselves. The one thing that stood out for all of us was that we need to remember to look outside and always ask what the customer wants,” she say

After completing the program, Donna and her colleagues were tasked with applying their learnings in a presentation to a group of HIA’s senior executives. Given topics relevant to their own organisation, participants were able to practice their new learnings and showcase their development as leaders. 

“Organisations that invest in their people with programs like this are the ones people want to work for because they care about the future of their organisation.”

The general manager program participants 2024 Photo: Supplied

Professional development that’s worth the investment

Some participants have continued their studies to obtain the AGSM Certificate in Executive Management and Development (CEMD) that same year. A CEMD provides formal recognition of professional development and provides credits towards selected MBA qualifications and Graduate Certificates. All AGSM short courses and customised programs can contribute towards your Certificate. Once you have achieved 12 credit points over a period of 48 months, you are eligible for the CEMD. Donna is now interested in the MBA pathway.  

Donna says that while stepping away from work and family is a significant commitment, it definitely paid off.  

“I'd say the five-day investment is an important part because it forces you to get out of your day to day. You cannot check your emails and do any of your work on purpose because you need that clarity of mind. And that is a blessing in disguise.”

She adds that from the accommodation to the content, everything exceeded her expectations, including the opportunity to learn alongside a high calibre cohort that expanded her understanding of industry agnostic leadership challenges.

“The content was top notch, I was engaged and impressed the entire time. The people that I got to network with combined with the class sizes meant that everyone had a chance to speak, yet you had different and insightful viewpoints. It was excellent.”


Find out more about AGSM’s General Manager Program

Find out more about AGSM’s CEMD Program.

Find out more about AGSM @ UNSW Business School.