My parents are a driving force in my ambition to make this world a better place. My dream of pioneering my own Ed-Tech start-up first began at my kitchen table, where my parents — an educational strategist and a high-tech executive — would share stories about their work. My mom, an education innovator and social justice advocate, impressed upon me the importance of proper and equal education for all. Just before I entered first grade, my father was tapped by a former army commander to work in high tech in Boston.
My view morphed from the rolling hills of our town to skyscrapers, the songs of birds replaced by honking taxis. Two days after arriving in America, I found myself in a public classroom, without a single friend or a word of English to my name.
Will you get in?
I forced my parents to give me English lessons every night when they returned home from work. After a year, I felt completely at home, and I even mentored new foreign arrivals, preparing them for what to expect at school and helping them to practice English. We moved back to my town after six years in Boston, but the experience abroad was foundational. Rooting for the Celtics became as much a part of my anatomy as Brazilian asado — Boston added another layer to my identity. Acclimating to a foreign culture at such a young age opened me in ways that have been essential to my personal and professional growth.
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Overcoming my language barrier at a young age taught me to be patient, to give others the benefit of the doubt, and instilled the value of mentorship. These insights helped me to become a highly cooperative person whom others feel they can trust. I first learned to lead as captain of my high school basketball team, leading my team to a national championship against all odds. We had less talent, less experience, and we were on average 4 centimeters shorter than our opponents.
In the end, our teamwork and friendship prevailed. After winning the championship, I was invited to scrimmage with the national team. I insisted they allow my entire team come. Becoming national champions showed me the value of persistence and never underestimating you own abilities, or the abilities of your team. This was especially instructive when serving as a paratrooper; I suffered a serious back injury from long treks with heavy equipment. Determined to make the most of my service in spite of my injury, I chose the latter. The project was over a year behind schedule, manned by an exhausted, frustrated team.
I never doubted that we would reach the ambitious 8-month goal the army had set. I created a comprehensive Gantt to meet development, finance, logistics, and HR benchmarks. I worked hard toward creating cohesion between army and civilian team members. When additional product features required more capital to develop, I used my nights off to create marketing campaigns that I pitched to higher-ranking officers — to countless colonels and even a brigadier general.
I solicited private donations from dozens of international donors, tailoring each presentation to their cultural preferences and priorities. Growing up in an immigrant community, I developed a close understanding of what it meant to live in a poor, remote part of a country. My tech achievements thus far give me the confidence that I am ready to bring my own products to the public. I developed a start-up company, an online platform for professional development and recruiting.
I drew capital for entire project with nothing more than belief in my idea and very convincing power point presentations. Today, My company has thousands of users and is the main professional development platform for several multi-million-dollar tech firms. Global change begins from local change, and my country is fertile testing-ground. More than being located in my beloved childhood hometown, Harvard Business School is the place that piqued my interest in management sciences.
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I am fortunate to be able to continue my interaction with HBS through reading articles and case studies on the IBM learning portal. Harvard is the quintessential learning experience. Through innovations in EdTech, I believe the Harvard standard can become a world-wide education standard. Who am I? I am confident, an initiator, a problem-solver; I use my communication skills and emotional intelligence to motivate others to attain goals. The constant in my life that has shaped how I act, react, and make decisions — diversity.
I grew up immersed in two cultures with very different traditions. We are also diverse in our wide range of talents, from architecture my dad to music my mother is a professional pianist to wine my uncle, an INSEAD alumnus, heads a well-known local wine label.
For example, our extended family, all 40 of us, has a special April tradition; we build a camp in the desert for 8 days, our own Burning Man festival. My happiest moments professionally are seeking patterns to structure a team that will cultivate the individual while helping everyone to share the big picture, our mutual goal.
At 14, I was accepted to a choir that traveled abroad 3 or 4 times a year to perform in communities around the globe.
Moreover, working intensively with our small group of 20 and managing the logistics of travel as a teen gave me problem-solving skills and the ability to forecast long-term consequences, as well as a lesson in how devotion to a goal can motivate a team. When one of my younger sisters was diagnosed with anorexia, my ability to understand, motivate, and put the strengths of others to good use was truly put to the test.
It hit my family so hard that suddenly I found myself in charge. Navigating that challenge was the most difficult and important thing I have ever accomplished, a trial by fire that has given me the strength going forward to take on herculean tasks.
In terms of weaknesses, I know that I can be impatient. Am I with a client who needs kid gloves? Am I with my employees? I am honored that the excellent teams I have built understand and appreciate my management style, and find my direct approach motivational rather than off-putting. And they freely remind me that my impatience often results from bogging down in detail. Trusting my team to do their best work always solves the problem.
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It is very nice meeting with you on my way to Kampala. I have a meeting tomorrow with the largest water company in Uganda. Out of all the sectors that I cover at the World Bank Group, water is the most exciting, due to the inherent challenges and the significant positive social impact that can be made in it. I have managed water purification projects in India, Uganda and Ghana and played a key role in financial engineering and structuring aspects of these projects. One of the greatest challenges in the sector is limited capital availability, and I intend one day to set up a Private Equity fund focused on Africa and Asia in order to attract private capital to the sector.
In order to achieve this long-term goal, I plan to spend 5 to 10 years post-MBA at a leading PE firm, and eventually move into a Director role at a water sector-focused company in Africa. After gaining the skills I need to run an investment fund, I will start working towards launching my own PE fund. I come from a humble background in Sri Lanka, and if education had not been affordable in my home country, I would not have made it to where I am today.
I am grateful to society for that, and feel I owe a whole lot back. Over the last decade, I have led several programs to bring sustainable development to the community. In these challenging programs, I have managed teams of members in design, implementation and fundraising activities, including establishing a scholarship fund for students from low-income families.tratunlida.tk
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I am always exploring ways to bring sustainable impact to society, and establishing and managing a water sector-focused PE fund would be my ultimate professional and personal goal. Beyond the achievements written in my CV, I would like you to know more about who I am through three important lessons I have learned. The first lesson I learned from my parents, the second from my soldiers and the last lesson I learned from my comrades. From my parents I learned the importance of dedication to my goals.
I am the eldest of five siblings, and until I reached junior high all five of us slept together in the same room. Even with limited financial resources, our parents promoted personal development and insisted we all learn to play an instrument and master at least one sport: I played piano and practiced judo. Music and sports taught us to set our goals and to keep improving in order to achieve them. As a result, I grew up to be very mission-driven: quickly analyzing the main factors involved in reaching a personal goal and aligning them around the objective.
With the ability to clearly visualize the goals of my organization or the needs of my community, I am able to take initiative, identify opportunities and drive everyone involved towards achieving them. Therefore, although most of my program classmates pursued roles as developers or engineers, I elected to fill a demanding role in a field unit, where I could contribute my knowledge and understand first-hand the technological needs of our fighting forces. I saw my opportunity to make an impact as a combat officer in a highly technological and elite operational unit of the Artillery Corps.
From my soldiers I learned that in order to be an effective leader, I need to listen to my subordinates and constantly work to improve them and myself. Serving as a platoon commander I made it a practice to have weekly personal conversations with each of my subordinate commanders during which each of us would provide candid and constructive feedback to the other.
Thus, I was able to achieve great trust through and use their feedback to improve as a commander.
I believe these conversations created a winning team, in which my subordinates flourished. Most of them were promoted to platoon sergeant. As a platoon commander I was concerned that the training we received fell short of meeting operational requirements on the field. Moreover, my experience in music, where independent practice was a key to improvement, inspired me to include more independent practice in the training plan, nearly doubling simulator time without overtaxing the instructors.
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Finally, I discovered through my military comrades what I want to do with my life and career. As a commander I had the privilege of working with many amazing people, but I also saw too many cases where people with tremendous talent were blocked from fulfilling their potential due to socio-economic circumstances. This seems to be a particularly serious problem in my country, which was ranked as the fourth most unequal society among OECD countries.
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