Voices of Youth Inspire! “Don’t let the society make choices on your behalf”
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In my last post about the story of Siddhartha Nanayakkara, I mentioned that I immediately thought of two people when I read through Assignment #5 for Interns. I am writing about the other person today, who is also a very close friend of Siddhartha. He is an entrepreneur, trying his luck in the flourishing IT industry of Sri Lanka.
This is how my interview of him unfolded.
Your name: Pasan Thilakasiri
Your age: 20
Where are you originally from and where do you currently live? My hometown is Kelaniya, a close suburb of Sri Lanka’s commercial capital Colombo. I currently live there.
According your business card – what is your job title? Director/CEO of Highflyer Global Private Limited.
And how does that compare with what you wanted to do when you were 10 years old? From very young days, I wanted to be with computers. I remember when I was little, I had a cousin who used to live in our place, and he had a computer. My parents didn’t allow me to play a single game in that computer, because they knew that I would definitely try out something new and end up breaking the machine.
So ever since I was like 5 years old, I loved computers. IT was my passion.
Give us 5 words or phrases that describe your typical work day. Busy, happy, exciting, planned, challenging
Tell us about your education.
I started schooling at Royal College, Colombo which is one of the leading boys’ schools in the country.
Right after my Ordinary Level Examination, I started following BCS Chartered IT qualification, and I have completed up to the Diploma Level. After that I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Computing from the University of Greenwich with First Class Honours, and went on to complete my MSc in Information Systems Management at the same university.
In a nutshell, how did you get to where you are right now? Name some of the most important milestones. While I was following my BCS qualification, I worked for a Sri Lankan company as a Network Solutions trainee. I had to do literally everything there - from server administration to whatever my superiors asked me to do. So when I completed my MSc, I gave up my initial plan to work for an employer, and decided that I should start a company of my own.
I called my friend Eshana, whom I had known for about 15 years, and discussed our initial plan for a start-up. Eshana had considerable experience in the industry, having worked for Sri Lankan musicians Bhathiya Jayakody and Santhush Weeraman (BNS). Our friend Chamath, who is an Oracle certified Java professional joined us at this point. Together we formed a product, TrackMe, which was a GPS enabled device to be used in tracking vehicles. We formed our own company, got all the necessary licences from the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka, and started selling our product. Today, TrackMe is very successful.
Then we also started CCTV camera systems, since I have learnt a bit about computer related security systems for my MSc. Many people start doing things without any basic knowledge, so I wanted to use what I knew to do something productive.
What are the future prospects for you and your business?
Our dream has always been to evolve into a corporate level software development company. We are gradually realising our dream. At the moment we have started doing software integration projects - we do integrations for existing systems, we don’t make entire software. But we’ll get there soon.
Recently, I was awarded a professional membership – Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (MIEEE) – which gives me great mileage in the industry.
What are your interests outside professional life?
I really enjoy music. Maybe that’s because my friend Eshana, who is also a director of our company, is a professional musician.His family has a good background in music and I think that has influenced me as well. During my school days I was keen to study both Oriental and Western music, and even today, I keep learning music from Eshana.
What are the top three things someone needs to excel in your field? Commitment, interest in the field of study, ability to accept challenges
What do you think is the MOST important thing governments and/or companies can do to help young people get started in their careers? I think everyone should work on changing attitudes. Youth should be accepted as entrepreneurs, not employees – job creators, not job seekers.
On a lighter note, tell us about the strangest day you’ve ever had at work or the strangest thing you had to do? We had to do all the interior decorating of our office, including the carpeting and painting, all by ourselves.
Some words to youth out there: What advice can you give them when chasing their dream position? You should have the courage to do what you want to do, and not what the society tells you to do. Imagine that your mother is a doctor and everybody wants you to become a doctor as well. Yes, you can become a doctor if you put in the hard work, although reluctantly, but you will never become a “good” doctor – you will not show compassion towards your patients because you don’t enjoy your work. There are some days when we work for more than 15 hours here, but we don’t really feel the stress because we love what we’re doing. So you should always choose to do what makes you happy.
If I am to relate my answer to entrepreneurship, I suggest that you should have the courage to take risks – calculated risks, not just stupid risks. In Sri Lanka, we’re pretty much afraid to fail, but we should change this mindset. Everywhere in the world, people let social opinion drive their choices and decisions, but the youth should make sure that this does not continue to happen.
Pasan is part of the new generation of progressive youth in Sri Lanka. Individuals like Pasan are constantly striving to change the conservative mindset of Sri Lankan communities, in order to promote better facilitation of youth initiatives. With their contribution, the dream of making Sri Lanka the “Wonder of Asia” is not so far away.