With no particular career path in mind after finishing her schooling, Shyamali Ranasinghe held a deep end passion for pursuing a good university education. Now taking on the role of Group Director, People Transformation, Technology Division at London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG), Shyamali shares with us her career voyage that not only begins with learning but also goes on with it too.
Having lived all her life in Rathnapura, Shyamali schooled at Ferguson High School and was rather keen on experiencing the world beyond. And for exactly that reason, she decided to apply for a scholarship that got her into the University of Pune, India while Shyamali was a few weeks into attending the University of Sri Jayewardenepura here in Sri Lanka. She further pursued her master’s in Human Resource Management from the same university, followed by an MBA from the University of Leicester, UK and a master’s degree program in Change Management from INSEAD in France not too long ago. Admitting that learning is something she never hit the brakes on, Shyamali also shares that, “Never-ending learning curve remains to be my biggest blessing along with the diverse and unique individuals I crossed paths with, who have contributed tremendously to my career.”
Looking back with such fond memories, Shyamali recalls her first job as a teacher in a government school for a couple of months before hopping on her higher studies bandwagon. Upon completing her master’s in HR, Shyamali set her heart on finding a role aligned with her studies.
Having received her first job opportunity from IE Technics, a home electronic goods manufacturing company based in Panadura, she remembers her first role with gratitude, as she was entrusted to manage the HR function with no prior experience. “I found myself enjoying the basic HR operations work and calculating the company payroll for about six hundred employees in an excel sheet with zero errors felt like an accomplishment”, she dotingly expressed.
an Indian-based consulting firm that focused on talent management practices (Grow Talent is a part of Right Management today). As a novice consultant, Shyamali had a great deal to master. “I call those years the peak of learning. All that I knew theoretically came to life at Grow Talent.”, she says. Shyamali not only supported two multilayered assignments for companies such as John Keels and Brandix, but she also handled short to medium-term assignments with key clients in Mumbai such as Mahindra & Mahindra. With the incessant feeling of discomfort of not knowing enough every time, Shyamali overtook each assignment as a challenge; forever reading, reaching out to others for help and seeking advice.
Defining her move from a bank to a technology organization as a leap of faith, Shyamali expresses a sense of bravado in taking on her role in the London Stock Exchange Group, first here in Sri Lanka as the Head of HR. With the majority of LSEG operations locally being part of the technology division of the group, Shyamali found herself having lots to learn once again. “I still recall my first discussions with the Managing Director at the
time, asking him ‘Please tell me more about Cloud’. I still may not explain what Cloud technology is well enough, but with time I understood the uniqueness of supporting tech talent,” she says.
Eventually being offered a secondment with LSEG in the UK, Shyamali moved to London in the year 2018. With excitement and an anxiety-filled touchdown in London, she found that it took effort and time in understanding the intricacies of working in a different culture, especially in a multicultural city like London. LSEG offered her an abundance of opportunities with a global scope, and she moved on from HR Business Partnering/ Generalist roles to more transformation-focused roles. Since the beginning of this year, she heads the people agenda for the Technology Transformation program at LSEG. She says that it is a tremendous opportunity and she truly enjoys the change that comes with ambiguity yet the excitement of not knowing all the answers.
When asked about her values followed throughout her journey, she explains how broad the value of topics can be. “I believe their foundation belongs to home, to one’s parents while growing up before we enter the society at large which would then influence us to further shape them”. Growing up watching a hard-working father and a mother who pushed and encouraged her, yet within a traditional framework, Shyamali finds those qualities engraved into her accompanied by her thirst for knowledge and continuous learning. “I think true learning and change that follows with it as an act of courage and also humility, being able to accept there are better ways to do things than just what I know,” she remarks.
Shyamali believes that hard work most often manifests into executing excellence. “As I progressed in my career, I realized that much more is expected than one’s ability to deliver. Our capacity to think is tested today. The ever-changing context of organizations not only demands new thoughts and ideas (solutions, strategies, products, etc.) but also to review the existing and already implemented thoughts”, she says. Shyamali found that some of the biggest changes she had to make as she got into more senior roles is to make time for reflection and curiosity.
On the question of women in leadership, Shyamali says, “We, women sometimes are the biggest barriers to our success. Our own biases learnt within the society that we grew up in, serve to reinforce ‘systematic inequality’.” She further remarks, “As women, we have more space to be vulnerable than men, which helps us to be more authentic in our relationships, which I think is a great advantage of being a woman in a leadership role.”
Lastly, with a desire to inspire all talented females out there, Shyamali dedicates the poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’ by Amanda Gorman.
“When the day comes we step out of the shade,
Aflame and unafraid,
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it”.