With an illustrious 40-year career in the aviation industry, Dushy Jayaweera, Executive Vice President – Aviation Services, Acorn Group has been marked by dynamic leadership since her current tenure began in 1994. Her decision to enter this field was rooted in a lifelong fascination with aviation, sparked during her youth when she observed airport procedures and dreamed of seamless travel experiences. Although initially considering a career as a Cabin Crew with the National Carrier, Dushy instead chose to join the General Sales Agency of a leading airline, setting the stage for her enduring commitment to the industry.


Throughout her career, Dushy has adhered to the core values of professionalism, passion, dedication, empathy, and hard work, shaping her leadership style and approach to engaging with stakeholders. Key milestones along her journey include persuading airlines not initially operating in Sri Lanka to commence flights, leading to significant office expansion and team growth. The adoption of a multi-representation model, establishment of the first Aviation Centre in Sri Lanka, and effective management of diverse cultures among multiple Principals highlight her strategic acumen.


Dushy’s leadership has been defined by a commitment to delivering results for the airlines represented, while maintaining Acorn Group’s integrity and fostering talent development. Adapting to evolving industry trends and challenges has been paramount, driving continuous improvement and success. Her approach emphasizes staying abreast of emerging issues, seizing opportunities, and ensuring a dynamic response to the dynamic aviation landscape. Through these experiences, her leadership style has been honed, grounded in a blend of foresight, adaptability, and a steadfast dedication to excellence.


Dushy’s influence on expanding Acorn Group’s business overseas and establishing regional offices in Thailand and the Maldives has been transformative for the Aviation Cluster, shaping its operations with a global perspective. Embracing each day’s challenges with excitement and a focus on stakeholder satisfaction, she recognized the need to extend the representation model beyond Sri Lanka into neighbouring regions.


Expanding internationally posed a myriad of challenges and opportunities. Navigating diverse legal frameworks, securing permits, and ensuring compliance with local regulations demanded meticulous planning and strategic partnerships with the right local entities. Understanding the intricacies of each market’s culture, customs, and business practices was crucial for fostering strong relationships with local stakeholders and driving successful expansion efforts. However, amidst these challenges lay significant opportunities. Diversifying operations regionally enabled Acorn Group to gain valuable insights into different market dynamics and customer segments. The knowledge gained from operating in varied environments not only enriched the business model in Sri Lanka but also provided a fresh perspective on the traditional representation approach. The regional presence has profoundly influenced the Acorn Aviation Cluster’s operations, offering avenues for growth while requiring adaptation to diverse markets, regulations, and cultural nuances. By effectively addressing these challenges and leveraging the opportunities presented, Dushy has positioned Acorn Group to continue expanding its footprint across different regions, all while maintaining a cohesive global perspective.


Dushy’s journey in the aviation industry has been marked by her significant contributions to various industry associations and her commitment to empowering women in the sector. As a leader, she acknowledges the challenges of making her voice heard in overseas environments, particularly with the regional offices in the Maldives and serving on the board of a joint venture partnership in Thailand. However, her  resilience, multitasking abilities, and positive mindset have enabled her to navigate these challenges effectively while taking her responsibilities seriously.


Her involvement in industry associations, such as Skal International, has provided her with opportunities to interact with professionals from diverse backgrounds globally. Her leadership roles within these organizations, including serving as the President of Skal International Colombo and holding positions on the Asian Area Board, have enriched her insights and widened her network within the industry. Moreover, Dushy has broken barriers and paved the way for women in leadership roles through her achievements in various fora. She was elected as the first female President of the Sri Lanka-Malaysia Business Council and the Travel Trade Sports Club, traditionally male-dominated organizations. Her leadership in these roles has demonstrated her commitment to providing platforms for women to showcase their talents and achievements internationally.


Despite the challenges of balancing her leadership roles in associations and business councils with her responsibilities at home and in the office, Dushy remains steadfast in her dedication to empowering women in the aviation industry. With growing recognition of the importance of gender diversity and the increasing number of women rising to leadership positions, she anticipates further progress in empowering women in the industry by 2025. As women continue to shape company cultures and policies, the aviation sector is poised to become more supportive and inclusive of women in the workplace, driving positive change and facilitating opportunities for women in the industry.


Dushy and the leadership team at Acorn Group have recognized the imperative need for adaptation and reinvention in a rapidly changing world. Embracing a proactive and flexible approach, she has spearheaded strategies aimed at fostering growth and innovation within the conglomerate. Central to her approach is the cultivation of a growth mindset, which encourages a willingness to learn, adapt, and view challenges as opportunities for advancement. This mindset enables Acorn to stay agile and responsive to the evolving landscape of the aviation industry. Furthermore, Dushy emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and skill development to remain relevant amidst industry shifts. By staying up-to-date with industry trends, technological advancements, and social changes impacting travel, Acorn can anticipate and proactively address emerging challenges and opportunities. Networking also plays a vital role, allowing the company to engage with peers, experts, and stakeholders to exchange ideas, gain diverse perspectives, and stay connected to emerging trends. Moreover, Acorn Group has fostered a culture of resilience, enabling the organization to navigate setbacks and challenges inherent in the dynamic aviation industry. By instilling resilience among its team members and embracing a mindset of adaptability, Acorn can effectively navigate the uncertainties of the business landscape.


Under Dushy’s leadership, Acorn Group has successfully adapted to industry shifts by integrating these strategies into its organizational approach. Looking ahead to 2025, the company remains committed to innovation and anticipates implementing further innovative strategies to stay ahead of the curve. By leveraging a combination of forward-thinking initiatives and a proactive mindset, Acorn Group is well-positioned to thrive in an ever-changing world.


As we embark on a new era of travel, Dushy envisions a future for aviation services at Acorn that is characterized by continued growth, expansion, and innovation. With Acorn’s presence already established in multiple countries beyond Sri Lanka and plans to expand further, Dushy sees opportunities to solidify the company’s position as a trusted representation partner across the region. By fostering trust and confidence with the airlines represented, Acorn aims to become the go-to choice for aviation services, enabling the company to extend its reach and impact within the industry.


Dushy’s leadership philosophy revolves around empowerment and providing her senior team with the autonomy to lead effectively. By serving as a role model for adaptability and a growth mindset, she inspires her team to embrace change and take calculated risks in the face of challenges. Trust is a cornerstone of her leadership approach, as she delegates tasks based on her team members’ strengths and provides support when needed, allowing them to take ownership of their projects.

Recognizing the importance of celebrating achievements and maintaining motivation, Acorn regularly acknowledges individual and team successes along the journey towards their goals. Open communication and collaboration are encouraged, with regular team meetings, brainstorming sessions, and workshops fostering a shared sense of purpose and motivation among team members. Her certification as a Personal Development Coach further enhances her ability to provide constructive feedback and coaching to support her team members’ professional growth and development. In times of uncertainty or setbacks, she emphasizes optimism, resilience, and a positive outlook, ensuring that her team feels supported and empowered to overcome challenges together.


In navigating the ever-changing landscape of the aviation industry, Dushy emphasizes the importance of patience, understanding, and open-mindedness. By embracing these principles and fostering a culture of continuous learning and growth, Acorn is poised to lead and inspire its team to achieve its goals by 2025 and beyond.

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