How to Start Growing and Never Stop
My heritage is Sri Lankan. But, at the age of 15 I moved to France as a refugee, fleeing a civil war. Starting a new life from scratch in France, without speaking French, was certainly an interesting journey. But I was lucky enough to have support from my parents. They lived by the mantra of "when there's a will, there's a way". And that helped get me into the French education system, where I completed high school and University, before moving to the UK to start my professional career in IT.
Fast forward a few years, I was working for a content management software company as a consultant. At this point, I was presented an opportunity at Akamai by a friend. I knew nothing about them, but it seemed like a logical step to move from content management to content delivery technology. As I went through the hiring process, what really attracted me to Akamai was Danny Lewin's legacy, the history of the company and Akamai's innovative edge platform for high-performance internet.
I started my Akamai career in Europe. I was a technical advocate for our customers in different roles from Solutions Architect, to Technical Project Manager, to Enterprise Architect. And I enjoyed them all. But, with the intention to expand my role, I moved to Australia. Joining the pre-sales organisation to help grow the region.
While I love technology, I had no desire to be the most technical person in the room. This led me into sales. I was able to build credibility and trust with the customers quickly, which brought me three glorious years in sales. I subsequently seized an opportunity to lead a regional pre-sales team, and be the glue between our customers, and our sales, product, platform, network and marketing teams.
I never had a long-term career plan. But, for every role I embarked on, I asked myself three questions. 1. What would success look like in this role? 2. How do I make the role relevant to the good of our customers and Akamai? 3. How do I make myself redundant from the role by having a succession and contingency plan? Using these strategies allowed me to get the most out of each role. And, by going above and beyond the call of duty, new opportunities were offered to me - along with recognitions such as sales rookie of the year and Danny Lewin award recipient. Something I never even dreamt would happen.
12 years at Akamai later and I find myself in a leadership role, within the APJ region. I would describe my leadership style as compassionate, authentic and collaborative. For me, it starts with being an empathetic listener, and listening to what wasn't said. I also encourage autonomy, by empowering my team members to take action while providing a safe environment to fail. This creates accountability, ownership and respect among the team. To top it all off, I also try to have fun. We work hard and play harder.
Here's the best piece of advice I've been given in my career. If someone offers you an amazing opportunity that you are not sure you can do it, say yes. Then learn how to do it. This is something I've lived by.
And, if I were to give you some advice, it would be this: Alone you go fast, together you go far. Be a team player and be a student of Akamai.