Eranga Jayewardene

Current Employment: General Manager, MAS Holdings

Education: MS in Electrical Engineering and Management Science, Stanford University

Return to Sri Lanka

Eranga returned to Sri Lanka on a short visit in 2010, after working at Cisco Inc. and Apple Inc for six years. He got an opportunity with MAS holdings and as it suited his professional goals he decided to relocate himself from the US, after resigning from Apple.

His decision to come back to his motherland was influenced by family and personal reasons. He found his transition to be quite smooth, as he already had a house to live in and received plenty of support from his family.

Thoughts on Careers and Professional Development

There is fair demand in the local market for professionals with foreign exposure and various options to search for relevant jobs in Sri Lanka. Flagship companies are keen on recruiting Sri Lankans returning from overseas as they would bring with them, a certain aspect of global industry knowledge. However, the effectiveness of these options can vary – the individual’s experience level and competencies will dictate the level of responsibility and job function within the organization.

Experience with Compensation and Living Expenses

Those moving back home cannot expect to earn similar salary scales as they did overseas, in Sri Lanka. However, the average compensation offered by local companies is competitive, depending on the cost of living and the type of lifestyle you embrace. A person’s experience, education and other factors are taken into account when a job offer is made. One can buy a car for approximately Rs. 2,500,000 to 15,000,000 or rent a small car for Rs. 40,000 and a luxury vehicle for Rs. 250,000 per month. In terms of housing costs, nice houses can be found just outside Colombo for rent of approximately 30,000 to 50,000 per month, depending on the specifics.

Opinions about Working Culture

The working culture is vastly different in Sri Lanka. Dress code is one of the factors that is quite dissimilar – you cannot expect to wear polo shirts and denims to work, unlike some companies in the US. However, given that most local blue chip companies work with US or western counterparts, there are a several similarities: for example, colleagues are referred by their first names and employees on varying levels are treated equally. It is important to understand and adapt to the Sri Lankan system and the workforce/organizational culture.

Take on Quality of Life

The quality of life in Sri Lanka primarily depends on how each individual defines it. Just like any other country or city, this definition varies from the party goers, to those who enjoy a quiet life in the suburbs and others who enjoy both lifestyles. The biggest difference one could experience outside Colombo is the greater number of parks; however the government has recently been building more of these within the city as well. Changes in lifestyle may or may not be made, depending on the individual – Eranga admits that he made a few changes when he moved back, such as going out less due to adjustments in family lifestyle.

Views on Education

There are very good local and international schools in Sri Lanka. For the younger kids, there are play schools (similar to those in the US), though, the ones here are much cheaper and easier to find. In terms of primary and secondary education, the local schools are very competitive to get into, but provide a good education. However, you can find good private schools that are cheaper than international schools and easier to get into than public schools. While there are options for primary and secondary education, the options at tertiary education level are limited. This trend is changing as there are a few private universities being set up Sri Lanka with affiliations to universities in the UK, US and Australia.

Advice for potential returnees

Almost three years after returning to his motherland, Eranga is now fully settled and hopes to continue living here. He has no regrets so far about his decision and he encourages others who have hopes of returning to do so, depending on the availability of suitable opportunities.
His advice to future returnees is: “it takes time, be patient and spend time understanding the culture and reuniting with your roots.” He also says that Sri Lanka is in the forefront of global business and has a very talented work force – anyone hoping to move back to Sri Lanka must understand that they will have to prove themselves through hard work, as is the case in any other country. According to Eranga, it would be a mistake for someone to come back home with a foreign degree and expect to be treated in a superior manner. When asked about what could be useful for potential returnees abroad, he says that it would be nice to have one web portal where people can find information about finding a job, buying or renting houses and cars, and living expenses.