Milanthi Sarukkali and Sankha Perera
Current Employment: Milanthi: Consultant Actuary, Sankha: Analytics Consultant
Education: Milanthi: Ph.D. (Mathematics), University of Connecticut;Fellow of Society of Actuaries, Sankha: Ph.D. (Statistics), University of Connecticut
Return to Sri Lanka
Milanthi and Sankha returned to Sri Lanka in January 2015 after living in the US for close to eight years. They both completed their doctoral degrees at the University of Connecticut. Milanthi is a qualified actuary and worked at ING USA for over 6 years. Sankha worked as an analytics consultant at Plymouth Rock Assurance, a MA based general insurance company.
Upon returning to Sri Lanka, Milanthi joined Allianz Insurance as the Chief Actuary and Chief Risk Officer. She later resigned from her position at Allianz to work as a consultant due to the need for qualified actuaries in the local market. Sankha founded Linear2, a company that provides data analytics solutions to several leading companies in Sri Lanka.
Milanthi and Sankha decided to return to Sri Lanka because they felt that the professional contributions they could make in their respective fields will have a greater impact in Sri Lanka. There are only a few fully qualified actuaries in Sri Lanka, and local companies rely on foreign consultants to fulfill regulatory requirements. Similarly, local companies are yet to reap the benefits of strong analytics capabilities.
Thoughts on Careers and Professional Development
As there is a regulatory requirement to engage qualified actuaries, there is considerable demand in the local insurance sector. In addition, there are opportunities within the finance sector as well as the government sector for actuarial credentials and experience. The scope and significance of the opportunities in Sri Lanka is far greater compared with the opportunities in the US for someone with similar background and experience.
Data analytics is still at its infancy in the local market. There are ample opportunities to start from basics and expand the analytics capabilities within the local market. Furthermore, there is a large talent pool to draw from that has the potential to provide analytics solutions beyond Sri Lanka in the future.
Experience with Compensation and Living Expenses
Although one cannot expect remuneration packages to be comparable to developed markets, the salaries and benefits offered in Sri Lanka for professionals in their respective disciplines are highly competitive. Maintaining the same lifestyle as in the US is somewhat expensive, but there have been only minimal changes. Day to day expenses are much cheaper in Sri Lanka, and taxes are much lower.
Opinions about Working Culture
The work culture in Sri Lanka varies widely among different industries. For example, it can be very different from the work culture in the US in the insurance sector, but not so much in the IT sector. Some organizations can be more hierarchical and the HR policies can be downright absurd, while some other organizations may have a culture similar to Google. There will be certain things you need to adapt to when working in Sri Lanka, no matter which industry you are in.
Take on Quality of Life
Although there have been some changes in their lifestyle, Milanthi and Sankha do not feel that quality of life is any less in Sri Lanka. You have to be open to making changes when you relocate from another country, but this does not necessarily mean that your quality of life will deteriorate.
Quality of life in Sri Lanka has definitely improved over the last few years. There are a lot more high-end housing, restaurants, shopping malls, and recreational areas in the city. In addition, other parts of the country are more easily accessible now. Being able to get away to a beach for the weekend all year round is a welcome change after dealing with New England winters. There are nice perks to living on a vacation island!
Advice for potential returnees
The most difficult part of returning to Sri Lanka was to make the decision to return, especially given the significant difference in compensation packages offered in Sri Lanka and the US. However, it was easier to make a fair comparison considering all other pros and cons, once they focused on why they wanted to return.
You have to be open to making certain changes in your lifestyle. Also, it will take some time to settle down, and get used to how things happen here, no matter how long you have lived in Sri Lanka before. Sri Lanka has changed over the time you were away, and you need to approach living here the same way you would if you move to any new country.
Keep an open mind, be patient and do not try to judge too quickly if you want to live in Sri Lanka or not. It takes some time to adapt to living in a new country, and to explore everything a new home has to offer.