Women in Digital: Seshika Fernando

Seshika Fernando, VP and head of BFSI practice at WSO2 discusses her career path, her influences and what she thinks makes a great leader

Posted 9 August 2021 by Christine Horton

What qualifications do you have?

I hold a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and an MSc in Finance from the London School of Economics, UK. I am also a British Chevening Scholar. 

Has your career path been a smooth transition, a rocky road or combination of both?

My career path hasn’t been a smooth transition. But I wouldn’t call it a rocky road either. I’ve had the pleasure of doing various things at different points in my career. My career has presented me with unexpected opportunities and I decided to follow them rather than setting firm goals for myself. I’ve always enjoyed my work but given the opportunity to try something new and exciting, I’ve always opted to go down that path to see where it would lead me. 

What’s the best career advice you can give to others?

Set your goals, but be open to opportunities that are outside of the plans you’ve set for your career. Sometimes the best opportunities are not the ones that we planned or dreamt about. 

If you had to pick one mentor who has had the biggest influence on you, who would it be?

I would say I have two figures, the first is Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo. She is an inspiring woman leader: one who also raised two children. It helps me to have a point of reference while I manage work and raise my children. The second is my husband. The two of us are equals and neither of our jobs or our duties towards our children is prioritised over the other. With that kind of attitude and environment to work in, there are no limitations.

From where do you draw inspiration? 

I am inspired when I see other people who are very passionate about what they do. When you’re in a career field for a long time, especially working for a particular organisation, there are periods where you lose excitement or passion. But then when you see other people who are excited and passionate about what they do, especially people within your team who are reporting to you that really kind of rings a bell and gives you a wake-up call and I find that inspiring. 

What qualities do you feel makes a good leader?

I believe a good leader is someone who can inspire a group of people to achieve a particular goal. This allows them to ensure and effectively lead their team towards a common goal while believing in and enjoying what they do. Different leaders can do this in different ways and styles, irrespective of gender.

What would you say are the biggest cybersecurity challenges we face today?

With the move to digital and social distancing protocols, everyone has had to transform their products and services into digital. This doesn’t allow organisations enough time to assess what security aspects should be in place. That is a challenge, a lot of organisations having to make a sudden move to digital, without fully understanding the possible repercussions of not putting enough focus into having very secure systems. We are moving into an Open Data economy and that means people can share their data with, different parties. And of course, there are lots of secure mechanisms to do that. But it also goes down to the level of education that is provided to consumers, and they need to be made aware of what they can control and how they can control it. I think these are a few key challenges.