We have mastered many applications

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Interview with Chrishan Perera

Mr Chrishan Perera

CHRISHAN PERERA

Chrishan Perera is the Head of Business Development at SCIENTER (Scienter Technologies (Pte) Ltd). The company was established in 1995 and has invested in highly qualified personnel.  In 2009, Scienter Technologies was a winner at the Asia Pacific ICT Awards (APICTA) Australia and in the same year became the Gold award winner of the National Best Quality Software Awards (NBQSA).  Their IT solutions include:  Hospitality Management, Financial Applications, Restaurant Management, Membership Management, Procurement & Warehouse Management, Contact Centre Systems, Inventory Control and Human Resource Management.

Elena Ornig:

What was the reason for Scienter Technologies to attend the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013?

Chrishan Perera:

We were informed that ICTA (Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka) was planning to take a delegation to the Gartner Symposium. Our company has the biggest market share in the Hospitality Industry in Sri Lanka (about 65%) and we have been recognized as a high quality complete integrated IT solutions provider – and we contacted the ICTA to present our IT solution at the Gartner Symposium.  In the beginning of 2013 we made the decision to go global and we have already started business operations in Dubai while having partners in Malaysia who function as re-sellers. The opportunity to present our product at this prestigious international IT Symposium was a good step for our company. The ICTA had strong selection criteria but we were selected and now we are here, in Australia, looking for partners.

IT Symposium

(The Sri Lankan delegation at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013)

Elena Ornig:

Many international companies are proudly presenting their products and solutions at the Gartner Symposium. What makes your products special?

Chrishan Perera:

Our application is very large and used in Sri Lanka by majority of the leading hotels and resorts such as Jetwing Hotels, Avani, Blue Waters and many others. Also companies like Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonald’s, BreadTalk, TGI Fridays and Chinese Dragon all use our application because it is a completely integrated application with a completely integrated application,  our clients do not need to use any other application to do their work. The application deploys in all areas of a business, from ordering to processing, production and logistic operations to billing on a multiple price structures and detailed reporting. For example, Pizza Hut in Sri Lanka is very successful in delivery because as soon as the clients call to order – their profiles are available on screen with the history of previous orders. So, the person at the call center can quickly access your preferable choice and ask if you would like the same order that was placed last time. It is part of the customer relationship management component that is built into the system.

About two weeks ago we won the top award at “Enabling Sri Lanka Tourism 2.0 and beyond” in the ‘Enhance Revenue and Customer Experience’ category for our solution for the hospitality industry. Our solution helps provide a superior and memorable service to guests by allowing, the management access to real time information on every guest, helping them to make quick decisions and eliminate unnecessary overheads.

Scienter

Elena Ornig:

Competitiveness is a part of every business. Do you have serious competitors in Sri Lanka?

Chrishan Perera:

In the, Sri Lankan market we do not have too many competitors. The biggest competitor has about 15% of market share and the rest constitute what is left. However, globally we do have competitors.  One of our global competitors is MICROS Systems, Inc.  They are present in Australia and Dubai offering solutions for the restaurant and hospitality industry and we compete with them globally. However, we do have confidence in our applications because they are completely integrated, which is an advantage compared to our rivals’. Our competition has a well-established brand because they have been in the market for a long time. Their application only covers the fronted component of all operations and the clients need to purchase a different application.  With our application we have a complete integrated backend operation, solution and our clients need to buy only one application.

Elena Ornig:

What about robustness to changes? How flexible are your applications?

Chrishan Perera:

In technical terms it is called parameterization which means you can parameterize various functions of the application. For example take a taxation system – every country has a different system for tax. We have taken this into consideration and our applications are flexible – you can enable any taxation process you wish. So, the parameters are not fixed and that is one of the major advantages that our solution has. We are also constantly improving our applications because we listen to our client’s feedback and that process is helping us to stay ahead of our competition. Every day our applications are going through R&D processes which helps us to constantly upgrade and enhance our products and to roll-out upgraded versions to our customers. I believe that in our business you cannot settle with one version even for just six months.

Sri Lanka Chrishan Perera

Chrishan Perera at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013

Elena Ornig:

How do you protect your unique solutions from being stolen or copied?

Chrishan Perera:

Developing software takes a lot of work, logic and coding to develop specific applications. For example, if you take calculations, there is a complex methodology of how you make these calculations. That is something that you cannot just see and understand in the whole system. The functions such as the food costing and the accuracy of that system are something that not many companies have mastered. We have actually mastered that system and when foreign companies setup in Sri Lanka – they adopted our software and not any other foreign application.  It is not easy to just look at the application and figure everything out. We also use preventative measures against people who might try to copy it, measures such as license key for validation and others mechanisms in order to control our product.

Elena Ornig:

What do you personally like about Australia?

Chrishan Perera:

I have been here now for three days and this is my first time in Australia. I like it quite a lot! I have been to England many times and I have already noticed a cultural similarity. On Monday, I was speaking to a gentleman at a cocktail party and he said that he starts his work at six in the morning and after two o’clock he is already at home.  I was surprised; I could never walk off from my job at 2 pm. He said that as long as you cover those working hours that is more than enough. He seemed very relaxed about it. We in Sri Lanka start at 8:30 in the morning and officially finish at 5:30 pm. But normally, by the time I leave office it is about 7:30 to 8:00 in the evening.

Elena Ornig:

So, how does your personal life fit into this schedule?

Chrishan Perera:

Saturday and Sunday is the time when I go somewhere with my friends because after work I am too tired. I just go home to sleep. We usually try to get out of the city and spend some quiet time. We are all tired after the long working week. We just try to relax without any heavy activities.

Elena Ornig:

Do you have a message for the Gold Coast IT community?

Chrishan Perera:

We are looking for a partnership with an Australian company that has a presence in the Gold Coast, because we have great applications for the Tourism industry and particularly for the Hospitality sector. Sri Lanka is a great tourist destination so is the Gold Cost. We have mastered many applications and we are well aware of what goes on in day-to day operational processes. We are looking for a company that can represent us here, sell our solutions and provide support. Ideally we would prefer an established company because our application is very large and it needs software support.  In Sri Lanka we provide 24 hours support for our clients because the Hospitality industry works around the clock; one or two people physically wouldn’t be able to handle such a large application. We are ready to go in partnership on a mutually beneficial basis.

Elena Ornig:

Thank you, Chrishan, I will deliver that message to the IT community on the Gold Coast and let’s hope that your company will find a good partner here.

Chrishan Perera:

Thank you, Elena.

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How to effectively reach and influence your consumer via ultra-personal mobile channel

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Interview with Jayomi Lokuliyana

Jayomi Lokuliyana portret

Jayomi Lokuliyana is Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at zMessenger (Pvt) Ltd.

In 2005, Jayomi Lokuliyana was the winner of the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing’s Brand Champion for Most Innovative Brand of the Year at SLIM Brand Excellence Awards. Jayomi has been lecturing on Marketing at several leading marketing schools. She has also served on the Executive Committee of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) in Sri Lanka.

Her integrated mobile media company – zMessenger specializes in mobile-based (SMS) marketing and research. zMessenger became a pioneer in introducing SMS to media stations in Sri Lanka and lead the way in the planning, creation, and execution of effective mobile marketing campaigns, branded community applications and content distribution strategies. Incorporated in 2003, zMessenger become an award winning Mobile Value Added Service powerhouse in Mobile Marketing, Enterprise Mobility, Mobile Contents and mCommerce Solutions. Their flagship clients are big and impressive: Unilever, Coca Cola, Allianz, HSBC, Qatar Airways and Sri Lankan Airways.

Mobile Advertising

Elena Ornig:

It is a pleasure to meet you, Jayomi. Tell me more about your company.

Jayomi Lokuliyana:

Our company is Sri Lanka’s leading mobile marketing and business solutions provider. We operate three key domains for mobile marketing solutions, mobile enterprise solutions and mobile payment and content services. If you look at the mobile industry, you can see that it is quite fragmented. Some only provide mobile applications; others only provide mobile websites. What we do – we provide entwined mobile marketing platforms, covering all the touch points of customers’ interactions. It is a service which has three aspects that can be integrated. You can use it as a web service, as a mobile service through SMS or through interactive voice recognition (IVR) or as a mobile web application. We cover different operating systems: Android, iOS, Windows and BlackBerry. The majority of our clients are from marketing agencies or large brands and we also work with government agencies.

Elena Ornig:

What attracted them to use your platform?

Jayomi Lokuliyana:

We provide an end-to-end service, from mobile strategy to campaign planning and implementation, including required analytics. Our clients want one mobile contact point and service partner and that is what we offer. When it comes to large corporations we mostly have long-term partnerships of one to two years. We discuss what strategy to choose and how we are going to implement it, execute and manage a specific campaign. When we develop strategy we work with our clients and we bring in smaller marketing agencies to support a big campaign. During a campaign we collect analytics on sales, response rate and so on. We document everything and show our clients the results which make it easier for our clients to see the effectiveness of the specific campaign. For example, two years ago, in Sri Lanka, we started to work with Coca Cola. It had conducted a massive consumer promotion campaign across the entire country. After the campaign we analyzed everything in order to identify trends, limitations, what gifts to give, what makes consumers participate in the promotions and what enticed consumers to buy Coca Cola. Based on that analysis we made a few changes to achieve even better results and now we are Coca Cola’s exclusive mobile partners in Sri Lanka.

Since mobile marketing campaigns are different from traditional marketing campaigns we analyzed frequencies of calls and SMS and now we are better equipped to provide our clients with more effective campaigns. We also use profile building through filtering but we do not sell customers’ profiles – we use them for our own solutions.

Elena Ornig:

You are very young but have managed to achieve so much already. How did you succeed so fast?

Jayomi Lokuliyana:

It was quite a journey. Ten years ago, I quit my job and joined my partner to whom I am now married. It was his idea to start a new company. It was hard financially for the first few years but we took that risk knowing that mobile technology solutions would be the next big thing. My family was pressuring me to migrate to Australia but I said no. My husband is a natural optimist and peace maker and we put all our money into our own company. Four years later, we found a partner in Indonesia. He liked our company and he invested in us. I was handling all marketing operations and my husband was looking after all technical solutions. We come across many difficulties, especially in Sri Lanka. Ten years back, mobile phones weren’t very sophisticated devices and many of my colleagues in marketing were wondering what can be done with mobile marketing. We persevered and went to media stations, convincing them to adopt mobile solutions where they could have interactive relationships with their audience. We were the first in the country to help them use it. I cannot say that we have a monopoly but we are now recognized as the leading mobile solutions’ provider in Sri Lanka. We developed our infrastructure well and it is quite hard for others to compete with us, especially because we continue to innovate and develop more sophisticated solutions. We started with mobile marketing and added two more business units – enterprise solutions and mobile payment services. We also joined a Hong Kong based company, Ambiq Technology, after doing a pilot project for the Russian metro stations in Saint Petersburg. So we are still evolving and adding new revenues.

SYMPOSIUM DELEGATES

(The Sri Lankan delegation at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013)

Elena Ornig:

You are a trained marketing professional but working so close with actual IT solutions must have had some profound effect on your knowledge of technology. How well do you understand the technical side of your business now?

Jayomi Lokuliyana:

My major expertise is in marketing and customer service. One of my business partners, Janaka Rupasinghe has a strong IT background and knowledge. He graduated with a B.Sc. degree in Management of Information Technology from the University of Kelaniya and acquired an MBA from the Post Graduate Institute of Management (PIM) of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. My other business partner – Dhushy Thillaivasan, graduated with a B.Sc. degree from the National University of Ireland, has an MBA from the University of Sri Jaywardenepura and a MA from the University of Colombo. Over the last 10 years he has accumulated considerable expertise in merging banking, payments and mobility. So, I am lucky to have highly qualified and experienced professionals working with me.

This year we are moving towards the development of new products. One of our new products is for the Sri Lankan Ministry of Co-Operatives and Internal Trade. It is an entire software platform, connecting together farmers, the market place and consumers. Farmers can get the latest updated trading prices.  They can then decide which market place to send their crops to instead of having to negotiate a price with agents. That platform will enable farmers to achieve better prices for their crops. Consumers will benefit from our platform by getting updated information on the markets and can therefore know where the prices are better for them. This platform is integrated with mobile applications, including voice messaging, calls and SMS and can be used as a website or web application. The data will be continually updated through offices.

Another new product for midwives has been developed together with our government. In Sri Lanka, midwives provide prenatal and postnatal care and currently have to visit pregnant mothers in their homes. During these visits, they have to write everything in a book and then back in the office they have to enter the same data into registry records. This is a very tedious and time consuming process. With our mobile platform, they don’t have to write down every parameter on paper, they just enter these parameters into a mobile application which automatically updates throughout the entire registry system up to district level.

These new platforms can be implemented in different countries because they require only a small customization or modification.

Elena Ornig:

What brought you to the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013? Are you looking for partners or customers?

Jayomi Lokuliyana:

We have two positions that brought us here. First we are looking for partners who can take our solutions/products to the Australian market. The second one is based on our development capabilities and we are looking for companies that are seeking offshore outsourcing or simply business process outsourcing (BPO). This is my second time in Australia and I would like to come back again in December.

In 2005, we did a campaign for the Sri Lankan government election. We deployed a mobile services platform to monitor election violence and we won the GSMA [GSM (Groupe Spéciale Mobile) Association] award for the Best Use of Mobile in Emergency category. In the same year, we received the SLIM Brand Excellence award and became the most renowned brand in Sri Lanka for the introduction of the best mobile-based English learning service. We were also finalists in the selection of a global media company Red Herring and we were proud to receive the Best National eContent Award from eSwabhimani National Awards.

Awards

Elena Ornig:

Do you like it here?

Jayomi Lokuliyana:

Yes, I like it very much. The Gold Coast is a coastal region and very similar to where I live in Sri Lanka.

I see a lot of potential to work with Australian companies and how we can help them to mobilize their customer services and customer interactions. We can make or develop different applications for Australian companies and on average they could save about 30% by outsourcing development.

We have a considerable experience working with international brands in Sri Lanka and I see how we can add value to their development. When we develop applications we follow the highest international standards and specifications from system architecture through all stages of development.  We have very good engineers and IT professionals.

We are not looking for large projects with large numbers of people but we are looking for projects which involve particular specialization. For example, in Sri Lanka, we are the only ones who have an NFC development center with about 30 people and because we specialize in that technology we have the capacity to do entire developments. We are not after quantity – we are after quality. We are also very aware of user experience quality. We have a client from Melbourne and in the development of their product, we are actually using feedback from Sri Lankans who have lived or studied in Australia. They have the cultural knowledge of what Australian users like or dislike. We also consult with other countries to understand how to make user experience better. It is costly, but we always know that users’ experience will affect the quality of our product.

Elena Ornig:

It was a real pleasure to interview you, Jayomi. I’m so impressed with what you’ve achieved; you’re amazing. I wish you and your family all the best.

Jayomi Lokuliyana:

Thank you, Elena.

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I knew there was a world out there that I wanted to go and explore

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Interview with Julie Boyd

Educator,Expert Coach and Mentor

Julie Boyd

Julie Boyd is an experienced keynote speaker, professional facilitator, psychologist, educator, expert coach and mentor who has won several business awards for innovation. Julie Boyd is a prolific writer who has written and published professional learning books for teachers for many years and has been published in numerous national and international journals, national newspapers and magazines. She has been published by Heinemann (education) and has self-published a further 18 professional development books and manuals for teachers.

Elena Ornig:

Generally, people have different explanations about what leadership is or means. Some people say that they are born leaders and some people say that they developed their leadership skills. What about you?

Julie Boyd:

I think that some people are born as charismatic leaders, but there are very few of them, like the Ghandis of the world and the John F. Kennedys.  People like that are extremely strong personalities, and that carries them through their leadership, but for most of us, leadership is a set of skills developed over a period of time. I’ve always had very strong opinions and not been afraid to voice those opinions. Some people agree and others disagree. I can’t say that I don’t care, because I do care – I’m always prepared to listen to people, but in terms of being a leader, someone has to make decisions and act on suggestions. There have been lots of organizations that I’ve gone into over my lifetime: in the community, in education and in business where I’ve basically been propelled into a leadership position because of the way that I can be with other people and the way that I can read situations and the skills that I can use if I choose to use those.

My personal perspective on leadership though, is that I lead best from behind. I’m not a good ‘front’ person; I don’t see myself as being a good front person. I’m a really good king-maker or a really good queen-maker, so I’m very good at making other people look terrific. That’s not something I’ve ever been good at doing for myself. So in terms of leadership, I mean, I’ve been a principal of a high school, I’ve been a CEO and Managing Director of a number of different companies, and started many innovative organizations, so I understand what the requirements of leadership are and what the frustrations of leadership can be as well, but for me, I much prefer somebody else to be the front person.

Elena Ornig:

You’re also a very experienced educator. Is a leadership role and an educator’s role different or similar for you?

Julie Boyd:

I believe that a very strong role of a leader is to educate the people that you’re working with and not to try and force them to think about one point of view, but rather to educate them to think for themselves and to be assertive. I have a very specific view of how I lead people and it’s a four-pronged approach. Some people need you to lead them as if they’re children learning to walk. Not necessarily by the hand, but walking in front of them and basically clearing the way, and the obstacles, so they can come along and shine behind you. Other people need you to walk beside them and simply guide them, in terms of the direction that they’re going. Other people need you to actively coach them.  I know I’m a very good coach, that’s something I’ve done for my entire life. I’ve done a lot of coaching and I actually started the teacher-coaching movement in Australia, I know that very well. There are also some people that you need to stand behind and give them a good kick in the backside to propel them forward because they just won’t do it on their own.

Elena Ornig:

But what if they disagree?

Julie Boyd:

Well I don’t usually discuss why I’m with them that way – at the time. I do that later. I make that decision and that’s the way that I’ll act. It’s always fascinating to see them progress through those different stages. To me they are progressing and so if you start off by giving people a push because often people don’t know what they don’t know and you have to start from that perspective with them by helping them to understand what they don’t know and then by helping them to develop the skills to move forward.

Elena Ornig:

‘Sustainability literacy’ is a relatively new term for educators. Can you explain what it means to you? Is it a role or a goal for you?

Skills for a Changing World

Julie Boyd:

Okay, perhaps I need to explain why I use the term ‘sustainability literacy’.  There are a couple of reasons for that. One is because, as an educator, I understand literacy not just to be reading and writing. I understand literacy to mean developing an understanding of a concept and then being able to actually implement and use that concept. To me, that’s what literacy is, it’s not just a form of expression. It comes from an understanding of what intelligence is about.  The concept of literacy originally, was based on the concept of intelligence, that we are intelligent beings. I have a very different view of ‘sustainability literacy’ to some other people and I’ve been struggling to find the right terminology to express the way that I perceive things. Intelligence was explored by educators years and years and years ago. I go back to Jerome Bruner, who was an educator who I follow, who is an absolutely brilliant man. If we followed his view of education, we would be in a completely different place in the world – in the Western world today, to where we are.

One of his students was Howard Gardner. He was the first person to start writing about Multiple Intelligences – so everyone used to think that we only had a very limited number of intelligences as human beings. He was the one who first started talking about the concept of Multiple Intelligences, but even with that, there was a fairly narrow perspective of what intelligence actually was. At the time when I had met Howard and was doing some of this work, I was also doing a lot of work with Indigenous people and what they were saying to me was – that’s all very well, that’s a very white view of what intelligence is, we have a very different perspective. The more work that I did with Indigenous people to explore what their ‘intelligence’ actually was, the more I understood that it was very earth-based and that it was to do with your sensory systems and the way that you interact with the environment. It’s actually a physiological-based response to the environment around you. It’s about your body comprehending. It’s not about a thought-process, it’s about your actual body responding.

Multiple Intelligence Theory

Howard Gardner was the first person who extended my thinking in that direction. The second person was Jerome Bruner’s other student, Bob Samples. Bob went in a different direction with his research for his Doctorate. He started looking at human sensory systems and the last time I spoke to Bob, which was, oh heavens, it’s probably fifteen years ago now; at that stage he’d actually verified that the human body has not just five sensory systems but it has a minimum of twenty-two.

Because I was doing so much work with Indigenous people at that stage, Bob’s work made a huge amount of sense to me. He was able to explain how Indigenous people make sense of their world without using the senses that we, Western people, understand. And so, my understanding of sustainability grew out of an understanding of how we interact with the world and how we impact as humans. How we impact on the world, but also in return, how the environment and other people impact on us as human beings. In terms of looking at sustainability, what my understanding of sustainability is, is reaching a point where we can interact with the world without destroying it and where the world can interact with us without destroying us.

So that’s kind of it, in a nutshell. But in order to achieve that, we need to understand how all of that works and that’s where the ‘literacy’ part of ‘sustainability literacy’ comes into it for me. In order to understand that more, I looked at the work of Dr. Paul Pearsall.  He also had a very profound impact on my thinking. He was a Hawaiian Kahuna, but he was also a cardiac surgeon and he had also studied neurophysiology. His particular interest was in how the heart impacts on us. He wrote a wonderful book called The Heart’s Code, which I would recommend to anybody to read, it’s just brilliant, it’s my favorite book of all time. He talks about how the heart, how the cellular structure of the heart impacts on us. His belief was that the heart is actually the center of the body, not the brain, because the heart can change the brain. The brain operates more on a mechanical system, whereas the heart operates on feelings and senses.

I think that’s where a lot of the confusion has come in for people, so we’ve got people using the word ‘sustainability’ all the time inappropriately. It’s like the word ‘resilience’. When I first brought ‘resilience education’ to Australia back in 1990, nobody had ever heard of it. I introduced that concept and then, all of a sudden, I start finding people selling resilient pantyhose. I’m thinking – what? That doesn’t make any sense! So words get bastardised in English and I think that’s really unfortunate. I didn’t understand, until I started working with architects to design new generation schools a few years ago, that the same word has very different meanings for different professions and that developing a common language and set of common meanings is one of the biggest challenges of the English language.

Elena Ornig:

Can you explain what you mean when you talk about building new generation schools?

Julie Boyd:

I was first approached to be the Education Consultant for a large multinational consortium which was looking to put in tenders to build next generation schools across Australia and Asia. One of the things that I found was that we had to try to develop a common language. In this particular consortium, the biggest one that I was working with – there was one representative of each of sixty companies, sitting on the board. Most of the time, they were high level representatives, a Director or a CEO or a CFO. Occasionally, you had very large meetings which consisted of everyone, from the person who was organizing the finances to the person who was actually designing the building or the companies that were designing the buildings, right down to the guys who were going to be putting in the doors and the toilets.

So, as an educator, the first thing I said to them was we need to have a common language around what we’re doing here so that these guys have an understanding of what they’re building, they’re not just building buildings,  they’re building a future education for our children. The first time I said that, they kind of went oh, that’s a bit ridiculous you know. I just said to them no, if they’ve got an understanding of what they’re trying to achieve – they’re more likely to achieve it – so that’s what we’ll do.  I actually ran several Professional Development learning sessions for the entire group because I figured that was the best way for them to understand.

The biggest impact on them was the one that I ran on Developmental Psychology for Children to explain how children learn at different stages in their life and at different ages in their life and then how we need to integrate that into what we’re planning in terms of planning the schools.

Elena Ornig:

You mean their environment, because it’s a physical environment they were creating, correct?

Julie Boyd:

That’s right and so we had to plan the built environment based on what I was telling them about how kids learn and they were so fascinated by what I told them. It’s not that they didn’t think about it but they didn’t understand how the brain develops and how the body develops and what’s needed at different times in a child’s life. I remember a number of them came up to me afterwards or rang me afterwards and said: now I know what to do with my own kid. They were really rapt from that point of view but the architects were the people that I found to be unbelievably creative.  I’ll never forget this one guy who was sitting beside me as I was talking and he was actually drawing the school, to say this is what we’re going to need to build for these kids. By the time I’d finished my Professional Development session, he basically had a design of a new generation school.  He turned what I was talking about into an actual drawing. He had this whole outline of what a new generation school would look like, using these principles.

New Generation Schools

Elena Ornig:

Can you draw a picture of your ideal new generation school? What does it look like?

Julie Boyd:

Well, a next generation school for me is one that actually meets the needs of both the children and the adults in the environment of a whole community. I know there are some people who believe schools will be unnecessary in the future, but I disagree with that- particularly for young kids. For me a next generation school would start at pre-school where we’re looking at a pre-school age up until the age of about five or six. What we’re looking at is developing kids’ sensory systems and what they need to be is in ‘play’ mode. They don’t need to be sitting down doing tests or sitting down at desks – they need to be playing, they need to be talking and interacting with people. At that stage and age, there’s an explosion in their neurons’ development in their brains. The more sensory experiences they have, the more diverse the connections in their brain will be as they’re developing. The more physical connections in their muscular systems and everything else will also develop because that’s all based on your neuronal systems. And so for the little kids, what we do is build safe places for them to play but places where they can actually explore and experience a whole range of sensory systems. For example, in schools for kids with disabilities like autism, now what we do is we build gardens. The gardens have lots of perfumed plants, lots of herbs and lots of hidden things for the kids to find and lots of places where they can go and play with wind chimes and make noises.

Then between the ages of about six and ten, which is when kids are normally at primary school, you need to put them in an environment where they start to develop a moral code. That’s when socialization becomes really important. We build classrooms and create places where they can have quiet time. Places where they can work with other people, usually in a one-on-one situation. Little kids find it easiest to deal with just one other person at a time. So we’ll build environments where they can sit with an adult, whether it’s a teacher or somebody else. Most of the classrooms that we look at building now have a seamless internal and external part to their classrooms.  In some cases you put furniture in there where the kids can reconfigure the furniture easily, so you know, they don’t hurt themselves and you can use screens for screening various areas off and that kind of adds to the variety within the classroom.  And then we’ll have big glass doors or sliding walls or whatever to bring the outdoors in and to allow the kids to go out into the outdoors as well.

Elena Ornig:

Sorry I stopped you, but I would like you to confirm – is this still a conceptualization?

Julie Boyd:

No, there are schools being built like that.

Elena Ornig:

Where?

Julie Boyd:

In South Australia and a few schools in Victoria.

Elena Ornig:

So, if a few of them have been built already, have you received feedback about these schools?

Julie Boyd:

Yes, it’s really funny, the kids are doing fine and the kids absolutely love them. Some of the teachers don’t know how to teach in them though, and that’s the problem. So they have to relearn how to interact with kids and each other, and the other thing that’s starting to happen is that there’s much more of a focus on electronic technology and computer-based technology in schools. When we’re designing those schools, the brief that we have for them is that they need to have a life of around thirty years and then at the end of thirty years. It may be that because they’re being built in an area that has a growing population at the moment, but in thirty years’ time there may not be any kids there anymore. So when I was designing or helping to design the schools, we used to have to think about what would be alternative uses for these same spaces.

Education, New Concepts

Elena Ornig:

Compared to your ideal environment for the future generation, what was your childhood environment?

Julie Boyd:

I actually had a really happy childhood. I grew up in a tiny little village in Victoria where if you got to fourteen and you weren’t either pregnant or married, you were considered to have something drastically wrong with you. I mean, I got on really well with the kids; I tended to get on better with the boys than the girls because I was a bit of a tomboy and the girls just didn’t make sense to me, they all just wanted boyfriends and I thought pffft, no. Boys are for playing with, you know, I don’t care about anything else, at this stage.

My village was incredibly diverse. It was a timber mill village and my dad worked at the mill as a mechanical engineer. He fixed stuff. There were men at the mill, who I think, would probably look terrible and scary to an outsider. They were those single men who lived in huts by themselves. I used to find them fascinating and not threatening in the slightest. They were delightful guys and I learned so much from them. There was a guy, the blacksmith, who used to build things. He discovered that I was really interested in fossils. He built me my own little fossil hammer, a specially built fossil hammer. I was rapt. There were the other old guys who used huge cross saws, with one man on each end of the saw. They didn’t use chainsaws back in those days to cut trees down. I used to go out into the bush with those old guys.  I would go out there in the log trucks with them, and my Dad. I was only three or four at the time and I’d sit up in the truck and we’d go for hours. They would show me how they selected the trees that they felled, and I found that a fascinating process. That kind of introduced me to the whole world of environmental responsibility and that was done by the tree-fellers. It wasn’t just done by people who feel strongly about the environment but don’t really understand the whole ecosystem. I learnt from those old men, who didn’t have any education themselves. I learned, from them, how to become a teacher because they had an innate ability to help you learn.

Environmental Responsibility

Elena Ornig:

If I understand you correctly – they didn’t teach you, they were just sharing their knowledge with you.

Julie Boyd:

Yeah, that’s right. They were guiding and they were coaching.

There were some very strange characters and we also had a multicultural village, as small as it was. The oldest resident of the place was a Chinese man, Johnny. He used to live up in the mountains a little bit because he thought that people would shun him but every time we went out in the log truck, we would stop there and my dad would take in his flour and sugar and his supplies. I’d go in and we’d sit down and have tea with Johnny and he’d teach me how to speak a couple of words in Chinese. He was another teacher. Then we had aboriginal people, we had Italians and Greeks – a quite multicultural area. They accepted each other and I mean, they used to give each other a hard time but that was mutual and the aboriginal guys would make jokes about the Australians, I mean about the white guys, but it was all very good natured.

There was no nastiness at all that I experienced and the other thing was that at the school, there were some kids who had disabilities in terms of their mental health. That was probably the most difficult thing I had to deal with as I was growing up. One of the girls was a little bit older than me. One day when she got very upset, somebody had been teasing her and she got some knitting needles and she stuck knitting needles into my head. She was very upset and she was just taking it out on me. She rammed these knitting needles right into my brain and that was kind of interesting. I grew up with all of those sorts of people but I do remember thinking at the time – this is not her fault.

The other people who influenced me greatly were my teachers, because they came in from outside, in that big wide world that I didn’t know. I used to milk them for all the information I could get. I knew there was a world out there that I wanted to go and explore but I had no clue how to go about doing that, so that’s where it started. Then I went to boarding school. It was four hours’ drive away from my home and I only got to go home twice a year. That was quite difficult but I had to do that because that was the only way I could continue my education.

Elena Ornig:

And you love to be educated. You pursued education and you always were curious about everything, right?

Julie Boyd:

Yes and I absolutely adored my science teacher, he was the one that really influenced me most, when I was in Year 8. He actually had me at the stage where I wanted to become an astronaut and go and do physics. That did not become a physical reality but I’ll never forget him as a teacher.  He had a massive influence on my life. He was so fascinated by science himself that he would do everything that he could. That included taking us trekking up mountains at midnight to sit there and look at the sky and learn about the stars. He just went above and beyond. A very quiet and unassuming looking man, and not very social in the community but I absolutely adored him. He was the only person that I was sad about leaving, but he actually left the town at the same time as I did so it wouldn’t have done me any good to stay there anyway, even if I could. Then I went away and lived at a Catholic boarding school, a girls’ boarding school and I spent my whole time trying to figure out how to upset people when I was there.

Elena Ornig:

Why?

Julie Boyd:

I just thought it was wrong on so many levels, I mean, I was only about twelve at the time. The boarding school was a novitiate, where the young nuns would come in to learn how to become nuns. I used to look at these young girls who were only seventeen and I thought, they’d never been anywhere, they’d never done anything, and they’re going to go into this closed order, which means that they’re not going to know how to interact with the world, ever. That’s wrong.

I think that being at boarding school was the other area where I felt a great deal of responsibility for kids younger than myself. We had kids from five years old, that was so wrong too, and I used to think that was so cruel that their parents would send them away. So we would have to care for the younger ones. I’d stand up for them against the nuns and I’d be the one that would get into trouble for being too cheeky and assertive. But then, I ended up going down to the boys’ school. I was the first girl in Australia to actually go to a boys’ school.

That was very fascinating for me; it helped me to understand what I could do outside systems to influence systems. That was my first understanding of how systems work, and that in order to change a system, you need to have people inside, working for change. You also need to have people outside the system, so you need to have both internal and external people, both working together to make a system change.

Elena Ornig:

I hope you will write a book about your experiences in different schools.

Julie Boyd:

I do need to write that book. That would be a very, very funny book to write.

Elena Ornig:

What is your understanding of wellbeing and why do you promote it so much?

Julie Boyd:

Wellbeing is a multifaceted thing, I mean my physical wellbeing has always been a huge challenge for me, but, if I feel mentally well, intellectually well and I feel socially well, I don’t really care about my physical condition. When I first started talking about resiliency, I used to talk about how you physically and mentally respond in a particular situation, it’s how you physiologically respond, how you socially respond and it’s how you spiritually respond. There’s a whole range of responses that we have, that most people feel are out of their control. I kind of have a belief that a lot of what we do is within our control, but not everything. And that’s why I believe in using both traditional Western medicine and Eastern medicines for that wellness.

Well-being

For me wellbeing is what’s best for the person, it’s what helps them function at the very best. For a person who’s a quadriplegic, wellbeing means one thing and it has a completely different meaning to an athlete. I have a body that lets me down on a very regular basis so my version of wellbeing is very different to somebody who can walk normally and function normally. I sat down once and wrote a manual on wellbeing.

Elena Ornig:

A manual..?

Julie Boyd:

Yeah, I actually broke wellbeing down into two major elements – personal and professional wellbeing. Then I broke down to the various elements of what personal wellbeing involves and what professional wellbeing involves. I found that process really quite fascinating myself, to go through and I mean, again, you know, it’s another one of these books that I haven’t pushed very hard, but a lot of people have found it very useful. They say oh, gee, I’m doing pretty well in terms of my personal wellness but that’s been at the expense of my social life and that’s been at the expense of, you know, I really haven’t thought about my spirituality for a while and then there’s financial wellbeing. So a little bit like intelligences, I think that there are a lot of different elements of wellbeing. If people focus on these different elements, they can actually figure out what is wrong. I think if people have an understanding that wellbeing has various components and if you simply look at the list of different components, you can kind of think, okay, so the area I’m not doing too well in at the moment is my financial wellbeing, maybe I need to focus on that and find people that can help me and do all that sort of stuff, or maybe my spiritual wellbeing is not so hot at the moment, so what do I need to do to improve that?

The thing is – you can’t take them all on at the same time, because it becomes too overwhelming. But if you want to have a personal wellbeing plan, then what you can do is look at all of these different elements and you can say, okay, that’s what I need to focus on at the moment, then this is what I need to do and kind of develop a plan yourself. Then, of course, there is professional wellbeing – and that’s a whole different ballgame.

Elena Ornig:

You have written so many books but how did your writing career get started?

Books and eBooks

Julie Boyd:

I’ve also written a lot of magazines and started magazines. Back in the nineties, I started doing Educational Leaders’ Book Overviews, which weren’t just for educators. They were for anybody in a leadership position who wanted to become an educational leader as opposed to a directive leader. But what I used to do was I read incredibly widely and I would summarise the books into three pages, because you usually find that most good books can be summarised into three pages and the rest of it is just all filler. That’s why I can’t write books, you know, because I just read and think ninety-five per cent of this is, you know, extraneous. A book for me either has to be incredibly entertaining or it has to be full of information that can be assimilated really easily and quickly.

Elena Ornig:

What is entertaining for you, in books?

Julie Boyd:

The characters, I just find people fascinating. I’ve always been a people-watcher and listener. I just used to like eavesdropping; I still do, eavesdropping on conversations. I’ve never been an incredibly social person, I don’t like parties and I’m not an extrovert at all. I’m very comfortable with being alone.

Elena Ornig:

Are you working on the new book right now?

Julie Boyd:

I’m writing three things at the moment that I’ve been trying to write for the last three years. The first book that I want to write is an educational book that I’ve been thinking about for ten years and I know I have to write it, so, I think I’m ready to start writing that now.

I know I want to write that one because it will be about the whole education system and what the purpose of education is in our society; and what’s wrong with the direction education is going in right now. The second book I am writing is a book that’s written in my dog’s voice – The Jorge Diaries. About all the adventures that we’ve had and how we came to be where we are. And he’s kind of in the final stages of his life now.

Elena Ornig:

How old is Jorge?

Julie Boyd: 

He’s fourteen now. So he’s just reflecting back on all of these things that have happened during his lifetime and there have been quite a number of adventures. I want to write that stuff as well. The third thing that I’m thinking of doing is just writing a book about growing up as an Australian child, including all of these anecdotes that I’m writing now, into something like that.

Elena Ornig:

Are you planning to dwell on what you’ve noticed has happened historically in Australia or just your own experience with people in your life?

Julie Boyd:

Yeah, as I said, I find people fascinating and I tend not to write for other people. I write to document my memories, basically and if other people are interested in reading it, that’s fine. If they’re not I don’t really care.

The very first book that I wrote, I wrote for my kids. I knew I could write educational stuff but that was my first attempt at trying to document stories. The feedback that I got from that was that there’s enough information for about a half dozen books, because of what I’d done. I mean the stuff that I was telling you about in terms of the boarding school, I included that in five hundred words, whereas there’s an entire book based in there if I chose to write that. I don’t want to write long books but I do want to do the stories justice. That’s kind of where my thinking is at the moment. It’s just taken me a long time to get my head around feeling that there’s a purpose.

Elena Ornig:

I believe that we must create purpose ourselves. My lifetime conclusion is that life is purposeless unless you make it purposeful.

Julie Boyd:

Exactly, but you don’t necessarily have to document it though. But then I was having a conversation with one of my longest-term friends a little while ago. He was lamenting the fact that he had never chronicled his life. He doesn’t have a lot of photographs of his life and he’s done some really incredibly interesting things, but he doesn’t have documentation. It’s all in his head and he’s starting to lose his memory now, so that’s all going to be lost. He said to me, you know, write down your adventures, you’ve had a few, so now I’m trying to work through which adventures I feel game enough to write down and which ones I’m not game enough to write down at this point in time.

Elena Ornig:

How long do we have to wait?

Julie Boyd:

The Jorge diaries book is well underway at the moment and I’m just thinking of titling this one Life’s a Beach because he’s spent his whole time living at the beach but we’ve also done a lot of travelling and there have been lots of adventures while we’ve been living there and kind of writing the stories of the people who live in this little village now. Because I went from living in one tiny little village to basically going – when I was working as an educational consultant and a managing director who was travelling all over the world at one stage – and now I’ve come back to a little tiny village. The dynamics are exactly the same as they were in the first village, which is, I find, quite fascinating. So I want to document the personalities that are in the little village now through my dog’s perspective and how he interacts with them.

Elena Ornig:

So it’s definitely leaving me with an opening for another interview a few months down the road?

Julie Boyd:

Yep.

Elena Ornig:

Thank you very much Julie. It was a real pleasure.

Julie Boyd:

Thank you, Elena.

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Business to Business Market p\Place Platform

Don’t allow your mistakes to define you

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Interview with Sharon Hunneybell

Chief Operating Officer at Silicon Lakes

Sharon Hunneybell

Sharon Hunneybell is the Chief Operating Officer at Silicon Lakes, a not for profit start up community for entrepreneurs. Sharon is also the Founder of SplitPack, a business to business market place that matches excess or obsolete stock with buyers and sellers and is a Director at Akro Group, specialists in building niche software business solutions.   Sharon is incredibly passionate about supporting and promoting female led startups and small businesses.

Elena Ornig:

The Gold Coast is a fabulous place to live, how did you arrive here?

Sharon Hunneybell:

My family moved to Australia from England when I was young and settled in Melbourne which was a fantastic place to grow up. I will always have a soft spot for Melbourne but about seven years ago I took a trip to the Gold Coast and I knew I was somewhere special as soon as I stepped off the plane. Three years later, I literally followed my heart to the Gold Coast to be with my fiancé.

Elena Ornig:

Let me try to tempt you.  If you were offered a dream gig overseas, would you be able to leave Australia?

Sharon Hunneybell:

Money would never lure me away but if I saw a cause where my skills could benefit a lot of other people, then I could be convinced to go somewhere else – temporarily of course!

Elena Ornig:

You stated that you love to plan and create. So, tell me a little bit more about your new project.

Sharon Hunneybell:

I have always had an entrepreneurial streak and have run my own businesses before. For the last few years I have primarily been consulting to businesses but recently the desire to build a new business from scratch was sparked in me again. After discovering an industry problem that I could provide an innovative solution to - SplitPack was born.  Our business to business market place platform matches excess or obsolete stock with buyers and sellers, thereby freeing up cash-flow and solving inventory problems.

Innovative Solution - SplitPack

Elena Ornig:

You are passionate about mentoring, and are an active mentor at Silicon Lakes, how did your role of mentoring come about and what key skills do you need to be a successful mentor? 

Sharon Hunneybell:

I like to consider myself an efficient person and I believe good businesses and effective business owners excel when well-thought processes and procedures are in place.  When I look back over my career, I naturally gravitated to areas where inefficiencies were occurring and I’d come up with more streamlined and resourceful processes.

This led me to my consultancy work and upon my arrival on the Gold Coast I accepted a role as a trainer for a new ERP system an organisation was implementing into their business.  It was at this point when I was training that I discovered how much I loved teaching and mentoring people.

For me, to be a good mentor to others, you need to have walked in the shoes of the person you’re mentoring as that allows you to understand their challenges better and therefore be more effective with your guidance.

A good mentor, I think, is someone who has a strong sense of self, is a good listener and is able to offer support and encouragement. I also think they need to be willing to share a bit of themselves and the knowledge and wisdom they’ve gained so that they can help the mentoree draw out the answers from within themselves rather than the mentor giving them the answer.

Elena Ornig:

It’s clear that you really care about supporting other people, where does this come from?

Sharon Hunneybell:

I care about people because I have experienced hardship myself. I was a teenage single mum and I know and understand the pressure of putting food on the table and paying bills while honoring the commitment of being a good mother. I understand the challenge of maintaining a strong sense of self, chasing dreams and aspirations and being empowered to take those risks for myself.

Sharon Hunneybell with daughter

To me the key to having a strong sense of self is surrounding yourself with people who uplift you.  My parents have always provided me with lots of support and I have a few very close friends that have always been there for me, like my friend Tabatha Browne. We met when we were teenage mums and recently started Rockabilly Kitchen. Tabatha helped me believe in myself through her kindness and support and that’s what I want to give back to others; helping women empower themselves by believing in them and supporting them through their business journey. I know how easy it is to give up but it’s far more rewarding to confront challenges head on and become empowered by those choices.

Commercial Website

Elena Ornig:

What are your future aspirations?

Sharon Hunneybell:

My ultimate aspiration is to create a product that will generate revenue without excess consumption of my personal time allowing me to spend more time learning and following my passions.

Elena Ornig:

What do you love doing outside your business ventures?

Sharon Hunneybell:

I have lots of creative hobbies – I love sewing, embroidery, acrylic and watercolor painting. When I ran “Immediate Images”, I used to sew cushion covers, library bags and little t-shirts for teddy bears and sell them in the form of personalised photo gifts. I also really love cross-stitching, for me it is a form of meditation and relaxation. I also love outdoor activities. I am learning to surf and I like bike riding.

We just moved to Mount Tamborine where we have veggie patches and chickens. I had no idea how much I would love my chickens.  In the morning they come to the front door and they start calling me to feed them and then they follow me around. The kids just love it. We also have a beautiful cat “Elliot” and when I work from home, he comes and sits on my keyboard at 6pm forcing me to stop working and go and get dinner organised.

Beautiful Cat “Elliot”

“Elliot”

Elena Ornig:

What messages do you have for any young single mothers who are feeling challenged about life at the moment?

Sharon Hunneybell:

Keep your focus on the people around you who love and support you.  It doesn’t matter what others might think – you know who you are. Don’t give yourself a hard time; we can be our own worst enemy. Know you can reinvent your career when you need to. Having a baby early in life is not a life sentence. There are so many options today, you can study on-line at your own pace and that gives you confidence in knowing you are taking steps, even if they are small, to move forward. Your mistakes should never define you. And if you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s okay to fail. Figure out what went wrong, learn from it and start a new path. Mistakes bring us our greatest learning’s.

Elena Ornig:

Thank you, Sharon! It was a pleasure to interview you.

Sharon Hunneybell:

Thank you, Elena.

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Tech One Global

Tag Based Methodology With Touch Based Capability

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Interview with Wasantha Weerakoone

Tech One Global

Wasantha Weerakoone

Wasantha Weerakoone is a business leader, motivational guru and the Chief Operating Officer at Tech One Global Pvt. Ltd.  Tech One Global is a leading provider of document management solutions and IT infrastructure services in Sri Lanka. The company is also a certified Microsoft and Kofax partner and distributor. Tech One Global was incorporated in 2003 and since 2004 has won multiple prestigious awards in the IT industry in various categories. Tech One Global embraces its duty as a responsible corporate citizen providing services in social welfare, arts and education. With the Ministry of Education in Sri Lanka they are providing technology training for the young, contributing to the country’s technological literacy.

Tech One Hope for Education

Elena Ornig:

Hi Wasantha, it’s pleasure to meet you. Tell me more about your wonderful company.

Wasantha Weerakoone:

We have established our company in many different countries: Maldives, Brunei, Bangladesh, Nepal, Philippines, USA and Sri Lanka. Primarily, our company focuses on secure document management and at the moment we are going beyond traditional document management by introducing highly secure environments for people to store their documents. Traditionally, it has been done by three techniques: encryption, user name/ password and user profile. We call it triangular security. Last year, we learnt from Gartner Research that about 70% of data leakage happens internally.  We wanted to bring three new security methodologies to this arena to provide security management with better control of data and we call it hexagonal security.

The first methodology is called document glass where documents cannot be printed or emailed but only read.  However, the permission here is not with the system but with the document. We are isolating the system and only the document can dictate what can be done with it.

The second methodology is called dynamic watermarking and dynamic reduction. Dynamic watermarking deals with screen clipping by screenshot or by taking a photo of a screen with a mobile phone. We cannot stop people from copying the images that are displayed on a screen but with our protection, the photos will be copied together with the owner’s credentials. We believe that will increase the reluctance of those who copy. Dynamic reduction is protecting important documents. For example, you may have an important contract that has to be revealed to a junior legal representative but you want to avoid revealing the full text, dynamic reduction prevents some specific parts of that document from being read.

The third methodology is based on seven classified security levels: Classified level one, Classified level two and so on, where level seven is the highest. The system allows you to control users’ access to a document by identified levels. The system also allows you to declassify users’ access if you wish but this is highly protected against fraudulent access by means of a multi-factor authentication (MFA) method.

We embed all three new methodologies into our Document Management Solution.

Three New Methodologies

We also have one more new thing. Personally, I have been working with document management for the last 30 years. What is happening is that for the last few years everyone is moving into Touch Based Systems with touch screen based controls instead of clicking. Usually, you click on a file, drop it into a box and type something and later find it. We are introducing a new solution of how to find documents. So, instead of using search, we use find and we use tag based methodology with touch capability. We are probably the first doing this.

Elena Ornig:

Your company came to the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013 as a member of very selected group of delegates. What are you looking for? Are you looking for partnerships, customers or something else?

Gartner Symposium 2013 Delegates

(The Sri Lankan delegation at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013)

Wasantha Weerakoone:

As a company we work through a strong partner-network in the world but we came here to find partners who are willing to take our solutions and introduce it to government, to the defence industry and to private enterprises. We are looking for people who are capable of doing that. The size of a company willing to do that is not important but what is important is that they are in the same industry and can understand the technicalities of our solutions.

We are looking for a partner who is specialized in the same area and has a certain amount of resources. We will provide training; written and visual material, support and backup, and we are willing to give a hand for the first two or three sales processes by flying to Australia if required. Later, as the partnership progresses we will discuss certain targets to be achieved but initially we are not expecting any revenue. Revenue is not only based on the sale of product, it’s also based on providing services to support the system. To be honest, our products have been used by many companies who have corporate documents with very sensitive data.

Elena Ornig:

What do you see as a major challenge in software development today?

Wasantha Weerakoone:

I believe there are more opportunities than challenges. When you understand industrial Wasantha Weerakooneand commercial applications deeply enough you can create many great software solutions.  I have been in this industry for 30 years and I have learnt that if you can create an appealing product you will feel great and you will live well. That is a great feeling when customers like your product. Our product is simple in its implementation; it’s available as a Cloud service and Android implementation. We can do remote setup and remote reconfiguration and with our experience we can implement it in a week. Our product is simple but very effective.

Elena Ornig

How long you have been here?

Wasantha Weerakoone:

I have already been here for two weeks because I also had a holiday. I visited Tasmania which is a cold place and has no traffic.  I visited Melbourne and then came to the Gold Coast.

Elena Ornig: Do you like Australia?

Wasantha Weerakoone:

Australia is quite an interesting country and I met a lot of people. People from Federal Government, people from the private sector and we have received a great amount of interest. I think if we find the right partners here it could be a great opportunity for them to work with us.

Elena Ornig:

It was a real pleasure to meet and interview you, Wasantha.

Wasantha Weerakoone:

Thank you, Elena.

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