Those in the finance sector are typically deemed to be nerds with no life. Our society is unkind and quick to throw unreasonable judgments especially in a male-dominated industry. Lakshini Fernando, an Economist at Asia Securities, is no stranger to this notion, and she’s hellbent on changing the narrative.
If you stumbled upon my profile as an economist without any cues to my identity, would you have thought of me as a middle-aged man? That’s what people generally assume me to be. We’re told that young women can’t take on senior roles in a male-dominated industry, so whether we agree with that connotation or not, we, too, tend to assume in the same old way. Remember, you deserve a job based on your capability, not defined by your age or gender.
Having said that, my career goes beyond merely presenting information about the economy, and one of the significant areas of the work I do is based on accuracy. For those who want to hone this skill, I’d say to read up daily. It doesn’t have to be on economics or what you want to do, but it be can be something random. The point here is awareness of what’s happening around you can make a difference in pushing you to have a more factually correct thought process. It’s easy to assume that Google can solve everything for you, but that’s not true. The internet can keep you updated on what’s happening now, but to find out what happened before, you need to dig deep and see where it all started. I used to work with the international markets and didn’t read much about the local ones. It was only when I shifted to working on local markets, did it really hit me as to how little I knew about what was going on with the local markets (while I was in the country!). Even If I had paid attention to the interest rates on a billboard, it would have helped me in some way.
Another pillar of my career is my work ethics; for me, you can’t fake it. You have to put that work and time to go the distance. Learning the basics is one thing you can’t overlook and you’ve got to know what works for you and what doesn’t. My degree was based in Economics, but I went in a different direction to work on quantitative services for the foreign market. However, my heart was set in working on the local industry so when I shifted, the lack of knowledge wasn’t the only challenge, I also had my first baby. Regardless, I knew if I really put in some extra work during the first year, then I’d be able to familiarise myself with the tasks, and it worked. My biggest achievements will always be my family, attaining this elevated position in my career just 4 years after I started working on the local industry, and starting my MBA right after I gave birth and completing it on time.
Being financially literate has always worked out for the best, for me. However, statistically speaking, our local literacy rate is nearly 99 per cent whereas, our financial literacy stands at 35 per cent. Whether or not, a student is interested in finance for further education, it is the responsibility of the local education system to incorporate basic lessons on finance like drawing budgets and how to save and invest. Without this, you won’t be equipped to manage money well and make better choices.
Photography by Amitha Thennakoon. Art & Direction by Ricky De Silva. Videography by StoryWorks.