Mosaic@LEK is an affinity group that seeks to attract, recruit, develop and retain in the L.E.K. community individuals who identify as racial and ethnic minorities. Sydney second-year Associate and Mosaic member Thimal Siriwardana gives us insight into his cultural heritage and his journey to L.E.K.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to L.E.K.
I joined L.E.K. in February of 2022 as an associate after graduating with a Bachelor of Laws/Economics from the University of Queensland. I grew up in Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city, where management consultancies do not have much of a presence, and it was always a dream of mine to make it to Sydney to work in one of these firms. I would say I took a nontraditional path to get to L.E.K. I spent five years studying law and doing a few big law clerkships to come to the solid realization that law was not for me. During that time, I worked in everything from a dental startup to a warehouse and, in my final two years of university, my local Apple store. It was only in my final years of study that I stumbled across management consulting. Like a lot of Brisbane students, I felt that these big Sydney-based management consulting firms were “too prestigious” or “too difficult to get into,” but I thought I would give it a shot and see how I go. From my first interview, I was struck by the kindness and lack of ego of L.E.K.ers, and that has carried on into my time working here. The collegiate culture, mixed with the true intelligence of the people and general great vibe, has made this a fantastic place to work for the past year and a half or so!
What is your cultural heritage?
While I was born in Ipswich, Queensland, my cultural heritage is from the Western Province of Sri Lanka. I am Sinhalese, Buddhist Sri Lankan, and grew up going to the temple and Sri Lankan cultural events. Growing up, I faced the classic conundrum of being “too white” for the Sri Lankan kids, while subsequently being “too brown” for the white kids. So for a large part of my childhood, I lived in a sort of racial purgatory where I was trying to find my exact identity. It took me far too long to realize “you can just be a proud Sri Lankan-Australian” and have deep respect toward both cultures. It also took me awhile to realize no one really cares and most people just accept you for who you are.
How does your background influence your work at L.E.K.?
My background influences my work in the most important way, through diversity of thought. L.E.K. does a great job of fostering a culture where different perspectives are not only tolerated but celebrated. Not only coming from an atypical professional and academic background but also as a second-generation immigrant from Brisbane, I have found that on occasion I have been able to provide a unique perspective on case matters. Generally, [as someone] coming from a very internationally oriented family, [I find that] L.E.K. fosters a strong international culture (i.e., cross-national case teams), and my background has helped me fit right in towith, as well as very much appreciate, this strong international network/firm approach.
What is your favorite part of your cultural heritage?
The food, the family values, the uniqueness of it all, the fact that if you talk to any elderly Sri Lankan man, even if they aren’t related to you, he is instantly an “uncle” — and the same for a woman and the term “auntie” — the sense of identity and purpose you get. These are just some things that bind us all together and make me feel part of something bigger than myself.
Tell us a story that you believe exemplifies your culture.
Sri Lanka was playing Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and I went alone because I had just moved down to Sydney. In the Sri Lankan fan section, all the aunties were just handing out Sri Lankan snacks (rolls, pastries, etc.) and even though I knew no one, they gave me some. If that doesn’t exemplify Sri Lankan culture, I don’t know what does.