She is the Chief Operating Officer, Just In Time Group, Sri Lanka. She is the Chief Executive Officer, Just In Time Consultancy Services, Sri Lanka. An alumna of Holy Family Convent, Colombo, she is also an Attorney-at Law. Under her leadership the company was awarded the “Asia Best Employer Brand Award” for the years 2017 and 2018, and the “Sri Lanka Best Employer Brand Award” for the year 2018. In 2019, she was also conferred the HR Leadership Award for “Excellence in HR Leadership.” Having started her career in 2008, as a Legal Officer, within four years she was promoted as the Head of Legal. In 2014, she was also appointed as the Head of Human Resources and Administration, and as the Head of Public Relations for the organization.

Her colleagues describe her as a ‘soft-hearted toughie.’ With her ‘can do’ attitude, fearless personality and her strong determination to succeed at work, she has a reputation within the organization as being a fiercely-driven, strong female leader. She Can and she is an astute, disciplined, empowered go-getter; Sherene Goonetilleke.

Share with us a summary of your corporate journey.

I joined Just In Time Group (JIT) as a Legal Officer in 2008, almost straight after taking oaths as an Attorney. There was no in-house legal team at the time, hence, shortly after, I was tasked with recruiting a team, and managing the entire Legal Division for the company. Gradually, I was requested to take on the additional responsibility of also Heading the Human Resource department, which was quite a challenge. Nevertheless, I took it on as I was passionate about making a difference in HR at JIT, especially in the lives of my colleagues. I was also determined to drive JIT towards a performance driven culture. Subsequently, I was also tasked with overlooking the Operations and Administration department of the company, and eventually also the Public Relations department. Today, I have a team of experienced Heads of Departments managing Human Resources, Legal and PR, and I only have to oversee these departments. On top of my existing work, I also oversee all CSR activities of the company.

What’s your current position within the company?

In 2018, I was appointed as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Just In Time Group. In 2021, I was also appointed as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Just In Time Consultancy Services; an IT Resource Outsourcing subsidiary.

Share with us a summary of your personal journey (from classroom to boardroom).

I am an alumna of Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya. The years spent at school, shaped my character and helped me become who I am today. My childhood in Colombo was spent with good friends, who are still my closest friends to this day. My parents instilled in me the value of hard-work and discipline at a very young age. I was always encouraged to be true to myself, to remain disciplined and to always believe in my capabilities and potential. I am also incredibly blessed to have the constant support and encouragement of my husband, who has been my biggest cheerleader throughout my corporate journey.

Share with us a career highlight?

To be appointed as COO in 2018, and for the twentieth anniversary of the Group, I spearheaded a CSR project whereby we created twenty mini libraries in orphanages and children’s homes across the island. For this initiative, JIT, was conferred the award for ‘Best CSR Practices’ in the ICT sector at the Asia Pacific HRM Congress Awards 2017.

What are the most important attributes of successful leaders today?

(1)Integrity and humility;

(2)A passion for what you do and leading by example;

(3)Being innovative and having a growth mindset;

(4)Agility and the ability to make quick decisions;

How did you move forward when everyone kept telling you that your suggestions or ideas won't work?

I was quite fortunate that my seniors always encouraged me and pushed me to think out of the box. They motivated me to do things differently. Our Chairman, Mr. Jit Warnakulasuriya, is a man who constantly kept motivating me and encouraged me to improve myself. He believed in his senior management team equally and didn’t see us as male or female colleagues. There was zero gender discrimination within the organization. Even the most radical ideas were discussed at length and we were encouraged to explore all available options.

Any advice to new Managers starting out on their corporate journey?

Work hard and be the best version of yourself. Sounds cliché, but it certainly has proven results. Whatever you do, be passionate about it and go after your dreams even if the time taken to achieve them seems like many years away. Never lose sight of the dream and the end goal. Failing does not mean you are a failure. Just pick up, and try again and keep moving forward. Have mentors and constantly keep learning.

Share with us a bit about Just In Time Group

Our Founder Chairman, Mr. Jit Warnakulasuriya started JIT from a hundred square-feet basement office with just four people and about Rs. 180,000/- capital, in the mid 1990’s. JIT initially marketed and sold computers. Today, we are in the forefront of the ICT industry in Sri Lanka, with a team of over five hundred skilled and trained staff. We are a diversified Group with multiple subsidiaries and verticals. Our focus has always been on progress; progress for our nation and all our stakeholders. Our goal is to create long lasting value through globally renowned technology, and we have been a definite game changer in the industry, making a difference, building ecosystems and creating shared value by delivering essential, agile technology, for our nation. Our success has always been our strength in relationships, be it with our principals, customers, staff or suppliers.

Do you ever think – “Am I crazy?"

I think crazy is the new norm!

How do you differentiate yourself?

As a hard-worker with an impeccable work ethic, and a person who enjoys what she does.

What is your 'why?’

For the Glory of God!

Your biggest regret?

So far, thankfully, I have no regrets. I take life as it comes.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

Your gender is not a handicap so don’t put barriers in front of yourself, and if you see any barriers be fearless and keep moving forward, we all have it within us to break all barriers and to shatter the proverbial glass ceiling! Just be fearless, trust yourself and know your worth.

How does Just In Time Group differentiate itself in the industry?

We are all about relationships. Essentially, we are a long-term partner and not just a one-off solution seller for enterprises. We believe in engaging with a customer from day one, and identifying their pain points, needs and expectations, and then offering them the right solution rather than trying to market what we have. Being customer-centric helps us differentiate ourselves as an effective solutions integrator. We design solutions for complex IT needs of our customers and we deliver them successfully with agility and flexibility. Thereafter, we continue to be there for the customer as their support partner. We constantly upgrade our skills and technologies to stay relevant to serve the customers’ ever-changing needs. We evolve every five years to acquire new technology, ideas, thoughts and investments.

What do you want to achieve next?

Exceed my Business Plan and grow the business to greater heights.

If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career, what would it be?

Not to underestimate myself and my capabilities.

What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?

Not giving myself enough credit and doubting myself more than believing in myself.

Have you been harassed or discriminated against?

No, never. I have been quite fortunate to never have faced any harassment or discrimination both at work and in my personal life. At work, we have a zero-discrimination policy and I think that speaks volumes of the culture-built overtime at Just In Time Group.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

Retired, leading a content and healthy life, and helping under-privileged children gain a better education.

Share with us a secret no-one else knows.

Hmm. I’m an open book. I don’t have many secrets.

How do you want to be remembered one day?

As a genuine, honest, sincere person who cared about her family, friends, colleagues and all those around her. I want to be remembered as someone who walked the talk, and lived a good life, staying committed to my personal and professional life. Also, as a loving and caring daughter, wife, sibling and friend.


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