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Where Are You Now?

Sahan Dissanayake

Sahan Lakshitha Dissanayake

Master of Business Administration (MBA) 2014

Position and company: Founder of Eyecatching 

After more than 12 years working for the HSBC bank in Sri Lanka, Sahan decided to come back to education to advance his career prospects. After completing his MBA from the University of Sunderland at the International College of Business and Technology (ICBT) in Sri Lanka, Sahan decided to leave the banking sector and set up his own business.

Sahan is founder of Eyecatching, a company specialized in unique handmade designer wooden products with an artistic touch which blends with the Sri Lankan identity.

Sahan explained: “We manufacture 100% biodegradable and eco-friendly wooden kitchenware as well as designer ornaments by using sustainably sourced wood. We encourage the society to transform, to replace plastic and glass with wood, to avoid a future non biodegrade disaster. Apart from that, we shape the field of art of carpentry with the latest trends and help to develop their livelihood to a greater level by injecting new skills and management tactics.”

For Sahan, completing his MBA at the University of Sunderland was one of the best decisions he has ever made as it had a positive impact on his life. Not only he achieved a promotion within the HSBC while he was still a student, it also made him realise he wanted to change the course of his career.

He explained: “I'm happy to say that out of 400+ applicants I got selected to the final 60 and surprisingly, I became one of the 16 successful candidates who got promoted in 2013. It was one of the major achievements I had in my life and the reason behind this achievement was purely the enrollment of my MBA with the University of Sunderland. My MBA became a major life change in my journey and I was able to develop my own brand called Eyecatching after I graduated.” 

For Sahan becoming an entrepreneur and saying goodbye to his stable life as a banker at HSBC Sri Lanka was also big challenge.

He said: “It was one major battle of Heart Vs Brain as well as Social Norms Vs Dreams. I think it is quite a hard decision to make in any society in any country and it is super hard in Sri Lankan society.

“Starting a business in Sri Lanka is easy. But starting a venture like Eyecatching is very difficult as when considering machinery in this country we are in a basic level. And in relation to income generation, the field of artistic carpentry is at a very low level. Motivating these amazingly skillful carpenters who have a low income with basic machinery to develop world class top quality wooden products was truly challenging. With lot of commitment and immense hard work I was able to develop Eyecatching to a well-known designer brand in Sri Lanka.”

Asked about what attracted him to the University of Sunderland, Sahan replied: “Enrolling for an MBA with the University of Sunderland was a dream come true. After doing banking exams for five or six years, I was tempted to learn something interesting.

“During the market research I felt the MBA would be the next milestone in my academic career. During the process I got the opportunity to speak to several higher educational institutes and attended a few induction programs of different universities in the UK. I was lucky to visit the International College of Business and Technology (ICBT) in Sri Lanka. At that time, they were enrolling students for the very first MBA batch. I attended their induction program and within the first half an hour I decided to enroll with the University of Sunderland for my MBA.

“The guidance offered by all the lectures was immense. The support of academic and other staff truly made me feel like I was in a family. I have enjoyed every single second of my academic journey. The communication and the way the University values its students are still the same from 2013 to 2023. Quality of the lectures and the methods they use to teach students are the latest trends in the world. The unique feeling that the University offers to all the students, that all of them belong to one family, will make the University shine day by day.”

Sahan especially remembers the Dean who conducted their induction seminar.

He explained: “I can still remember him saying, ‘We welcome all of you for this combined journey. I guarantee myself and my panel of lectures will guide and back you till the moment we meet at the graduation convocation…’.

That gave a massive confidence to me and from that point onwards till now, I think of the University of Sunderland as one family spread in different parts of globe.”

Sahan’s advice to recent graduates entering the job market is that the job must be well done. He added that is also a must to keep up to date about the latest industry trends.

He added: “Also enjoy the run and be patient. It is important to enjoy what you do. I personally know how frustrated I was when working as a banker and how it feels after I started my own venture. The only way you can naturally get your best is to find a field where you no longer feel that you’re doing a job.

“Practicing patience is a must. Just like you can’t harvest as soon as you plant a seed, your job or work needs some time and commitment before you get your reward. Just like that be patient and wait while giving your best to whatever you do and wait until it pays you back in a surprising way. Believe me, it won't happen within seven days but won’t take seven years either.”

Sahan is currently focused on bringing his venture to the next level and enter the international market. His plans also include to open a higher education institute or work as an authorized Individual agent of UK Universities, by making Sri Lankans understand the value of bridging higher education opportunities from Sri Lanka to UK.

He concluded: “I would like to open gates for Sri Lankan students especially for the University of Sunderland as I always feel Sunderland as ‘my university’ and ‘my family’. I believe the University of Sunderland will make that dream a reality too.

“As my personal interest I studied and got myself qualified as a certified psychological counsellor. With that qualification, I voluntarily offer community service to the society, and I would like to expand it as a free platform to anyone who needs psychological support.”

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