22 Mar, 2021 | 3 min read

Padmika Dissanaike - Drive, Passion & Challenging Stereotypes

  • Shania Smith
  • Senior Marketing Officer - Content - WSO2

This women’s history month, we sat down with a few ladies at WSO2 to understand how they strived to challenge biases while paving the way for others to follow in their footsteps.

Padmika is the Chief Financial Officer at WSO2. She is a strategic leader who has headed our Global Finance function since 2009. She also oversees the operations of the organization, including the HR, Admin, and Legal teams.

Padmika has held leadership roles in Europe and the US. She worked in dynamic and high-growth companies that began as start-ups and successfully graduated to the growth and expansion phases, eventually becoming part of large, public quoted U.S. companies.

Padmika was previously the Head of Finance for the European Pricing and Reimbursement business of IMS Health, a US Fortune 1000 company that is now IQVIA. Prior to that, she was the UK Financial Reporting Controller of UUNET Technologies, a subsidiary of MCI, a US Fortune 500 company that is now part of Verizon Communications.

Padmika is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (FCCA, London). She successfully completed the Emerging CFO program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Strategic Analysis for Business Evaluation program at Harvard Business School.

  1. What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?

Every job I’ve had, and every team or corporate leader I’ve worked with has in some way helped me develop and think differently. My first break into senior management in the UK came when my then CEO gave me a promotion and said, “sink or swim”! WSO2 is no different.

  1. What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

To have held senior executive positions in US Fortune 1000 companies in the UK. And now to be part of WSO2’s journey, from being a 50-employee start-up in 2007 to have 800 employees in 6 countries, corporate customers in 70+ countries, and 50X growth in revenue! It’s been an amazing ride.

  1. What are some traits of great women leaders?

I don’t know that there are traits specific to women leaders. There are great leaders and bad leaders - gender is irrelevant. A good leader must challenge people to step up while guiding them to be their best. They must also be open to challenge without feeling threatened.

  1. What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?

Lots! But a couple of highlights:

A good idea can come from anywhere, anyone, at any level. Never underestimate where you might get your inspiration from.

Another is to give people opportunities to show off their skills. We’ve all been in jobs where we are too busy with our day-to-day and can’t show what else we are capable of. But I’ve had bosses give me projects which allowed me to discover a different skill set. That can be very encouraging and empowering.

  1. How does working at WSO2 compare to other companies?

I joined WSO2 when it was a mere two-year-old start-up. That ‘start-up’ atmosphere - the ‘can-do’ attitude, where people work for a cause, rather than a company - has been really great. And now, 15 years later, I see us preserving that start-up attitude while being mature in execution. We also have a great group of people who are supportive and are just really nice, and of course super smart. 

  1. If any, what challenges have you experienced as a woman in business during your overall career?

I worked in Cambridge, UK, for almost 20 years, with a short stint in New York, and now in Sri Lanka. I can’t honestly say that being a woman was the challenge.

I have been extremely fortunate! I have worked with good male and female corporate leaders who gave me significant opportunities and helped progress my career. I’m very grateful for those opportunities, and I do try to pay that forward, by making sure people get opportunities to showcase their skills.

  1. Has your experience as a mother helped in your business management skills?

Totally! My twin sons, now 20 years old, will take great delight in disagreeing; they will say I have no mothering skills at all, never mind management skills. Seriously, I think having kids does teach you to multi-task, be patient, be encouraging, and find creative solutions. All those are relevant when managing a team, and workload as well.

  1. What’s your personal passion?

I have always been conscious that there are much less fortunate than myself. And I try to be mindful of that in the way that I conduct my life. My personal passions are that I enjoy being with my family, reading, playing the piano, and traveling (when there is no Covid!), and chocolate!

  1. Why is gender balance and having a more diverse workforce important, especially in senior management teams?

Diverse teams are good for business because they can produce a richer set of ideas. Role models are also important. People’s aspirations are formed by what they see, hear, or experience. If we want our children - girls or boys - to feel that they can achieve anything, then they have to see others who have gone there before them, doing every kind of job, and at every level. For example, I've been surrounded by amazing women, at home, at school, and at work who was in charge of their environment. And the majority of men I’ve come across didn't see women as inferior. I never saw being female as a limitation, never doubted that I could do whatever I wanted to. That is important.

  1. What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

Be passionate and believe in yourself. Be passionately interested in whatever you are doing. And of course, self-confidence is important. You have to believe that you can aim for and achieve your goals, and then go for it!