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We sat down with Shamilka Samarasinha, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, at EPAM Systems to understand more about her role, EPAM and why Digital Day is so important to the work they do and the industry as a whole.
Here’s what we discovered…
In order to meaningfully engage young people in society, we believe they must be equipped with the skills and opportunities that enable them to move towards a connected future.
1. EPAM is committed to driving positive change in the communities in which it is a part. How does being part of Digital Day feed into that?
As a company, we focus on education to inspire students to use their digital skills to help find solutions to societal issues. Digital Day is an amazing initiative that not only aims to raise awareness of the importance of the use of digital skills for social good, but also encourages future generations to pursue careers in digital. We’re excited to be a part of it for the third year running.
We also strive to create positive change and opportunities in areas where they are most needed through our focused efforts in the field of education. Examples includes our global technology education initiatives, which provide cutting-edge and industry-relevant technology training and mentorship programs to tens of thousands of students globally, as well as other technology conferences, seminars, and hackathon events where we jumpstart collaboration among our local tech communities and encourage social innovation.
2. What positive change do you feel we need to see in the way young people engage with digital careers?
I hear many students say, “I don’t think I could pursue a career in a digital or STEM because I’m not good at math.” But many people have achieved incredible things who aren’t great at math. I want to shift the industry’s mindset by demonstrating that what matters most in a career in STEM is being curious about how things operate and enjoying disassembling and reassembling things to improve them. The world benefits from diversity, and diversity of thinking in STEM is great for innovation and creative problem solving. This is something I’d like to see more of.
3. Digital Day aside, how else is EPAM encouraging young talent into the industry?
Through our Programs and Services, we inspire young people to become engaged members of their communities by providing them with opportunities to develop tech-based skills that can be used to build solutions to real-world problems. We bring together creative professionals and push ourselves to find innovative solutions to pressing social challenges through these community engagements and our various partnerships with universities, labs, and others in the technology industry.
4. As Head of CSR at EPAM, you’re a perfect example of the fact that not every role in the digital world is ‘digital’. What was your route into the industry?
I started off as an economist and have worked across a variety of industries including retail, banking, manufacturing, and grassroots non-profit organizations. These diverse experiences have helped me to embrace and understand that even in this digital world, you don’t have to exclusively have tech experience to be a part of this industry. You can use all your experiences gained in different industries to help push the digital world forward.
My career goal was to make a positive impact, and as a result, I realized that every industry requires an ESG strategy. So, while you may believe that your educational background or skills do not align with certain industries, you might be surprised to find yourself in a job you have always wanted to do in that very industry! It’s been seven years since I joined EPAM and doing what I’m doing now, I feel like every experience I’ve had has been preparing me for this. Sometimes we have too narrow a focus when thinking about what industry we should be in, when there’s a multitude of ways we can get involved in an industry like ‘digital’ and make a difference.
5. What would you say to someone who’s excited by working in the digital sector but doesn’t have the ‘traditional’ creative/data/coding background?
Be excited and embrace it because it is a fascinating industry! Also, keep in mind that you do not have to have those traditional skills to work in this industry. In fact, we will be launching a 6-week mentor program designed for kids aged 15 to 17 in the coming weeks in which we address this exact issue. We have identified industry experts who will share their own journey and provide guidance on opportunities in the industry. The goal is to share and open doors for teenagers who are making career choices and want to learn more about the digital world.
6. What’s your take on the state of gender balance within the industry now? What steps does EPAM take to encourage diversity in the workplace?
At this point, it seems we are in the midst of a profound global shift in which organizations play an increasingly important role in constructing not just the communities they operate in, but also the societies in which they operate. At EPAM, we support initiatives all around the world that equip and empower women and girls with the skills they need to pursue careers in digital. These include Women in Tech, Technovation Girls Mexico, Czechitas, Cajigo and Rails Girls.
7. It’s your third year sponsoring Digital Day, why is this event so important to your organization?
In order to meaningfully engage young people in society, we believe they must be equipped with the skills and opportunities that enable them to move towards a connected future. Digital Day aims to inspire and empower the next generation and is a great opportunity for students still in school to explore digital careers.
8. After a COVID affected program last year, Digital Day is back to its in-person best this year. What are you most looking forward on the day?
I genuinely think the pandemic taught us a lot because despite the challenges, we were able to host a virtual event with over 150 schools and 10,000 students in 2020. However, students did miss out on in-person mentoring last year, so we’re very excited to be back visiting schools and conducting mentoring sessions and other activities in-person again.
Find out more about Digital Day
Find out more about EPAM