LESSONS FROM THE FAST LANE

SHEHARA JAYAWARDANA, GROUP MANAGING DIRECTOR OF MCLARENS HOLDINGS AND A PART-TIME RACE CAR DRIVER, DISCUSSES LIFE IN THE FAST LANE

In motorsports, every split second counts. Losing focus for a split second can lead to a missed gear change for a podium finish. Shehara Jayawardana only knows too well the focus required to succeed in the race circuit and at business. Motorsports don’t have leagues for women. Everyone competes together. It only has racing classes for types and racing machines. Shehara Jayawardana now races in the Honda Civic VTEC, the second-fastest race car category in the Sri Lankan racing circuits. She took to the faster class soon after reentering racing following the birth of her second son.

Jayawardana discusses what the fast lane has taught…

Every company is about people
Every company ends up being about people. You might be the biggest corporation or the smallest business, but success comes from how the leaders, second line and the front line apply themselves, how they work together, how they work on problems. Once you have these great teams, you have to enable them to perform. Finding the time is challenging, and I can only manage that, right now with a full-time job and two kids, by being wholly organized and because of the team. I have a fantastic team who help me prepare the car, engineers who prepare the engine, a team manager who gets the crew ready and transports the vehicles to the track. Basically, it’s a team effort, it’s always been that way, and I have a fabulous team.

On being resilient

A lot of lessons from the track are relevant to the board room. Racing is about being positive and keeping a never give up type of mindset. I never give up until its over. You always look for a way to get into the corner (to overtake during a turn). You’ve got to keep trying to take your position back or extract that bit of performance that will make you just one second faster. It’s a continuous journey. Those principles are relevant to the board room too. With sportsmanship, you also learn to lose and manage the disappointment that comes with it. Resilience in a business is a crucial factor, especially in Sri Lanka, where we face so many frequent challenges and external circumstances. Being resilient, thinking out of the box to find a way around is the kind of the mantra we use.

Shatter the glass ceiling

I didn’t think about being male or female. I love the sport, I love racing, I love the adrenaline that comes with it. I don’t think about being the only female driver at the time. For me, I’m just a competitor, I just needed to focus on the task at hand, getting the car ready and getting to the start. I’ve not let gender hold me back. If I felt I was disadvantaged, it makes me work that much harder, and I will try harder.

Build a structure for your passion

Passion is something you have, and you must create the time for the things you are passionate about. It works both ways, you make time for what you want, you do that by being exceptionally well organized. You must always be delegating things if you feel someone else can do it better than you. Some people want to do everything. You have to learn to let go of certain things if it doesn’t help you achieve your end goal. You can’t have everything, you must figure a few things that are valuable to you. In my case, it’s family, work, friends and fitness. So I work around those elements.