THE SEARCH FOR PASSION: AN ENDLESS VOYAGE
Silt lines the bottoms of shipwrecks under water. In addition to the debris of any wreck, the silt is one of the biggest dangers that confront scuba divers. Disturbing the silt can quickly engulf and trap a diver in a shipwreck.
Dharshana Jayawardena one of Sri Lanka’s top wreck divers, often has to make risk assessments and respond to unanticipated challenges during wreck dives. Jayawardena took to cave diving to acquire the skills needed for wreck diving in deep seas. Soon, cave diving too became a passion by itself .
Dharshana Jayawardena is a software engineer and General Manager of Cambio, a software development company.He was recently awarded the honour of ‘Asian Explorer of the Year (2019). Here are his insights into the fusion of work and passion.
WHERE YOUR PASSION LIES MAY SURPRISE YOU, SERIOUSLY…
Although widely recognised as one of Sri Lanka’s top shipwreck and cave divers now, Dharshana Jayawardena only learned to swim at the age of 30. Jayawardena accidentally stumbled upon scuba diving even later and discovered that it was something he wanted to master. Since childhood, Jayawardena had been the curious sort, fascinated with the unknown, something that’s a natural extension to his diving passion.
“When I was a child, I wanted to be an Astronaut – but now I’m an Aquanaut! It’s vastly different but also similar. Similar because you are in an unfamiliar, hostile environment without the ability to breathe.”
Stumbling upon an unknown shipwreck in the coast of Colombo in 2006 piqued the explorer in him. Combined with his passion for mystery and his thirst to unravel information, he initiated his search for shipwrecks in the seas off Colombo’s coastline, where there is quite surprisingly a high concentration. “It’s one of the most amazing diving experiences, just off the coast, with vast marine life, clear waters and a (relative) lack of pollution.”
Initially, Jayawardena focused on experiencing these shipwrecks as they were – in the clear waters, embracing its beauty. However, it wasn’t long before he wanted to unravel the identities of these ships.
DISCOVER THE PASSION AND SKILLS NEXUS
Together with his love for mysteries, research and unravelling information Jayawardena found that his research on shipwrecks contained many great stories. Stories worth sharing.
His book “Ghosts of the Deep: Diving the Shipwrecks of Sri Lanka” contained information spanning 40 wrecks within Sri Lanka. Jayawardena narrated his diving experience, the historical relevance of these ships, and the stories of the people associated with these ships.
By creating this book, he was able to connect with individuals across the world and share untold stories of those who had died and those who had lost someone dear to them on a shipwreck.
BLUR THE LINE BETWEEN WORK AND PLAY
According to Jayawardena, work cannot just compromise to pursue your passion nor should passion be compromised for work. They must co-exist so skills and experiences will cross-feed both areas.
Everyone is challenged by dividing their time. But Jayawardena discourages anyone who is looking to pursue a passion from compartmentalising their day or their approach. “Move out of thinking in terms of having an 8-5 job. When you are passionate about something, work could start at 4am.” He says, changing the traditional boundaries, for him, made it possible to scuba dive early morning and then get to work, on some days.
As the General Manager of Cambio, Jayawardena overlooks all aspects of operations from recruitment and retention, to creating and sustaining an engaging and creative work environment. As a leader, he focuses on building team capacity, ensuring that colleagues and team members engage and take responsibility by sharing their views and developing solutions.
He engages teams to grow as a company, defining leadership as being a part of a team rather than above it.
GROW BECAUSE YOU ARE PASSIONATE
Wreck and cave diving has sensitised Jayawardena in several ways that make him a better leader. This form of diving comes with its fair share of risks. He has now learned to be calm yet quick thinking when faced with unanticipated challenges. In reverse, he is using skills as a software engineer and data cruncher to prepare for diving adventures and to unravel information through research and planning.
Passion is all about the energy you receive through a particular habit, he says. It energises individuals to the extent that they develop a new frame of mind. So pursuing an activity that stimulates, excites and motivates an individual is
crucial for personal development. This same energy could be deployed at work the next day.
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