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Monday December 5th, 2022

The ardour of Wiley Global Technology Sri Lanka

Bimal Gunapala, General Manager of Wiley Global Technology Pvt Ltd

Wiley, the global education and research leader set up operations in Sri Lanka to drive expansion and growth in 2019, just before Covid-19 and the unfolding economic crisis.

Bimal Gunapala, General Manager of Wiley Global Technology Pvt Ltd (Wiley’s Technology Centre in Sri Lanka), shares insights into driving growth amidst the economic challenges that emerged close on the heels of the disruptive Covid-19 pandemic and 2019 Easter bombings. He explains how Wiley has had an incredible journey from its humble beginnings as a small print shop in New York 215 years ago. Today, Wiley is one of the world’s largest publishers and a global leader in scientific research and career-connected education.

Wiley works to unlock human potential by enabling discovery, powering education, and shaping workforces. It focuses on research and academic publishing across print, electronic books, and journals including a host of various learning platforms, with a presence in around 20 countries employing over 7,500 people. Today Wiley is on a trajectory to expand and grow its global business, and Sri Lanka is one of its latest technology centres established to fast-track global expansion.

“Our objective is to bridge the skills gap by delivering content solutions in new and innovative ways to enrich the learning experience and create opportunities for lifelong learning and discovery for all,” Bimal Gunapala says in an interview with Echelon. “Recent studies suggest that millions of workers worldwide will need retraining to deal with the rapid rate of technological advancements. Fundamentally, Wiley has always focused on helping customers succeed wherever they are in their education and professional careers. And on the research side of the business, Wiley is dedicated to ensuring work is not only published quickly but is open, accessible and transparent,” he says. Below are excerpts from the interview:

Wiley Global Technology entered Sri Lanka in 2019. How has the journey been so far?

We have exceeded expectations growing exponentially to a team of over 500 tech professionals through the many challenges confronting the country such as the 2019 Easter bombings, Covid-19 and the unfolding economic crisis. Our tech colleagues focus on end-to-end technology operations for Wiley’s product development, delivery & maintenance and keeping the lights on for all our partners in the group wherever they are in the world.

We maintain a laser-sharp focus on what we want to achieve. Despite the interruptions and the unfolding economic situation, I think the latest challenge for us comes from accelerated growth, which is a good thing. We have accelerated our talent acquisition, requiring us to intensify efforts to maintain our high-quality standards and ramp up the learning process and well-being initiatives. Whatever we do, we never deviate from our end goal. How we get to where we want may change depending on shifting market realities, but our goal of continually improving and remaining a word class technology centre is the one constant that inspires us all.

Sri Lanka is well known for its high-quality tech professionals, people who are pretty good at delivery, quality of delivery, and conscientious work ethic. They are quick learners and own what they do. Sri Lankan tech professionals are not just doing a job: they put their hearts and souls into a task. That is why Sri Lanka is at the forefront of providing technology talent to the world, and that is why Wiley came to Sri Lanka for its tech professionals who could build a solid platform for growth. Our culture and working environment enhance those attributes and empower people to excel in what they do best. For instance, we do not supervise people. We present a problem to our engineers and give them the freedom and leeway to be creative and innovative to build superior solutions. We encourage people to assume responsibilities and be accountable for what they do.

In my 27 years of experience in the technology industry, I have found that in such an environment, people tend to thrive by going above and beyond baseline expectations, constantly pushing the boundaries and challenging their comfort zones. As livewires behind Wiley’s successes, these stars drive continuous improvements across Wiley by sharing suggestions, new ideas, and innovations, helping our customers to thrive and grow.

How would you describe the globally enriching experiences employees enjoy at Wiley?

Wiley is a great place to work. It is not only a great starting point for a career in IT and technology but also provides opportunities for mid-career professionals to progress further.

Recruits start in the deep end from day one, learning on the job and working with live products. However, they are encouraged, supported and mentored by a team of senior tech professionals.

We have provided access to extensive learning platforms, both external and internal. Every employee gets full access to LinkedIn Learning, for example, and a range of renowned Wiley-owned tools and platforms. We highly recommend and encourage all our colleagues to engage in continuous professional development. We not only provide the tools but help them allocate time for it. One example of this is our “Focus Fridays” initiative which allows people to take time off from work to learn. Apart from the usual KPIs and commercial goals, we also encourage our colleagues to set development goals at the beginning of the year. I believe the results we have achieved as a company speaks for the successes of our career development and learning programmes, and employee feedback has been nothing but stellar.

Employee well-being is a priority for Wiley. When Covid-19 broke out, we quickly and seamlessly transitioned to work-from-home because flexibility is something we always offered to our people. We invest considerable resources to ensure our people are comfortable and empowered wherever they work. For instance, we provide additional devices and data connectivity in addition to a special allowance to set up a home office.

And then there is something often overlooked in this work-from-home era: psychological well-being. Wiley has a comprehensive Employee Assistance Programme for employees wherever they may be, giving them access to confidential sessions with local psychological healthcare specialists and counsellors. We also have several programmes and platforms dedicated to physical well-being and mindfulness.

We have numerous virtual events including meditation and fitness classes, free subscriptions to meditation and telemedicine apps, Covid-19 and crisis support and many others. Time and again, we also organize activities to uplift our local communities and it’s heartwarming to see hundreds of colleagues coming together for such causes.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are embedded in everything and throughout the entire employee experience. We stand for diversity in all forms, equity throughout our policies and processes, and an inclusive culture where people feel like they can be themselves. We established employee resource groups supporting our diverse culture, and we offer training and learning opportunities about DEI to our employees.

Since the beginning of Wiley Sri Lanka back in 2019, we have also been very focused on gender diversity among other DEI priorities. In a short time, we have managed to increase our female colleagues’ percentage to go beyond the local industry standard. Many of our female technology colleagues and leaders have been featured on webinars and panel discussions nationwide.

Our leadership team is very approachable and transparent, with an open mindset which encourages and spurs ideas and increases engagement.

Globally, we have an excellent parental leave programme – not just maternity leave. Fathers get four weeks of paternal leave and flexible arrangements to get more involved in caring for children, enabling mothers to resume their careers much earlier. We extend the same program for adopting a child, demonstrating how deeply committed we are to our people.