Uwill’s Asini Wijewardane Named to Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40
This year’s Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40 comes from everywhere from Siberia to Sri Lanka, and are making marks for themselves in industries from shipping to software.
The 2021 honorees, featured in a special print edition of the Business Journal, includes more than a dozen CEOs, and others hold vital roles at major business giants including Liberty Mutual, EY and AIG. Some are masters of technology and others make great products that people want, including candles and charcuterie.
Who has influenced your career the most?
My family. This may sound unexpected as the rest of my family are doctors. However, though I didn’t choose that career, I was influenced so much by their career drive, how they approached challenges, and their continual passion to improve and impact not just patients but their specialties or organizations. I learnt so much about the importance of and pride in hard work, service, spearheading change, and impacting others – which has driven all of my career choices to date.
What was your luckiest career break?
My current job at Uwill. I had always been inspired by Michael London, Uwill’s CEO, as a renowned tech entrepreneur, ever since he spoke to my MBA class at Babson. Therefore, last year, when I co-founded a mental health initiative to help people find therapists during the pandemic and I heard that Michael had entered the mental health space with Uwill – I reached out for advice. To be honest, my best case scenario was that he would agree to a call. Instead, that one call eventually resulted in my current job, which has been one of my favorite jobs to date – getting to not only use my skills to make a difference together with the best team, but also to be part of such a creative solution to improve access to free mental care for young adults, at a time where it couldn’t be more important.
If you could have coffee with any businessperson, who would it be?
Richard Branson. As a Sri Lankan British, I’ve always been a fan of this fellow Brit – from his boundless entrepreneurial spirit to his passion and drive for innovation to his love of creativity and music (as a fellow musician as well!). I didn’t realize how much of a ‘fan’ I was – until I got 3 copies of his autobiographies from friends for a recent birthday.
What was your biggest career setback?
One of my most recent career challenges was moving to America – I had worked for over a decade internationally, but securing my first job in the USA without any connections or networks was one of the hardest challenges I’ve faced. I still remember sending out endless applications without a response, being told companies didn’t hire ‘international’ applicants, and hearing every rejection reason possible from not enough to too much experience! However, that experience taught me so much about perseverance, pivoting and patience – that finally helped me land my first job at a healthcare startup, which eventually led me to my job at Uwill a few years later.
Describe yourself in three words.
Creative, persevering, passionate.
What’s your career theme song?
Brave by Sara Bareilles. From moving countries, to sectors, to moving into startups, I’ve always strived to trust my gut and take chances, as long as I feel there’s a chance I could make a difference and it will bring me joy. Working with cancer patients at the start of my career was a masterclass in this type of bravery by just watching how they approached life, even in the midst of such challenges, which always stayed with me. As one of my mentors once said ‘You often regret the chances you didn’t take, rather than those you did. So, think about the choice you’d take if there was no fear or failure possible – and maybe choose that path, always.’
What was your first job?
Cancerkin, a small cancer support and awareness nonprofit in North London. I am still proud of this job to date as, after coming across research that East London had the highest mortality rates in UK during my internship, I was hired as program manager and got to spearhead a program to expand our nonprofit to this region, which not only became the charity’s flagship project but also ended up impacting thousands of women in the region. Additionally, this role showed me the importance of emotional and mental health support, which made me passionate about ensuring access – a passion that eventually brought me to my current role at Uwill.
What’s your favorite podcast?
How I Built This. As an innovator at heart, I love listening to stories of innovators and entrepreneurs of some of the best-known companies, and hearing about the grit, challenge, and perseverance behind their success.
What app can’t you live without?
Whatsapp. It might be a strange choice but with all of my immediate family based in the UK and Sri Lanka, I’ve felt so grateful for this app (and video calls!) to keep connected with them, especially over the last year.
Where would you most like to visit, post-pandemic?
Sri Lanka. My parents live in Sri Lanka and after seeing them at least every few months pre-pandemic, it’ll soon be nearly 2 years since I’ve seen them. Though I am so grateful that they are all safe and healthy, I cannot wait for the moment I get to see them again and give them a big hug!