Different weathered COVID-19 crisis well - Liyanage | Daily News


Different weathered COVID-19 crisis well - Liyanage

Starting as a junior level C++ engineer at MillenniumIT (now LSEG Technology) eighteen years ago, even before their now famous Malabe campus was opened, Hasitha Liyanage has played varied roles: developing high frequency trading (HFT) algorithms for US Treasury bonds, leading the engineering team that developed the Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s Central Gateway, leading engineering for the ILO-funded digitization of the the Philippines’ national Labor Law Compliance System and more recently, leading the Sysco LABS engineering team that built and deployed Sysco’s new e-commerce platform (which currently handles an appreciable fraction of the Fortune-100 corporation’s $60B annual sales).

According to Liyanage, a career change was the last thing on his mind when the co-founders reached out to him. But after learning who they are (Uber’s first Head of Product and a member of Google’s Global Business Strategy team), the company’s growth rate, and a quick review of the company’s tech stack, his mind was quickly made up. Ten days later, he was telling his boss and mentor that he will be saying goodbye to his cushy job, corner office and his 74-engineer team to try his hand at the startup. “A lot of people asked me if I was insane,” says Liyanage. “The answer I gave them was: if I don’t take this now, I might kick myself a few years down the road. Well, I didn’t have to wait that long. I’ve learned more in the last three months than I’ve done in the preceding two years. I used to think that I had a good handle on how to run engineering and that my previous employers represented top-of-the-class. But the past few months have taught me that there’s an entire level above that: the level where the likes of Uber and Google operate, (and now: Different). I believe that if we can get Sri Lankan engineering to this same level, we truly have a shot at being a globally recognized nation for high quality software engineering, which is something I’ve always believed in.” As a countercyclical business, :Different has also weathered the COVID-19 crisis well: during the height of the pandemic, when the vast majority of venture capital (VC) funds were either suspending or outright pulling out of startup funding rounds, the company made headlines for securing a $7 million series A.

Asked about hiring, Liyanage said: “While we do plan to double in size in the next few months, we don’t expect to be hiring hundreds of engineers, at least not for the next couple of years. We’re not a body shop. What we plan to do is hire a handful of the best-of-the-best. And by best, I don’t mean people with the best GPAs or the best raw programming talent; I mean those with the best combination of engineering skills, critical thinking, communication and emotional intelligence. What we’re aiming for is something huge, so these are the types of people we need.” Liyanage believes that: Different has a real shot at doing for the home what Uber has done for the road, and that in the process, it will become a major technology company with a significant footprint in Sri Lanka.

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