Meet the extraordinary leader who is transcending norms and setting the standard for women in leadership.
Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs (CRA) at Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka, Thamari Senanayake has set a striking example of how to integrate conscience and career in her 23 years in the industry.
Commenting on her achievement, Thamari said, “I’m incredibly honoured to receive this award. I have always had a passion to articulate, to analyse, and express myself. Using this passion to work with people and inspire them to drive good governance has always been a priority for me.”
A lawyer by training, Thamari has been at the forefront of change throughout her career, working to harmonize standards to international benchmarks and helping to modernize regulatory frameworks on behalf of the authorities.
After an apprenticeship at the Attorney General’s department, she began her career at the legal department of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka where she discovered her desire to make a difference in the ever-evolving regulatory field.
“Gaining exposure to complex issues, policies and regulations in both public and corporate sectors has been essential in developing my career. I’ve always taken opportunities to grow and learn – and I never say no to a challenge. In fact, that is what inspired me to join the corporate world.”
Thamari joined Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka in 2014 and was appointed as the company’s Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs earlier this year. As an Associate Director, she now sits on the top leadership team of the Sri Lankan business.
At Fonterra, empowering professional and personal growth is a company priority. Since joining Fonterra, Thamari has been encouraged to expand her scope into a multitude of projects that drew on her strong leadership capabilities.
“One of my most memorable experiences was managing the Project Team that established the first ever demonstration and training farm for the country in 2016 in my first year at Fonterra. This was a daunting task that put me outside my comfort zone – but as always, I was encouraged by the leadership and their belief in me.”
“Since then I’ve had exposure to the entire value chain and the talented teams that make up the organisation. I’ve learned about other areas such as quality, manufacturing, new product development, and consumer insights. It’s been great to be part of a purpose-led, values-driven organisation that supports people in their growth journey.”
Asked about how she balances her professional and family life as a woman in management, she says, “Many talk of a concept of work-life balance and how this affects women in management. I have been working for over 20 years while bringing up a wonderful 16-year old daughter with a very supportive husband. For me, work-life balance is about prioritising the most important events as life goes on and making choices with the time you have – and Fonterra’s culture allows me to do this.”
Sunil Sethi, Managing Director Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka says, “Thamari is an inspiring leader and mentor who has made it her purpose to push and challenge the boundaries of social perceptions of women in leadership across areas like regulatory, to drive value for society. The leadership role she has played over the years at FBL has been the reason for her current success and appointment.
“She is a mentor to women in the organization from senior leaders to management trainees. She exemplifies resilience and integrity and is a wonderful role model of a successful and value-driven leader. It is fantastic to see that her growth and leadership capabilities have been recognised at a national level.”
Outside of her role at Fonterra, Thamari is an active and well-respected participant in industry forums and networks. She is the Vice President of the Sri Lanka Australia New Zealand Business Council and a Member of the Food and Beverages Committee of the Ceylon Chamber.
This current award adds to several corporate recognition awards received during her career including an individual Values Award and two team awards at Fonterra’s Infinity Awards annual recognition platform in 2018 for her efforts in supporting the “Brand of the Year” and “Execution Excellence”.