Dharini Speldewinde

Business Entrepreneur
MAS Holdings

Why did you choose to study Sociology at Loughborough University?

In terms of further studies, when the time came to decide what I would like to pursue after school, I was undecided as to what I really wanted to do and make a career out of, later on in life. Some of my friends had a clear cut career path in mind, but not me.

Having had my primary education at Ladies’ College in Sri Lanka, I was privileged to have been in a multi ethnic, multi religious society exposed to different forms of learning and extracurricular activities in school, from sports to the performing arts to research projects and even student exchange programs with a school in Germany. I was able to express myself not just in an academic way, but discover abilities and talents within myself with the varied opportunities on offer. It is this kind of environment I wanted to continue to be in and follow a course of study which encompassed interesting fields, and a campus to live in, explore and gain exposure to new experiences.

This is when Sociology came to mind. It encompassed a little bit of everything I was interested in and excited about, so without a doubt this was the course I wished to follow and what better campus than Loughborough Uni. It ticked all my boxes and went beyond my expectations. Apart from its mind blowing, massive, state of the art campus, with high standards in academics and sports, Loughborough University was able to provide me with the best of both worlds, so it wasn’t difficult in making it my first choice – and the icing on the cake, it has always been ranked very highly in the UK.

What did you enjoy about your course?

There were a lot of things I enjoyed about my course actually starting from the vast choice of modules we were given to choose from each semester. Additionally, the modules were not limited to Sociology, they stemmed from Psychology, Economics, Statistics, Sports Science, Media, Criminology, Social Policy, Research and even Geography which was another key reason for choosing this particular degree as it allowed me to gain insights from other disciplines as well. My friends and I honestly had a difficult time picking just three or four out of a long list of interesting topics, each semester.

Apart from being spoilt for choice, most of our lectures were very interactive which resulted in making some difficult areas easier to grasp. I guess the department was also mindful of ‘different learners’, thus assessments were not only exam based but were also through course work, report writing, presentations and posters.

How has Loughborough University inspired you and helped you to progress in your career?

It was a big change moving overseas and being miles away from my family and safety net, but it taught me to be more independent and face different situations all on my own. Most certainly I gained way more than an academic degree from Loughborough University. The career fairs and career guidance sessions were of utmost value (even though I didn’t realise it at that time) as it laid the basic foundation to embark on my next journey post Uni. Loughborough Uni gave me the opportunity to meet employees from many different organizations which also allowed me to gain employment at The Times UK for a short period. My 3 years at Loughborough University definitely made me more mature and molded me to look at people and the community at large in an opened minded way, yet simultaneously toughened and sent me out with courage to face the real world. Having moved back to Sri Lanka after graduating, I was able to put into practice skills gained and my academic learnings, as a Business Entrepreneur at MAS Holdings.

Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to current or prospective students looking to study Sociology?

Dive into every opportunity offered at Loughborough University until you find your niche because the journey towards it is a valuable learning experience in itself.

Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities during your studies? If so, how did this impact upon your Loughborough experience?

It was great attending the many sports taster sessions during freshers week after which I  went for the many “turn up and play” sports evenings. The wide range of fitness classes were an excellent way to take a break from the academic side to my day, which was much needed.

An added bonus about Loughborough Uni is that you could bump into an Olympic Athlete at any time and even train alongside them. I am thrilled to have met Jessica Ennis and Adam Peaty on campus too.

Can you tell us about your career journey so far?

My career journey so far has been exciting and challenging. I carried out research for The Times in the UK and having moved back to Sri Lanka, I joined the FemTech team at MAS Holdings which is the largest apparel and textile manufacturer in South Asia. The FemTech team works on innovative apparel solutions geared towards improving women’s lives.

I have learnt so much over the past two and a half years of working at MAS and have been honoured to be part of some milestones in the company. Starting out I was very much in to consumer research and was privileged to have been given the opportunity to travel within Sri Lanka, different parts of India, the UK and most recently the US to carry out market research for new projects we are working on. As an innovative apparel manufacturer, MAS goes deep into understanding their consumer and I was pleased to bring in my Sociology learnings into this aspect of my job.

The team I am a part of works on functional, lifestyle and wellness related apparel solutions, to address the needs during a woman’s reproductive cycle. I was truly honoured to be part of the team that launched ‘Become’ (www.webecome.co.uk) MAS’ first  100% owned , direct to consumer ecommerce brand outside of South Asia. ‘Become’ was launched in the UK in 2017, for women going through the Menopause. ‘Become’ aims to spread awareness about the Menopause as well as sell clothing with patent pending technology, which helps manage the symptoms of a hot flush.

What is extra special about the work I am exposed to is that we innovate products to address unmet needs, thereby helping women in society, go about their day to day life without being held back. We also aim to normalize certain taboos in society through the work we do.

Can you tell us more about your current role?

My current role as a Business Entrepreneur in the FemTech team is to identify gaps in the market and carry out in-depth market research, to understand if there is an unmet need in a particular area we could address, with an apparel solution. Having identified the need, I would work alongside the Technology Entrepreneurs to come up with a solution and thereafter, test the different prototypes with consumers to have the concept validated.

Once the product is finalized we then launch it, either through an identified partner or on our own.

What do you love the most about your job?

Apart from the amazing team I get to work with, the fact that I get to work on products which would have a positive impact on the way women manage different stages of their reproductive life, is very fulfilling. Being given the opportunity to come up with innovative solutions which push to normalize certain taboos, is a great feeling. 

What does the future hold for you?

Today, given the pace at which everything is moving, we never know what exciting and new opportunities lie ahead, but for me, I have definitely found my interest in research and innovation. I don’t believe this area of work can be easily disrupted, we must be ahead of the game looking out for the next area we could enhance. Undoubtedly my learning in Sociology is of immense value and I can see how this has impacted me and would continue to be of benefit in my work.

Alternatively in the future, I would love to teach and be part of the lives of differently abled children.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

Definitely being part of the team that launched ‘Become’.

I learnt so much from the project through the hands-on experience throughout the journey. Seeing where it is today, particularly the impact it is having on women’s lives, not forgetting the recognition it has received - all this is a truly remarkable feeling.