In 1976, the Computer Society of Sri Lanka was formed. Among its founding members was a lady. This lady is one who stands tall amongst the silent giants of the Sri Lankan IT industry. Over the course of her career, she helped build complex computer systems that revolutionized the Sri Lankan banking system. This iron lady is Nayeni Fernando, and this is her story on how she, together with her team revolutionized the banking systems of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Nayeni began her journey into the world of computing in 1971 when she joined the Department of Census and Statistics as an analyst programmer. However, she like the other four people that got the job, didn’t know anything about actual computer programming. As such, Nayeni and her four new colleagues were sent every morning to IBM.
It was at IBM they got training in Report Program Generator (RPG), which was a programming language used by the IBM System 360. This IBM computer had a tape operated machine with only 24 KB of RAM. Nayeni and her colleagues used this computer to program the data for the Sample Census of Sri Lanka in 1970.
At first this was a brand new adventure for her, but after 8 years it had become routine for Nayeni. She was bored and itching for a change. That’s when she saw an advertisement and joined the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in 1979. This was where her career would begin to reach for the stars.
When Nayeni joined the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in 1979, she was its first female analyst programmer. Furthermore, she was also the first Analyst Programmer to join the Data Processing Division of the Central Bank from outside the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. The Division at the time was headed by Dr. K.S.E.Jayatilleke Director of the Statistics Department of the Central Bank. This data processing division like in many other organizations, was the predecessor to the modern IT department.
As soon as Nayeni joined the Central Bank, she was assigned to the team tasked with programming the Socio Economic Survey of the Central Bank with a similar IBM System 360 that used RPG and RPG2 programming language. Following the preparation of the Socio Economic Survey, Nayeni was tasked with computerizing the Government’s Accounts Branch of the Central Bank. This was a department that had to process an endless number of cheques and on a typical day the process would end past 8PM. Nayeni built an automated system using Wang PCS II data entry machines. Then with the help of three enthusiastic young staff and Mr. Hamid – Head of the Government Accounts Branch, Nayeni was able to implement the system, which was her first major project.
When Nayeni returned to Sri Lanka in 1985 after obtaining her masters in the US, she was asked to build the Sri Lanka Automated Clearing House for the Central Bank. This clearing house was the primary objective of then Governor of the Central Bank in 1985 – Warnasena Rasaputra. For a project this big, Nayeni needed a strong team. Thankfully she was able to find the right people for this team.
This team had two operations managers: Justin Wickramasinghe & P.U. Ariyawansa along with two analyst programmers: Chandra Pathberiya & B.K.A. Sunimal. However, even with this strong team Nayeni and her team knew little about building a clearing house. She shared her concerns with the governor. He replied by telling her, “Go to Singapore tomorrow.”
Before they knew it, Nayeni and her team were on a flight to Singapore. There they learned everything they needed from the Singapore Clearing House. Once the team was trained, a tender for the system was then announced in 1986 and given to Unisys through their agent BC Computers. Work then began on building the system that would power the Sri Lanka Automated Clearing House.
Over the course of this project, Nayeni and the team travelled twice to Atlanta where the main offices of Unisys were located. The first time was for technical training. The second time was for pre-acceptance testing where she was accompanied by the operations manager Justin Wickremasinghe and the Head of Department Mr. P. Amerasinghe. After more rigorous testing, the Sri Lanka Automated Clearing House (SLACH) was born on the 2nd of March 1988 and Nayeni was appointed as the Manager of the SLACH.
In 1994, Nayeni was promoted as Head of the IT Department after she had successfully implemented the Sri Lanka Interbank Payment System in 1993. The decision was taken as the management decided that they needed someone with a strong background in IT. Little did she know that this new responsibility would see her guiding the Central Bank of Sri Lanka through its darkest times.
On the morning of the 31st of January 1996, Nayeni reported to work as usual. It was a normal day but this normal day would soon be remembered as one of the darkest days in Sri Lankan history. As, Nayeni was seated at her desk she suddenly heard gunshots. She walked out of her room and spoke with the two floor officers. The three of them decided to inspect the fire exit in case of an emergency.
And then the worst happened. As Nayeni and the floor officers got onto the fire exit, a lorry full of explosives arrived at the entrance to the Central bank. The wheel of the lorry got caught in the flower trough at the entrance. The bomber then decided to explode the bomb just at the entrance and not under the porch, thus preventing the whole building from collapsing with 700 or more employees inside. Black smoke started filling the air and the door between the office and the fire exit slammed shut. Nayeni and the two officers were uninjured and went down using the fire exit and gathered behind the then Intercontinental Hotel. This incident would be remembered as the Central Bank bombing.
The blast killed at least 91 people (41 from the Central bank) and injured 1,400 others. This attack along with another bombing in July the same year caused tourism to plummet 40% in Sri Lanka. Yet that wasn’t the only damage to the economy the LTTE had done. The mainframe computers at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka had gone up in flames. In other words, the IT department had been destroyed.
It was crucial that these computer systems became operational again as soon as possible. The very next morning, Amarananda Jayawardena – the Governor of the Central Bank in 1996 instructed Nayeni to rebuild the IT department. It was a daunting task but thankfully: they already had backups of the latest data. However, just because they had the data didn’t mean that everything went smoothly. This was a time before standards like USB meant easy data transfers between computer systems.
To rebuild the IT department, Nayeni had gathered the key people in her department along with Dr. R.B. Ekanayake – Chief of IT at Commercial Bank and John Fernando – Head of IBM in Sri Lanka. They had a lengthy discussion and ultimately decided to adopt the IBM AS400 System to rebuild the Central Bank IT Department. However, the AS400 couldn’t read the data tapes that held the backups. Nayeni and her team visited various IBM installations with Computer Systems similar to the one that Central bank had, but none of them could read these data tapes.
When all hope seemed lost, John Fernando gave Nayeni a call and told her that he would obtain used IBM machines identical to what they had previously used to get the data on the tapes ready for migration to the AS400. Now she needed a place to carry out the rebuilding process. Thankfully, after speaking with Prof. V.K. Samaranayake, she was able to get the first floor of the University of Colombo Physical Science Department. All she needed to do now was to obtain funding to pay the rent for the computers and the location.
When Nayeni went to Amarananda Jayawardena asking for Rs. 90,000 rent per month. She was told it wasn’t possible at a time when he had to rebuild the whole Central Bank.. Nayeni replied by saying, “Governor, there will come a day when the people of this country will demand for answers as to why their EPF is not being paid. They will write letters to the President. These letters will eventually be redirected to you from the President and you shall have to give an answer.” Needless to say, it wasn’t long before Nayeni got the money she needed.
With the money, machines and a location secured the migration process could now begin. Once the machines were installed inside the University of Colombo, the operators would walk in every morning and begin processing the tapes until the sun had set in the evening. Even though they now had computers that could read the data tapes, it was a still a daunting task because all the documentation was lost in the Central Bank bomb blast.
Furthermore, the system had to now be redesigned for the new AS400 computer systems. With no documentation, Nayeni entrusted the task to N.M. Jayasekera – Deputy Director of the IT Department at the Central Bank. He was a member of the team that was responsible for building the original EPF system. Thus, he knew the entire system like the back of his hand. So Jayasekera, along with Janaki Manampitiya and Chandra Pathberiya, began working on redesigning the EPF system for the AS400.
As with the other tasks entrusted to the IT department, this too was no easy task. When the AS400 machines arrived, they were placed in the basement of the Central Bank office in Rajagiriya. This was where the trio would call their second home as they built the new systems. Every day they would go to work, sit on their chairs, and keep the keyboard on their laps as they coded the new programs as there was insufficient space in the room where the computers were.
Many months of hard work later, in August 1996, the AS400 computers were moved into the temporary office of the Central Bank at the World Trade Centre. When they went live, the banking system resumed normal operations once again. Six months after the Central Bank Bomb Blast, Nayeni and her team had rebuilt the entire IT infrastructure of the Central Bank from scratch.
In 2000, Nayeni took the decision to retire from the Central Bank of Sri Lanka to focus on her family and a less stressful job. She joined the Bank of Ceylon as an IT consultant. Later, Nayeni joined BC Computers. They were trying to win the tender for the system that would power Bangladesh Automated Clearing House in 2004. Alas, they were disqualified in favor of a local party, which they were told had more experience.
However, a few months later, one of the International Consultants who was present at the Tender Evaluation and heard Nayeni as she presented the BC Computer’s proposal for building the Bangladesh Clearing House reached out to Nayeni asking her to be a consultant working as the onsite project manager for implementation of the project. She then spoke with Sunil Wijesinghe – Managing Director and Piryanka Perera – Deputy Managing Director of BC Computers. Both of them encouraged her to take the opportunity.
Soon, Nayeni was on a plane to Bangladesh. When she arrived, she was tasked with building an Automated Clearing House and another system to facilitate electronic fund transfers between banks. The project faced an uphill battle for two main reasons. The first was the non existence of MICR cheques. The second issue the project faced was that many of the Commercial Banks used predominantly manual procedures.
To solve these issues, the Central Bank of Bangladesh took matters into their own hands. It began supervising the issuance of MICR cheques and monitoring their circulation. At the same time, they also sent the team of five employees from the Central Bank of Bangladesh who were specially chosen for this project to automated clearing houses in Asia, including Sri Lanka and the Middle East for rigorous training to implement and manage these systems.
Afterwards, the banks were given the necessary software and specifications for the required hardware for both systems. Testing then began at the Central Bank of Bangladesh and at the other banks. Once the tests were done, the systems would go live. The first was on the 7th of October 2010, when the Bangladesh Automated Clearing House was born. Cheque images were processed with the physical cheque remaining at the bank in which it was deposited. Four months later, on the 28th of February 2011, the Bangladesh Electronic Funds Transfer Network went live.
Commenting on the success of this project Nayeni told us, “They were woefully behind us at first. In 2008, they didn’t have MICR cheques, which we had for decades. The computer room in one Commercial bank even had mice and water running through it. However, in just two short years they surpassed us with this project. This was also the first major computing project that the Central Bank of Bangladesh completed.”
From humble beginnings at the Department of Census and Statistics to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. She joined the Central Bank as its first female analyst programmer and left as the first female head of the IT department. In that time she automated departments, built the Sri Lanka Automated Clearing House, built the Sri Lanka Interbank Payment Systems, and rebuilt the Central Bank’s IT department from scratch.
Over the course of her career, Nayeni revolutionized the Sri Lankan banking sector by building systems that many of us take for granted today. And that’s before she helped the same revolution take place in Bangladesh in just two short years. It is beyond the shadow of a doubt that Nayeni Fernando is among the pioneers that helped build the Sri Lankan IT industry. So what challenges is she focused on now? After working from 1969 to 2017 she is taking a break at the moment, but will work again if the right opportunity comes by.
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ICTA is organizing a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) Exam Review Workshop in partnership with (ISC)2 Colombo, Sri Lanka chapter. The maximum seats allocated per company is limited for
ICTA is organizing a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) Exam Review Workshop in partnership with (ISC)2 Colombo, Sri Lanka chapter. The maximum seats allocated per company is limited for 3.
The fee is highly subsidized with limited seats available per programme and will be reserved on first come first serve basis upon Payments.
Training Resource Provider: (ISC)2 Colombo Sri Lanka Chapter
Dates: 17th, 19th, 24th & 26th October 2017
Time: 8:30AM to 4:30PM
Workshop Fee: LKR 20,000/-
(EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION: LKR 15,000/-)
Special rate for University Students (Final year undergraduates) and Full-Time lecturers: LKR 10,000/-
(EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION: LKR 7,500/-)
Early Bird Cut-Off Date: 26th September 2017
Application Closing date: 06th October 2017
TICKETS : https://goo.gl/forms/C8sUdNz0mboZfsS43
(Tuesday) 9:00 am
Seedstars, a global organization based in Switzerland promotes, connects and invests up to $1 million USD in emerging market startups through their exclusive startup competition held in over 60 countries.
Seedstars, a global organization based in Switzerland promotes, connects and invests up to $1 million USD in emerging market startups through their exclusive startup competition held in over 60 countries.
(Thursday) 5:00 pm - 8:30 pm
MAS Innovation Center
#50 Foster Lane, Colombo
Mobile Application Security Beyond Compliance Speaker Christopher Stewart is an IT Infrastructure and Security Practitioner with over 11 years of experience including cyber defense and Governance & Audit areas. Here's your chance to
Mobile Application Security
Christopher Stewart is an IT Infrastructure and Security Practitioner with over 11 years of experience including cyber defense and Governance & Audit areas. Here’s your chance to catch Christopher’s session on Mobile Application Security: Beyond Compliance.
Sign up via Email [email protected] | Call us on 011 4713290
*Priced at Rs. 500 (free for CSSl members)
(Monday) 5:45 pm - 7:45 pm
Prof Stanley Wijesundera Mawatha, Colombo 00700
Startup weekend-Trincomalee Beach Calling entrepreneurs, Growth Hackers, Dreamers, Rain Makers and Startup Catalysts to change the world in 54 hours! Bring your creativity and skills and Join Startup Weekend Trincomalee
Startup weekend-Trincomalee Beach
Calling entrepreneurs, Growth Hackers, Dreamers, Rain Makers and Startup Catalysts to change the world in 54 hours! Bring your creativity and skills and Join Startup Weekend Trincomalee ,Friday 27th to Sunday 29st Octon,2017 at Trinco beach hotel, Trinco
What’s Startup Weekend, Anyway?
Startup Weekend is a global phenomenon – 54 hours of fast and furious prototype development through to exploring potential markets and pitching. It’s an unparalleled opportunity to build lasting relationships with co-founders; mentors, and investors.The real value comes from taking an idea from concept through to execution using Lean tactics and working under high pressure with the best startups.
Google for Entrepreneurs is the global partner for Techstars Startup Weekend Program, including Startup Weekend, Startup Next and Startup Digest. Google is a sponsor of Techstars Accelerator Programs. Techstars collaborates with the Google for Entrepreneurs campuses across the globe to support engagement with entrepreneurs everywhere.
What You Can Do?
In short, Startup Weekend shapes the lives of many people as a starting point as entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts. Ultimately, it’s an amazing spring board to get started on something (a new business, career at a startup or great relationships).
Come pitch, join a team, iron out your business model, and build away! In just 54 hours teams will come together to create startups from scratch and learn about entrepreneurship in a hands-on and meaningful way. Developers, designers, business experts, and makers will come to build prototypes and launch startups that use hardware or software to interconnect us all and change the world.
WHO GOES TO STARTUP WEEKENDS?
Experienced business people or budding entrepreneurs, Creative designers, Coders, growth hackers who are looking for new ideas and wanting to challenge their skills – Startup Weekends are a fun and exciting way to to upskill and test yourself in the world of startups
WHAT DO YOU DO AT A STARTUP WEEKEND?
Starting from 6.30 PM on Friday registration will be done, Welcome speech, Dinner, Startup pitches ideas chosen and lasting teams formed. By late Friday night you’ll be on your way with goals set and roles assigned.
Saturday is all about validation – contacting potential customers and checking out if there is really a market for your idea – and reacting fast if you need to change. Meanwhile if you’re a developer or a designer you’ll be furiously building the product.
Sunday is about making it work and preparing for the final pitch to a panel of carefully chosen judges. Throughout the process mentors from all backgrounds will be on hand. (link to timetable)
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER
Celebrate! We’ll put in place a follow up event, and there will be other opportunities, including our Co-Starters program.
What is the benefit of attending Startup Weekend ?
Startup Weekends are all about learning through the act of creating. Don’t just listen to theory, build your own strategy and test it as you go. It’s like an MBA in a weekend.
2) Build your network:
This isn’t just a happy-hour. Startup Weekend attracts your community’s best makers and do-ers. By spending a weekend working to build scalable companies that solve real-world problems, you will build long-lasting relationships and possibly walk away with a job or a even an investor.
3) Co-Founder Dating:
We all know it’s not just about the idea – it’s about the team. Startup Weekend is hands down the best way to to find someone you can actually launch a startup with.
4) Learn a new skill:
Step outside of your comfort zone. With a whole weekend dedicated to letting your creative juices flow, Startup Weekends are prefect opportunities to work on a new platform, learn a new programming language, or just try something different.
5) Actually launch a business:
Over 36% of Startup Weekend startups are still going strong after 3 months. Roughly 80% of participants plan on continuing working with their team or startup after the weekend.
6) Get face time with thought leaders:
Local tech and startup leaders participate in Startup Weekends as mentors and judges. Get some one-on-one time with the movers and shakers in your community.
7) Save money & get stuff:
Startup Weekends cost $40 (less for students). Your ticket covers seven meals, snack, access to exclusive resources our global sponsors, and all the coffee you can drink.
8) Join a global community:
Join over 30,000 Startup Weekend alumni, all on a mission to change the world.
Facilities for the Attendees?
Mentors : Whether it’s growth, design, or prototype,you’ll find a mentor who can help
Free WIFI: You will Get Free WIFI Access from our Telecom Partner
Meals : Morning Refreshment Plus Lunch and Dinner
Community Perks and Discounts : Take advantage of perks and discounts offered to all Startup Weekend participants from the Global sponsors.
Much More: Whatever you are building, our sponsors and community have put together some fantastic resources to help you build your idea.
october 27 (Friday) - 29 (Sunday)
Trinco Beach Hotel
326,Dyke Street, Trincomalee