After only two days of being a full-time stay-at-home Mum, Amali Ratnatunga realised it wasn’t for her.
“When my daughter Shaylee started four-year-old kinder in 2019 I got to realise my dream of being a stay-at-home mum. But I got bored pretty quickly and all I could think about during those long days at home was my other love – network engineering,” recounts Amali.
“I’d wanted to be an engineer for as long as I can remember. It must have been my Dad’s passion for numbers. He was an accountant so when we handed him our school reports, he always looked at our maths marks first!”
Before her son Ryan was born in 2011, Amali worked as a network engineer for seven years. And she was successful – breaking through as the first female employee in her field in each of her two roles.
After Amali completed an Honours Degree in Computer Science and Engineering, she worked as a Network Engineer for KBSL IT Limited in Sri Lanka.
“I’d proven to KBSL that I could succeed and thrive, despite their concerns around gender. I never saw it as a problem, but they must have because in the interview I was asked:
‘Tell me how you will succeed working in an environment of only men and machines?’ After my success at KBSL, the answer was easy – ‘I already have!’” said Amali.
In 2016 when Amali and her husband Pradeep couldn’t get Ryan into a primary school, they knew it was time to leave Sri Lanka – a tough decision given they had ageing parents.
Change of heart
The family arrived in Melbourne in March 2017, one day before Shaylee’s second birthday. Pradeep started work with Australian Defence Apparel as a Business Analyst.
“I was so happy for him because ever since he graduated from university, he’d been looking for better opportunities. He was the one who suggested we move to Australia.”
Amali decided to care for the children and not return to paid employment. It went smoothly until that fateful day in 2019 when she realised she needed more. “It was a big shock as I’d aways imagined I’d run the home full time and raise the family from there.”
“Once I made up my mind, that’s when the fear set in. As I’d been out of work for a few years … I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to go back and do what I love.”
Coincidently, it would be family that put her back on course. Amali was chatting to another Mum at school drop off who mentioned ANZ’s Return to Work program.
The program launched in 2019 and was designed to provide flexibility and support to people who have taken two years or more off work and want to reignite their technology career.
“When we started this program, we recognised the lack of female representation in tech and knew that we needed to take action,” said Carina Parisella who leads the program – the first of its type for an Australia bank.
“The program sounded very interesting, so I went straight home and did some research. I quickly realised it was just what I needed - so I applied on the spot,” recalls Amali.
After applying Amali left for Sri Lanka to care for her Dad. During that stay she was offered a digital interview in 10 days time – but the internet in Sri Lanka could be unreliable.
“There was no way I was going to risk this once-in-lifetime opportunity with a patchy internet connection. My trip back to Melbourne was scheduled to land four hours before the interview deadline. I prayed that the flight wasn’t delayed.”
Luck was on her side. After running through Customs Amali completed the interview with two hours to spare. She aced it and progressed to a face-to-face interview for an engineering role in Melbourne.
Grabbing the opportunity
“The real value of ANZ’s Return to Work program is they get to know your situation and what’s important to you. And you know what – they didn’t ask me that question,” Amali said. “I was so happy when they offered me the role. Not only was I given the opportunity to work for a prestigious company; but I was going back to my beloved network engineering.”
Back doing what she loves in the Global Network Operations team, Amali was a catalyst for change. The fifth female network engineer joined her in 2023, and there are now eight women working in similar roles in Bengaluru.
“Seeing Amali flourish clearly demonstrates our commitment to creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone has the opportunity to succeed. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s critical for the future of our industry,” said Carina. “We’ve now helped 107 people transition back to work through the program, 98 of whom are women.”
Amali has now been set up to succeed. “While it was difficult in the beginning after such a long break, ANZ was so understanding. I was allowed the time to learn at my own pace.
“I was given tasks gradually and the team monitored my capability while I re-learned the necessary skills. Everyone was so supportive and they continue to be.”
A naturally modest person, Amali was reluctant to give advice to others. When pushed, her advice was ‘just go for it.’ “If you have the passion, desire and support from your family you will be successful.”
Matthew Archdall is a Talent Marketing Specialist at ANZ