Motivation and passion are two features that shine in Natasha Munasinghe, CEO of The FRANK Team, an education and training company delivering training to those looking to develop professional skills.
Originally born in Sri Lanka and raised in Fiji, Munasinghe came to Australia as an international student. Despite the hardships that came with leaving home and having to adapt and ground oneself in a new environment, Munasinghe soldiered on, never letting those obstacles deter her.
“I think I wasn’t sure what to expect when I came. There [are] a lot of opportunities [here] — [if] you have a little bit of drive, [if] you have a little bit of passion there [are] a lot of doors that can open for you,” she said.
Munasinghe pursued a degree in law at the University of Sydney and followed that with a graduate diploma in legal practice at the Australian National University. Through her university placements, she was given numerous opportunities to develop her skills and acquire experience but for the Australian employers she applied for, the work she put in wasn’t enough.
“I think because you’re not given a pathway, you have to create your own..”
She found herself in a situation that many international students can sympathise with — her student visa and lack of experience became obstacles in the hunt for a job. In recalling her time as an unemployed international student, she recounted her experience with one particular job she really wanted; despite not having the required two – three years of Australian work experience, Munasinghe took charge. She found the managing director’s phone number online and pitched herself through a phone call. It was a bold move that paid off and despite being on a student visa with no experience, she was called in for an interview.
“I think because you’re not given a pathway, you have to create your own and you have to be a little hungry in the sense that you have to seek and create your own opportunities,” she said. “I think that’s also a really valuable skill set.”
She would eventually work in legal practice but after some time came to the realisation that law was not her passion. Having also dipped her toes in the corporate world soon thereafter, Munasinghe would only find her true calling on the third try.
“I tried it but whatever passion I should have been feeling, I wasn’t feeling because I was wanting this idea of having a business, wanting a company and I just couldn’t shake that off no matter how hard I tried,” she said.
So in 2010, Natasha did just that. She took over ownership of The FRANK Team and it has not stopped growing since. Delivering training programs to youths and young professionals in the workforce, her company has worked with government, education institutions and other organisations to teach young people the transferable skills they need outside of their degrees.
It was here where she finally found her passion and place to grow, in a field where she had no experience and with little relevance to her degree.
“In three months of running a business, Richard Branson said [you] learn just as much as you would studying a business degree and that was definitely my case. Everything from working with people, figuring out tax [and] figuring staff pay, I had to learn very quickly.”
She put in the hard yards to learn all of this — Munasinghe worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week for two to three years. She felt the pressure of having to learn it all without another job to fall back on but the all or nothing decision was a risk she just couldn’t pass on. Her efforts would eventually pay off and years later, she still fondly remembers one particular incident that proved it was all worth it.
“In three months of running a business, Richard Branson said [you] learn just as much as you would studying a business degree and that was definitely my case.”
When she ordered a strawberry juice in one of the bigger cafes in Sydney, the waitress immediately knew her name which came to Munasinghe as a surprise. The girl then explained she attended one of Munasinghe’s training sessions at her university years ago and that it had a big impact on her personally.
“It was just so random but I just felt really cool that we can make a difference and help that way and then you find that you get some feedback from the world that yeah stuff you do really does help somebody else.”
Finding your passion may seem hard especially in a turbulent job market where desires may not match reality. And in a world that has increasingly more options as well as limitations, Natasha’s only advice is to just keep going.
“One thing we try to advise you to do because we have so many choices these days that it’s really important to not do nothing. It takes some action because the reason is if you don’t take any action everyone else is progressing anyway and you’re going backwards.”