( An interview with Kishu Gomes CEO/MD of Chevron Lubricants Lanka Ltd. and Chevron Ceylon Ltd )

By Panchamee Hewavissenti

Kishu Gomes,Country Chairman, CEO/MD of Chevron Lubricants Lanka Ltd. and Chevron Ceylon Ltd.

Q: Down memory lane, can you explain how you became what you’re today?

A: I started my career as a ‘sales person’. Because I wanted to excel in marketing field. I was impressed by prominent and key personalities in society who were leading lives of affluence. I too wanted to be admired by society and to be a kind of a hero.

I joined Coca Cola company and became an executive within 2 years. I was then 21 years old. I had to shoulder many responsibilities than a boy of my age.

My job was to handle special events. It was more entertaining. I got an opportunity to mingle with high profile people such as business and political leaders, top sports people, singers and actors. During eleven years of working at Coca Cola, I engaged in sales and marketing.

After that I joined Caltex on 31st December, 1996 as a trainee manager. I was privileged to be the first manager at Caltex multinational company. From national sales manager, due to my hard work I became the ‘head of sales and marketing’ within 3 years. Within a short period I was promoted as the CEO of the Caltex company and I’m still holding that responsible position.

Q: From starting a career as a sales person at Coca Cola to being the CEO/MD of the Caltex multinational company, you might have not probably walked on a rosy path. Explain how you are confronted with challenges?

A: I faced challenges right throughout both personal and career wise. I grabbed every opportunity to enhance my performance without being demoralised by them. I also enjoyed taking risks.

Q: When you became the CEO/MD of Caltex multinational company, did you stick to the methods used by your predecessors?

A: No. I always looked for new things. I never followed any previous Director or a Manager but gathered experience from their past performance and failures. I never followed norm or tradition of the company. I wanted to innovate new strategies and ways.

Q: Explain about the formula you implemented for your success?

A: You should not look at you as a product. You should be able to market yourself, managing yourself as a person with knowledge and experience. In this world, business competitions are everywhere.

There’s a competition among individuals as well. This is analogous to, for instance, in order to receive more attention from customers, a commodity should a popular brand name, the product should also maintain high quality standards. Likewise an individual too should have a value for himself. An individual should be able to be more qualified than others and should be able to grab the attention over others.

He should not be confined only to his job. He should explore many paths, should be exposed to various fields to acquire knowledge. You should have brand attributes and should nurture them constantly to enhance performance. You should be able to see progress within yourself on a daily basis.

Q: How did you apply that formula of success for your career development?

A: I don’t limit myself to the core job. The profile I have built is wider and more diversified than that of a traditional CEO. I’m into various other things apart from my core job.

I want people to look upto me as a different person. My scope is wider. Though I’m the CEO of the company,I am also a model. I have acted in commercials. I sing, play guitar, do sports to keep myself fit. Also conduct personality development and Youth Performance Enhancing lectures.

This type of a diversified profile should hardly be found in a typical CEO who is only confined to his job. This helps me to enhance my performance and maintain a sound mental health which is the key to personal development.

Q: You mean to say that confining yourself only to the job is more stressful?

A: Yes of course. When the job becomes a person’s life, he is unable to think out of that frame. Everything becomes his job. While you are immersed in the job, you can use your creativity and abilities which help to lessen the burden or displeasure caused by the job, which also enhance your marketability.

You shouldn’t let work takeover your life. Establishing outside interests will help you to keep you fresh and creative. If your scope is only within your job. When you’re confronted with trouble and there’s no way to get away with them.

Q: Do you agree with the fact that most business personalties hardly possess such diversified profiles?

A: Yes. That’s because Sri Lankans are bearers and followers of traditional way of doing things. That’s a very unproductive attitude. I can take for example the late American president Ronald Reagan. He was an actor too. People should eliminate that wrong attitude in them. So that you can utilise all you competency to get maximum value out of you.

There’s a sinhalese saying ‘Loven Ekek Ek Deyakate Vei Samatha’ (one person will excel in one craft). I disagree with that as a person has various talents. As long as a person puts a little effort to find out what his hidden talents are and try to enhance them and utilise them he can increase his marketability.

Q: What are ‘career pyramids’?

A: Higher the level in the pyramid lower the number of job opportunities.

The logic here is that higher the level of job, lower the number of opportunities (jobs) available, hence greater the competition for employees. For example, 200 staff grade jobs, 100 junior executives, 10 senior executive positions, 4 functional leadership positions and only one CEO.

While at the lower levels differentiation comes largely on technical competencies or core competencies, as you move up in the pyramid the soft skills of the employees play a bigger role ( team work, coordination and collaboration with others, creativity, new ideas, winning together attitudes towards work, relationship skills, etc.)

Whereas at the senior levels, with the technical knowledge and experience, one needs to have the highest level of foresight, strategic thinking, execution, leadership, communication and people management skills to win.

Another key aspect in today’s environment is that to win at higher levels, employees need to build an individual profile that naturally attracts attention from all stakeholders. This is an emerging art all budding leaders have to learn. Personal branding is the way forward to win in an ever increasing competitive job market. A personal brand comprises two sets of attributes.

One - the rational attributes that make you qualify for the job in terms of professional background and relevant experience and Two - the emotional attributes that positions you well relative to others who aspire to achieve the same level you desire. It is about amplifying your image to be on top of mind to be the preferred choice.

Q: How Sri Lankans widen their horizon?

A: Global thinking is very important. It’s not sufficient to compete only in Sri Lanka. You should determine what makes you win in the global arena. You should empower yourself with the global requirements. It’s advisable to do a self audit, assess yourself and work hard to identify and fill those gaps.

When you seek to compete globally, you should be able to work with different people and different cultures, perform under different circumstances and in different industries. Because you might not know which field you’ll excel in. Therefore knowledge in different industries is a good thing for your future prospects. Because when you find an opportunity you can grab it at once.

Q: What are your educational qualifications?

A: I did A/L in mathematics stream. I didn’t want to pursue my higher studies, because as I said I had a passion to join one of the Forces. Although in the latter part of my schooling I was really inspired by my uncle who was a psychologist and became really interested in studying psychology. I used to spend most of my time in my uncle’s library reading books on various subjects. Thus I gathered a vast spectrum of knowledge.

I joined Coca Cola right after my A/Ls and did my CIM and then read a MBA from Lester College UK, while working at Coca Cola. I think along with experience, we should have a sound educational background as well, in order to have an edge over others.

Q: Don’t you experience stress when the work is piled up?

A: Not really. If I confine myself only the position of CEO, I would probably have undergone stress. Since I enjoy a diversified schedule, and do things that I love, I hardly experience stress. I lead a simple and natural way of life. Since I have a proper time management. I don’t have problem in piling up of work.

Q: Your sports background?

A: After I dropped out from the school (Prince of Wales - Moratuwa). I planned to join one of the Forces. Because I possessed a sound sports background. I was a ruggerite and an athlete. My pet even was hurdles. I was a National Schools Hurdles Champion, 100 metres Colombo District Champion and played rugby as a wing three quarter. When I was schooling, I spent more time in the ground than in class room.

That’s, I think the reason behind why I was determined to join one of the forces. Another inspiration for me was that there was a big demand to join the forces and many of my friends got an opportunity to join the forces.

Q: What’s your notion on “serve the country before yourself?”

A: I have to disagree with it. Because how can you serve the country, if you are unable to serve yourself. This traditional way of thinking has been passed onto today’s youth through many generations.

First you should be able to stand on your feet. You should be independent. When you are able to serve yourself, then you can serve your family, then your village and then the country. That should be the sequence. Not at one step, the country. For example, a new born child cannot get up and walk at first. It takes time, to turn to side, crawl, creep and turn stand up and then walk.

Though the youth are often taught to ‘serve the country first’ they don’t know how. The youth should be taught to serve themselves first in order to serve the country. The youth should be educated, exposed to various types of experience and knowledge. When your are able to be independent you can extend your service to the country. How can a person who is unable to stand on his feet helps to develop the country.

source : www.sundayobserver.lk


  1. Ak  

    2 August 2008 at 15:22

    His views on “serve the country before yourself” is bit arguable.

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