“100 things I like about John Keells” aka musings of a JK talent night co-host”

By Shashi Jayawardena

As the New Year dawned, the John Keells Young Managers Forum enthusiastically commenced organizing Talent Night 2013. There was a call out for auditions and given that I don’t really having a knack for singing, drama or dancing, (besides the occasional urge to break out into ‘Baila’ during a graveyard training, and a flair for the dramatic, which probably should be confined to the Roy-Tho), I had settled down to the thought of watching the Talent Night Finals from the comfort of a banquet chair at the Oak Room.

An E-flyer calling for English announcers went out. I was asked by Tharika Goonathilake (our creative genius and Manager Sustainability – Cinnamon Grand) to apply, and try out for the role of compeer. Now, I’m not one to follow a script, as I do it “The Frank Sinatra way”, so I sent in an email, expressing my very logical concerns to Tharika  and Mr. Rohan Karr (GM, Cinnamon Grand), as to why I believed that I am not suitable.

I received a prompt reply, saying that they have complete faith in me and that I should definitely audition. Well, I was certainly not going to be the first man in Sri Lanka to say “no” to our GM, as he has the uncanny ability to be always right (!) so I said I will give it the “old college try”.

So I went for auditions and I gave it my all, and the rest, as they say, is history! I was chosen as a co-host, and was briefed by the highly efficient Young Managers Forum. I then did what one has to do to play at Carnegie Hall; I practiced, practiced and practiced!! My brilliant Cinnamon Grand family encouraged me all the way, listening to various versions of jokes and opening lines and giving their opinion. (I actually had the second audition with our GM and he groomed me for the part as well)

I was always good at “talking”, but if God and experience taught me anything, it was that you do your best work when you are prepared. With the mind numbing pressure of opening the night’s proceedings with all the staff at John Keells, my GM and the biggest names in the industry present, I practiced, drank about four cans of “Wild Elephant”(!), prayed my longest prayer ever, and got on stage, and the result was what the audience witnessed that night!

My riskiest move for the night would have been chanting “T-H-O-R-A” in front of Royalist members of the GEC! As expected, they took it up, in the fun spirit, in which it was intended to and this is just one example which showcased the encouragement our senior management place in letting young people perform at their best.

Co-hosting Talent Night 2013 taught me the following few things; to trust in God, because he is good all the time, to have the conviction that if you are good at something, to keep on doing it and most importantly, to always be yourself because after all, that is all you can be!

And finally the 100 things I like about John Keells:

1. They give everyone a chance to shine to do what they do best, be it in their line of work, or their interests outside work.
2.–all the way to 100, this is truly a GREAT place to work!