Love at first talk!
Sri Lanka's first doctorate couple graduating in the
It was love at first talk when coy Madhu Gunasekera dropped her
pencil during a radio interview she conducted with the then President of
the Young Writer's Association of Ananda College, Colombo, handsome
Arosha Fernando. He reminisces, "We both felt something for each other,
but we had to act professionally".
It had to be a magnetising effect which would have brought these two
together because , this couple has simultaneously graduated with their
Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) from the Swinburne University
in Australia. They are probably the first couple in Sri Lanka to do so.
The Love Story
Arosha and Madhu during school days - working together for the
school magazine ‘Vikasitha’ in August, 1989.
When they first met, Madhu was a part time radio announcer who had
garnered the title of 'Lama Shilpi' by being an avid writer for several
publications from her young days. Arosha was a budding engineer who was
instrumental in launching the 'Vikasitha' magazine that got together
over 18 schools islandwide in the area of creative writing.
"It was only after five months after our first meeting that fate
beckoned us to meet again", recalled Dr. Arosha.
Not before too long, they were gazing into each other's eyes as the
then principals of Vishaka Vidyalaya and Ananda College said that they
both should work together for the magazine.
"It was such that luck played a role in determining our next meeting
that when the Association wanted writers to join, hers was the first
name from Visakha Vidyalaya that was picked to freelance for the
magazine", said Dr. Arosha. It was in August 1989 that their romance
blossomed when they worked together, collecting advertisements and
writing articles for the magazine.
Dr. Arosha hails from a very conservative Colombo society family
which meant a strict upbringing.
"My father was a learned intellectual so he pushed me to study as
much as I could and follow in his footsteps by choosing an engineering
career", says Dr. Arosha. He is the eldest son of retired Chief Signal
and Telecommunication Engineer of Sri Lanka Railway, Engineer U. C.
Nimal Fernando and Mrs. T. B. Fernando. He said that he was
over-protected and even though school was a ten minute walk from home,
his parents insisted that he be chauffeur-driven.
Dr. Madhu on the other hand, had lots of friends and her hometown is
in Nawagamuwa in Kaduwela.
"While I was inmy A/Ls in the Science stream, I switched over to the
Commerce stream six months before the exams as a result of doing what
Arosha did", she said. The reason behind this was because Arosha's
parents wanted him to go abroad for higher studies.
"My plan was to bring Madhu somehow to Australia with me where we
could study together", said Dr. Arosha. He further said, "We had a
life's plan where we drew a diagram on the back of an accounting book by
Nandasena Urapola which is still kept by Madhu's brother where we hoped
to achieve all our academic dreams". Funnily enough, Madhu got better
results than Arosha at the AL exam which was evident that she was
determined to be on the same level as him.
"Even though we came from different background , because Arosha's
parents were not happy at first with our relationship, we were willing
to overcome any obstacles in order to be together which meant I was
academically challenged", said Madhu. Nevertheless, Madhu succeeded by
taking an alternative path where she did her Diploma in Business and
thereafter qualified with a Graduate Diploma in Business (Australia).
"I had to take my studies step by step so that I reached the same
level as Arosha", she said. It was indeed a long way, but together this
couple did prove that even though it can be challenging to make a
partnership work at the beginning, in the end love definitely conquers
all. Arosha was born in July 1971 and Madhu in January 1972 and they
were married in February 1996 with the consent of both their parents.
Graduating with the Doctorate in Business Administration degree which
will be his fifth university degree from Australia, he has already
obtained 1 Bachelors and 3 Masters degrees (in the fields of marketing,
human resources management, project management and telecommunication
engineering) for the past 16 years. Dr. Arosha commenced his illustrious
career at a leading telecommunications company in Australia as a fresh
graduate in year 1994 where he has moved up the corporate ladder by
becoming the accounts manager for their New Zealand market. He has also
held eminent positions like Deputy Project Manager, Project Manager, and
finally Senior Project Manager for a renowned GSM Project in Australia
before accepting the challenging role as CEO for one of the leading
conglomerates in Sri Lanka.
After joining them, Dr. Arosha expanded their global network to
become the market leader in telecommunication infrastructure development
particularly in GSM and in more recent times in CDMA technologies.
Dr. Arosha has proactively participated in regional and global
seminars held all around the world and hopes to continue by furthering
his research into exploring the effects of current globalisation
patterns towards development of future technologies, particularly in the
mobile telecommunication arena that would combine his international
expertise in both business and engineering disciplines.
Dr. Arosha and Dr. Madhu with their children
One of the 25 most influential women in project management in the
world is Dr. Madhu Fernando who is a Management Consultant and Trainer.
She is a globally renowned and respected project management expert and
before embarking on setting up her own consultancy, Dr. Madhu had worked
with a leading telecommunications company in Australia for 5 years in
Melbourne as a Senior Project Manager. This stint was followed by one
year period with a leading telecommunications company in Sri Lanka as
Project Director / Head of Project Management Office (PMO). She has
worked with various project specialists in Singapore, Philippines,
India, Bangladesh and at home. Dr.
Madhu was also worked as the Y2K Project Manager for the Asia-Pacific
Region and was responsible in Business Contingency and Continuity
She has conducted management and project management workshops and
seminars for many local and multinational organisations across various
She is also a visiting lecturer to MBA programs including University
of Moratuwa - Sri Lanka and University of Wales - UK, and has also
presented papers and conducted workshops at many conferences and
seminars organised by government and non-governmental organisations. Dr.
Madhu is also a popular writer and has published many articles on
'Strategy and Management' in magazines locally and globally.
Dr. Madhu is a member of Project Management Institute (PMI), and the
past President / CEO of Project Management Institute, Colombo - Sri
Lanka Chapter. She is a PMI certified Project Management Professional (PMP)
and conducts PMP training programs at Singapore Informatics Professional
Development Centre. She has a Master of Engineering - Telecommunications
(Australia) and is also an Associate Fellow of the Australian Institute
Currently, Dr. Madhu is planning to expand her business in to other
areas of her expertise while continuing to share her knowledge and
expertise in her pet subject - Project Management to help Project
Management Institute's (PMI) vision in advancing the project management
Today, Dr. Arosha Fernando and Dr.Madhu have graduated with their
Doctorates in Business Administration (DBA) cum laude from the Swinburne
University in Melbourne, Australia. It was the first time in history
that a couple graduated with their doctorates simultaneously and this
was highlighted and sanctioned by the scholars in Australia as a
pleasantly rare occasion.
Another noteworthy aspect is that the duo have also graduated
together with their Masters of Engineering degree (specialised in
Telecommunications) from RMIT University, Australia in 1996.
Dr. Arosha and Dr. Madhu are parents of three and a half year old
Senith Neathan and one year old daughter Siarra Neve. Theirs is a story
that transcends the boundaries showing how a marriage can be successful
academically and romantically against all odds.