Pranith Gunasena | Senior HR Generalist
I was born in Sri Lanka, and my family immigrated to Southern California when I was 9 years old. I went to the University of California Irvine for my undergrad, and I majored in Studio Art. I chose this major because I have always been a creative person, I love design … and also I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I was 18 years old. I chose to study something that I would have interest learning about.
After college, I moved to NYC to follow my dream of working in the fashion industry. After a few internships, I found myself at MaxMara. I spent the majority of my time in the fashion industry working as an account executive handling all of their department store accounts. It was a dream realized for me, traveling to Milan quarterly, attending fashion shows. However, after 6.5 years in NYC, it was time to move on. With this move, also came a career change for me since my field and industry that I was in was so specific to NYC.
I took a complete leap of faith, and decided that I wanted to be creative every single day and create with my hands, which lead me to hair. I spend the next five years of my life as a colorist, really honing my craft. This also still gave me the ability to be involved in the fashion industry still, just in a different capacity. Some highlights for me was doing hair for NY fashion week, as well as placing second place in the regional Trend Vision Awards.
Life, or should I say love, brought me to Kansas City. I took a year off and did some soul searching in terms of what my next step should be: should I stay in the hair industry? Is this the opportunity for me to reinvent myself again? Ultimately, I decided that it was time for a change. I spent the first half of my career exploring my dreams, my desires, and figuring a lot out about myself. That’s just the journey I needed to take that brought me to where I am today. So no, I didn’t wake up one day and say “I think I’ll try HR.”
I definitely thought about my strengths personally and professionally and how they would align with industries and professions. I think that’s why I have so much gratitude to Barkley: they took a chance on me even though my experience was not apples to apples. I was a seasoned professional, with a lot of transferable skills, and they were able to see the value in that. I never look back and regret any of the decisions that I have made. I think, unfortunately, we live in a society where you have very little wiggle room to find yourself in your career journey. The road was not always easy, but I’m so glad that I took it because every experience that I had has enriched my life in so many ways, and I can never look back and say, “I wonder what it would have been like?”
Five Questions with Pranith Gunasena
What is something you never thought you'd be able to do, until you actually did it?
I think this would be coming out. I was terrified and had a really hard time at first dealing with my sexuality. I’m from a very traditional culture, and being a child of immigrant parents, there are a lot of expectations. But I was lucky to have had a family that was supportive and loving, and I’m so grateful for that.
If you met ten-year-old you today, what would you tell them?
First of all, I would say please don’t wear colored contacts in high school, you will regret that decision! Other than that, I would say to just believe in yourself, and love who you are. The road ahead will not always be easy, but you have so many great things that are going to happen in your life that you have to look forward to.
Who or what is your creative muse?
I have a lot of creative muses. But I would say one of my current ones is Kelly Wearstler. I love her POV on interior design: the stark contrast between something really modern, and something really classic and timeless. Also, just love her sense of style from a fashion perspective.
What’s one belief or mantra you wished everyone held?
Everytime you encounter another person in your day, in your life, it’s an opportunity for you to practice compassion, empathy and kindness.
Do you believe in aliens?
Absolutely! The truth is out there.
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Dec 06, 2021
People of Barkley
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