How an economics degree fuels a start-up career

14 October 2021
Hailing from Sri Lanka, Ashan Dias, is a Sydney veteran with an economics focus

Ashan Dias is a postgraduate alumnus and former international student creating new opportunities for young businesses.

Ashan Dias

Pictured: Ashan Dias.

Exploring economics at the University of Sydney has given this alumnus new and creative ways of looking at financial planning.

Currently based in Sri Lanka at start-up AdviceLab, Ashan has honed his talents in economics to rethink the conventional realm of finance for small businesses locally, Australia, and the world.

Pursuing a lifelong passion

Choosing to focus on economics in his postgraduate degree was a chance to realise a personal interest to its fullest.

Ashan explains he was always interested in the subject. Being introduced to a broad range of “ideas that sought to provide a framework for understanding the ‘economy’ and how agents participate in it” during his undergraduate degree only served to fuel his aspirations through to his postgraduate study.

“I have been interested in the way in which we conceptualise economies and markets since high school,” he says. “The Master of Economics provided me with the opportunity to drill down into the finer detail of… the ideas and how they were applied in practice.”

Economics is one of the few fields of study that require both the ability to logically formulate problems and the creativity to constantly update your assumptions and the scope of theory.
Ashan Dias

Returning to familiar grounds

Having previously completed a Bachelor of Commerce with the University, coming back to campus for postgraduate study felt immediately nostalgic for Ashan.

“I remember feeling excited to meet my new classmates and professors,” he recalls. “I knew that an institution like the University of Sydney brings together all sorts of people from whom you can learn something from.”

The opportunity to speak to people from various countries, backgrounds and schools of thought was for me the most valuable part of the university experience.
Ashan Dias

Thinking back to his time on campus, Ashan shares fond memories of working with classmates and creating connections with his peers.

“I had an amazing opportunity to work with a very driven group of people from my cohort,” he says. “[They] always pushed me to do my best, keeping my motivation high during a period of time where balancing working and studying was a challenge.”

Working together with classmates to tackle difficult problems and coffee with friends constitute my warmest memories of university life.
Ashan Dias

Economics in practice

Helping new business leaders realise their potential is part of the day-to-day milieu of Ashan’s working life as a manager for start-up, AdviceLab. His studies at the University have brought a new perspective to his approach to finance, putting it into a broader and more dynamic context.

“Investment products and strategic financial recommendations are, at the end of the day, all based on economic theory and prevailing economic conditions,” he explains. “The exercise of producing reports that bring the world of economic theory to the average person thereby becomes that much more stimulating.”

One of the most rewarding experiences of my job is seeing new leaders in the business grow in confidence over time and interact with their work in a more engaged way.
Ashan Dias

After a few years juggling his postgraduate study with a role at the Commonwealth Bank, Ashan returned to Sri Lanka where he got involved with the start-up. His time here has so far proven to be enriching for him, both personally and professionally.

“I manage and co-ordinate across teams to meet a variety of challenges usually faced by young businesses,” he says. “These included continuous process improvement and trying to unlock the talents of each individual in the business.”

Working together with driven individuals continues to be something I look forward to on a daily basis as it means that I’m always learning something new myself.
Ashan Dias

By tapping into a lifelong passion that only enriches his life personally and professionally, Ashan is a testament to the possibilities of doing what you love.

Interested in postgraduate study? Explore the School of Economics.

Words by Margaret Tran.

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