Name: Aswin Pillarisetty | Designation: CEO | Company: Digital PMO | Place: Toronto
(August 03, 2023) When Aswin Pillarisetty moved to Toronto with his family at the age of 10, one might have thought that there would be teething troubles and years of adolescent turbulence as he struggled to find a place in the sun in a new country. However, for this eternal optimist, blending in didn’t really prove to be a challenge. “I took to Canada like a fish to water. As a grade 6 student, I blended in where needed and became Indian where it was demanded,” smiles Aswin. Currently the founder and CEO of his own company Digital PMO in Canada, he continues to carry this attitude as he navigates life as a management consultant and father.
The fact that he spent the first ten years of his life in Hyderabad helped him keep his Indianness alive, says Aswin. The Indian aspect helped shape his foundational value system and gave him a sense of identity. “My parents insisted that we spoke Telugu at home and that helped me stay in touch with the language. Back then there were very few teens in our circle who could speak Telugu; that gave me niche advantage,” he smiles. “I’d often be called upon as emcee or narrator at community events.”
It was at one such event that Aswin heard a lady sing on stage and was so taken by her performance that he persuaded her to take him on as a student. He was 14 at the time. “My mother had tried enrolling me for Carnatic vocal classes before and I’d run in the opposite direction,” he says, adding, “However, this performance changed something in me. That was how my journey with Carnatic music began. My connection with music is the building block of my life. It is my soul language.” Aswin’s love for music has him learning the art form even today and he often has his two young daughters sit in on his practice sessions.
From conventional corporate to consultant
Like all “good Indian boys” Aswin too graduated with a degree in engineering from Ontario Tech University and began his career as an engineer. “Six months down the line though, I got my PMP and switched to project management. Yes, it felt like I’d thrown myself into the deep end, but I am happy I took the risk,” he says.
By 2013, after having worked with companies such as Loblaw and SOCAN, Aswin turned management consultant and set up his firm Digital PMO in 2021. “Consulting has been very good to me. It has given me the opportunity to work across sectors: food services, automotive, facilities management, sports, and entertainment. If it had been a mundane job, I would’ve been terribly bored,” he says, “Over the course of the years, I’ve had larger budgets and more visibility. I usually work on a sub-contractor basis and I enjoy getting things organised. This is an area that allows me to use my natural attributes and play to my strengths.”
As he charts his path forth, Aswin says that his larger goal is to establish channels of revenue so he can utilise his time towards his other interests. “I’ve figured that I use 80% of my time on things that I need to do and 20% on what I want to. By the time I’m 40, I’d like to reverse that. I enjoy music and literature and want to spend more time on them; I’d probably want to write a book,” says the management consultant, who is fascinated by Telugu literature.
The India connect
“I don’t want to miss out on literature in my mother tongue. That said, I also enjoy Sanskrit poetry. Interestingly, I didn’t know how to read or write Telugu when I left India at age 10. I learnt to do so after moving to Canada, on my own time. I wanted to learn to recite the Vedas and that’s how I ended up learning to read and write the language. Doing so, opened the doors to a world of content and the value it holds. There are so many aspects of Telugu literature that will help you become successful and navigate the world around you. For instance, I’ve learnt a great deal from the 15th Century poem Shringara Naishadham and I employ those in my current line of work,” the Global Indian says, “I don’t read literature just for the sake of it, I employ the wisdom of it.”
As he straddles the best of both worlds, Aswin reiterates that one doesn’t have to choose; but instead pursue any knowledge with zeal and do justice to one’s roots and identity. “Identity helps you find your way back home. You must know who you are, what you are, and be confident in that space,” he says.
- A new life in a new country does not necessarily mean having to shed your old identity for a new one. Embrace who you are and blend where needed.
- Identity helps you find your way home.
- There is a lot of wisdom to be gleaned from our literature and art forms. How one perceives them is what makes all the difference.