By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
“If I were to introduce myself, I guess I would say that ‘I am you’,” Sandro said as we began our discussion. “Going along with the words of Tupac, I was a caterpillar growing up, not realising my potential on what I can become.”
Completing his education at the Asian Grammar School, Sandro has achieved much. A teacher, compere, former TV host and public speaking coach with his own academy, Sandro Sathiyajith is also a News Anchor/Editor in one of Sri Lanka’s biggest radio stations. Having barely completed one year in this post, he was named Best English News Presenter at the State Radio Awards, achieving all this at the age of 21.
From ‘quiet kid’ to public speaker
Although a confident communicator who has turned his voice into his profession, Sandro admitted that this was not true growing up. “I would hardly speak with anyone,” he admitted. “If you told the younger me what I have accomplished now, I don’t think he would believe you.”
Sandro’s metamorphosis began with his discovery of the joy in public speaking. “I was never a dancer or a singer, but I too wanted to do something on stage, like my friends did,” he recounted. “While I was thinking on that, there was this time I saw two presenters on stage, and I loved how the way they spoke and presented everything.”
Seeing the two was the catalyst that Sandro needed to approach his teachers and seek an opportunity to improve on his public speaking. “It was then that I realised what they were doing was called compering.”
“Until then, I was predominantly a writer,” he continued. “I guess they wondered what the result would be if I spoke the things I wrote instead.”
“I remember a wooden stage, young people wearing tight jeans, and a Wikipedia page on plastic surgery,” he recounted. “That was my first experience. From there on to compering at big venues such as the Sugathadasa Stadium, that journey started with that small boy.”
A journey of gradual growth
Naturally, becoming a confident speaker wasn’t an easy one for Sandro, who tirelessly worked on improving his skills in his youth. In this effort, taking part in Model United Nations (MUN) programmes and announcing were invaluable for Sandro’s growth.
“It was there that I met Miss Manju Govindan, the person who helped build and polish my presenting and speaking skills. Joining MUN made my public speaking skills so much better. It was there that I started growing the fastest.”
“Sometimes it still blows my mind that me, an introverted kid who rarely spoke in a crowd would be making a living through public speaking.”
Going the extra mile
“Whenever I speak, I want to give something new to my audience,” he shared. “When I’m presenting news, or compering, I would always think of new ways of approach and try to be creative in what I do, because your words can make a difference.”
Realising the power of language, Sandro shared that he is constantly self-analysing his words whilst on the job, and when not on call, is often educating himself through reading and research in order to bring more power to his voice.
“It’s because words are so powerful that I have to be very selective where, when and how I use my voice. That’s also why I’m constantly learning and listening.I often say that the best public speakers listen twice as much as they speak.”
This is also true for Sandro’s career as a news presenter. Meticulous with his work, he revealed that when presenting news, “I would always record what I say and listen back to learn how I can improve on my presenting skills. Even the most minute of improvements go a long way.”
Winning the award
His hard work has paid off with a monumental achievement. Sandro was recognised as the best English news presenter at the State Radio Awards. “It is huge honour for me, but it’s hard for me to actually believe that this is real,” he admitted. “I joined news last year, and it hasn’t even been a year since, and now I have this award.”
“I took my mother with me to the awards. Being able to give that award to her was one of the best moments of my life. She cried,” he shared, smiling for a moment in silence.
“This award and recognition is very special for me, and another reason why is because the person who announced the award that I won was Bernadine Jayasinghe. She is a bit of a famous name in the media industry, and she was also a judge in one of the announcing competitions that I participated in exactly five years ago.”
“I’ve also compered her as a guest speaker during the years, as well. It all came full circle.”
Competing with yourself
“It’s really easy to pressure yourself unnecessarily by comparing yourself with other people’s achievements,” he opined. “Don’t think about speed. Some people try to set goals in achieving big goals in ‘x’ amount of time, like becoming a millionaire by 30. But when you do that, you’re setting yourself to be pressured to achieve high when you should be trying to be genuine with yourself and achieving your passion.”
Sandro believes that he has been able to achieve what he has, to be as meticulous in perfecting his craft as he has been, mainly due to his passion for doing what he does.
“I don’t think I would have been able to do this as consistently if I didn’t love what I am doing,” he shared. “Look at what you love, and work towards it. Evaluate yourself daily and be obsessed with making yourself better. That has always led me to where I am today.”
“But there’s no such thing as being too young to achieve big,” he added. “Age is not a barrier to having a successful and thriving career or achieving anything in general. In fact, one of the biggest strengths you have when you’re young is that you have time to try new things, experiment and make mistakes.
“Use that to your advantage and keep trying new things. Find what you want to do, and then surround yourself with people who are experienced in that craft. Learn from them and continue to grow. It’s not going to happen in an instant, but you would never know if you don’t try and keep improving over a period of time. There is no such thing as a waste.”
Stand your ground
The modern day circumstances might seem hopeless for many, but Sandro believes that “at the face of any crisis — be it within ourselves or for the country we live in — we must remember to always stand our ground. When people told me that people would never listen to me and my voice, I didn’t believe them because I believed in myself and my words. I stood my ground and fought both the crisis outside me and the one inside. We as countrymen can never not choose to be Sri Lankan, as much as we as people can never not choose to be who we really are. Stand your ground, in the face of injustice; be it to your country or to yourself. Legacies that live beyond your lifetime, last only if you stand your ground before you sleep in your grave.”