Music is a vital component of Weber Shandwick Asia Pacific. With Behind The Decks, our people share the music that inspires them throughout their working life. For Carolyn Devanagam, her long-standing love of U2’s stadium-sized sincerity sowed the seeds for her eventual position advising some of Asia Pacific’s largest corporate brands.
It’s rare that our passions stay separate. Even the most divergent parts of our personal and professional lives are tied together by surprising threads.
It’s certainly the case for Carolyn Devanayagam. As Senior Vice President for Weber Shandwick Asia Pacific’s Corporate practice, Devanayagam’s days are spent developing complex strategies for some of the largest corporations in the region and flying from New York to Hong Kong to Singapore and beyond to lend support for major B2B campaigns.
By her own admission, she can’t even listen to music when she’s working. She finds it too distracting. But, whether discussing her love and admiration for one of Ireland’s biggest musical exports or sharing the excitement that keeps her energised in executing colossal multi-region engagements, Carolyn Devanayagam returns to the same experiences.
Carolyn Devanayagam – Big Hearts, Big Choruses & Big Impact
“When I think about what drew me into working with the corporate sector, I think of a balance.
For instance, I love the technicality and precision of the corporate space. I like getting into the nitty-gritty and the number-crunching. Often, it’s not about big, flashy displays. It’s about carefully negotiating complex business realities. I don’t actually listen to music when I work. I actually can’t. It distracts me. Because, I like to really focus and connect with the specifics of each strategy.
But, at the other end of the equation, I love that the companies I work with are almost always invested in giving back. The scope of their business means brands in the industrial or resource sectors (for example) often have deep pockets – and they’re typically committed to using them to give back to communities. Whether that’s through funding programs to help women pursue careers in the STEM space or setting up other powerful initiatives for change.
It’s a balance between the nitty, gritty number crunching and the power to make a real difference in people’s lives.
But, in a way, they’re rooted in the same thing – change.
In the corporate sector, communications takes on a different role. When you’re helping a business connect to other businesses, your role as an advisor expands beyond boosting reputation or supporting a specific product campaign to helping shape larger business strategy in the long-term. And, of course, when you’re helping set up charitable initiatives for a major corporation, you’re making direct change in the lives of people and communities for the better.
In the end, it’s always about making a change. Having an impact.
And, when I think about the music that means the most to me, I realise I’ve always loved that sense of balance and impact.
My favourite band is U2. Sometimes, I feel a bit dorky about that. I almost wasn’t going to include them. But, they’re exactly what I’m talking about. They’re huge. Even if you’ve never heard of them, you’ve heard them. And, they’re smart. They’re strategic and innovative. But, they’re also a band that always tries to make a change. Not just with Bono, going out and helping give back to society – but in how much their songs mean to people all over the world.
Even if everyone’s heard a song like ‘With or Without You’, it’s connected to a million different moments. Sometimes, it might be a song you listened to with a friend. Or, it could be a song that was played at your wedding. Or, it could be from a trip around Europe. Or, a song your mother used to sing. It’s almost mathematical in how it can connect with millions of people – but it’s still deeply personal, profound and intimate.
With this playlist, I’ve tried to put together songs that have that sense of balance. You can enjoy the craft. The nitty gritty. You can get swept away by the big choruses – that connection with the community. You can enjoy the balance – and think of the way they’ve changed people.”
Carolyn Devanayagam is Head of Corporate for Weber Shandwick Asia Pacific.
If you’d like to work with Weber Shandwick’s Corporate practice, reach out here.
Previously on Behind The Decks…