Sayan Gulino - Just Keep Swimming
Sayan Gulino helms Bali’s iconic waterpark Waterbom as General Manager. Sayan sat down to speak with BIS about some of his values he incorporates in his management style- some of which he obtained in his early education years with Bali Island School- and what it takes for leaders today to keep going. Or, in his case, to keep swimming.
How has your journey prepared you to become a CEO at Waterbom today?
My life’s journey has definitely taken twists and turns and has given me bumps and bruises, and that in itself is all part of the preparation. There were many times circumstances didn’t plan out on how I would have liked it to. But once I changed the way of seeing things, I looked at everything through the lens of opportunity, this has been the biggest impact that has and will continue to help me as CEO and beyond. I also have been blessed to have a multicultural upbringing, grasping different cultures and paradigms and my scholastic years served as foundation to educational elements of the business, but also through networking. Lastly, what has prepared me is vision, knowing what I want, focusing on it and believing that I will get there, even if I trip and stumble along the way.
What does it mean to be an eco-sustainable waterpark? What initiatives has Waterbom done? How challenging is it to achieve “zero carbon footprint”?
It’s been a work in progress since it was opened in 1993. It started off with an initiative of not cutting down any trees. Santo, the creator and visionary, instructed that not one tree would be cut upon construction of the slides, designing the water slides to work around the trees. Another step that followed was a salt filtration system (as an alternative to chlorine). Those initiatives are embedded in our constant mission to find environmental efficiencies.
I’m a firm believer that ecology and economy can be in the same conversation, as businesses must have a fundamental responsibility to act consciously and a platform to pay it forward. That being said, the first and essential step to have zero carbon footprint is company principles and policy, this is followed by data analysis to find out where you can be more efficient and data recording to measure its success or failures. This works in a continuous loop as you grow and find better ways of reducing damage to the earth.
We focus on three pillars: waste, water and energy. We still have a long way to go, but I am proud to say that Waterbom is now considered a world-class boutique waterpark that holds various accolades, including being nominated best waterpark in Asia for consecutive years, as well as UN awards and world tourism awards. It is rewarded not for its size but for its quality. The philosophy and principles of the park works around Tri Hita Karana, whereby it operates on harmony, among nature, humans, and spiritually.
We will be celebrating our 28th anniversary this coming 7th December.
Can you tell us a little bit about Karmic Returns?
Karmic Returns is both an internal and external marketing campaign for us to influence and to inform. Since sustainability-related language can be complex, we try to simplify it by expressing stories that are easy for us to relate, as well as expressing our successes (and failures) through a media that allows most to understand and relate to.
For example, we compare our composting result to the weight of an elephant, or how our energy savings could light up the Eiffel tower. We try to make it relatable and digestible and at the same time we like to publicise and track how we are doing internally so that we can work on our next mission and hold ourselves accountable.
How long did you study at BIS and what do you think about the IB programme?
I was one of the first students at Bali Island School and was there for at least 10 years before continuing my International Baccalaureate programme in Singapore at United World College. I think the IB programme and everything it encompasses is a game changer. I often tell people that my IB experience and what I got out of it surpassed my university educational experience.
Are there any values from BIS that you live up to today?
Yes, there are and one of the big ones it instilled was my environmental values. I remember doing field trips and camping by the river for geography, releasing turtles in north Bali or going to farms and understanding the subak system. Not only did that make an impact, they bonded us all (I think there were maximum 10 people per grade) and created amazing memories. Aside from environmental values, respect, vision, balance and authenticity also were foundational elements contributed by BIS.
How do you describe your leadership style?
I cannot pinpoint it yet because I believe leaders should be able to adapt to circumstances. Leaders should be able to pivot and have both IQ and EQ and find an equilibrium when making critical decisions. I would say I’m a leader that holds other accountable to high standards and equally I hold myself accountable to higher standards, leading by example. Being able to read a situation is critical, being able to understand when to push and pull is equally critical in its cause and effect. And over the years I’m broadening my sensitivity and awareness to this. I talk to my team in full transparency, we relate, we discuss ideas together and align. This breeds culture and therefore breeds progress, all in the name of leadership.