Bureau CFO Pranay sees the world anew through a lockdown lens

By Ian Gilbert

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, Pranay Lodhiya was hardly looking forward to working from home. A naturally gregarious chap, he fully expected to miss the buzz of the workplace.

Instead, the Bureau of Meteorology Chief Financial Officer began to appreciate the time he had to notice things like sunrise on a crisp morning, scenes that he captured on camera.

While many people used the extra time of lockdown to binge on Netflix or finish home DIY projects, Pranay embraced the chance to pursue his twins passions of photography and poetry. The result is his own book, ‘Lockdown – A Poetographic Journey Though My Eyes’.

“I was one of those people who thought I could not work from home; I felt I needed to be in the office to connect with colleagues,” he says.

But once lockdown hit, Pranay adopted a morning routine that helped him to focus on work and his own wellbeing, with an early-morning run setting him up for the day ahead.

Soon that golden time, when he was alone with his thoughts and the mesmerising rhythm of feet pounding pavement, became his chance for tranquillity.

“I’d go out running and – especially in winter – the sun was rising so I started taking photos on my phone, then come home and take out my SLR,” Pranay says.

Equally captivated by sunsets and moonlit skies, Pranay gathered a striking portfolio in the ensuing months. This connection with nature and an easiness with the concept of solitude is captured in one of the poems, ‘Walk with me’.

Solace my dear friend, come walk with me / In times quiet we will but laugh loud / In moments strident we will stand proud / When the uneasy mind does its dance / Counsel this soul of a worthy stance.

Having time to think gave Pranay the chance to revisit workplace values, and what made his team tick. With remote working the new norm for his 70-strong team within the BOM, welfare was high on the agenda.

“We have this attitude about work that everyone has to be very professional and serious and in doing so sometimes we lose the human element of it,” he says.

“Lockdown affected people differently, so work has to provide a really strong support network. The demands of the work have not decreased – people are working weekends and evenings, and need to feel they are supported, that they are backed up and acknowledged.”

Pranay channelled his own honesty and vulnerability about the pressures of WFH into his leadership style.

“I want to be a leader who’s supportive. By sharing and being vulnerable at times it actually makes you stronger because you’re not putting on a façade, you’re not putting your ego in front, you are who you are,”

Pranay Lodhiya, CFO | Bureau of Meteorology

“We lose sight of the fact that people have their own issues, stresses and anxieties, so I’d share my ups and downs and I would like to think it made it easier for my team to as well, just to let people know it’s OK and everyone has their ups and downs.”

Among the initiatives his team adopted was ‘coffee roulette’, whereby staff draw a name and catch up for a virtual coffee. There has also been a concerted effort to recognise people’s hard work.

“When you are working remotely you need to be extra-vigilant about where people are doing good work and recognising that, giving kudos to people,” he says.

It’s this appreciation for others’ devotion that encouraged Pranay to pledge some of the book proceeds to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, a cause close to his heart.

He volunteered on the centre finance committee for several years after meeting its CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis at a La Trobe University alumni night event.

“I was touched by what he was doing for the asylum seekers and he said there were challenges for them in finding work, challenges for the legal side – it was quite moving,” Pranay says.

Ten dollars from each of the first 100 sold goes to the centre, and Pranay, who was born in Fiji to Indian parents, says: “Coming from a developing country I have an affinity with people who may not have had the opportunity I have had with education.”