When he was just a kid, Rakitha Perera told his father about a cool new computer program called Adobe Photoshop that he thought would be useful to his father in his job as a jewelry appraiser. Before long, Perera was using Photoshop to help his dad — and earning $100 a week, thus making it his first paying job.
Today Perera is a graphic designer II in UNLV’s office of information technology and this year’s second-place winner of the President’s Classified Employee of the Year award.
Years at UNLV
I began at UNLV in 2006 as a student employee and have been slowly climbing my way up. I started with (the office of information technology) in classroom support doing troubleshooting and maintenance. Then I had an internship in the OIT communication office. Eventually, I became a full-time employee as a graphic designer.
I’m still working on it and am on track to complete it in 2021. It’s a graphic design degree. I’ve been using the employee (grant-in-aid) benefit. It’s very useful; it’s almost like a scholarship.
Favorite part of the job
Working with my team. We have a pretty good team. There is a communicator and a web person and an intern. It’s also fun to be part of the big OIT group. We have about 120 employees and then another 100 student employees.
If you had to change careers
I probably would look into film — something camera-related. Cinematography would be great. I really want to do a short film. I’m thinking one day I’ll get to it. Maybe something sci-fi-oriented. That would be fun to make with all the graphic elements.
A job you absolutely would not want
Anything related to words. I’m not the best wordsmith. Put me behind the camera or at an editing station and I’ll do my magic. I have a lot of respect for people who write.
Where you grew up
I lived in Sri Lanka until I was 13. Then we moved to America. I go back every other year.
The island vibe is completely different. It’s a great place. When I go back, I am staring at all the trees and the water. The food is beyond this world. It’s become a big foodie destination. Tea is the biggest thing — and then the spicy food.
A month ago, my fiancé, Tiffany, and I went to Sri Lanka for a three-week vacation. She and I met in OIT when she was a student worker. She had never been to Sri Lanka. There weren’t as many tourists as usual there, which is bad since tourism is a huge part of the economy. We basically had the hotels to ourselves. Sri Lanka has so many climate zones — hills, jungles, and beaches. Tiffany loves elephants. We were able to visit an elephant orphanage.
What you would choose for your last meal
A simple meal. Lately, I’ve been craving a good hot dog.
A book, movie, or TV show to recommend
I would highly recommend The Expanse on Amazon. It’s a sci-fi — almost like a modern-day Star Trek, but way more interesting. What I just said probably will upset some Star Trek fans.
Something people would be surprised to learn about you
I do a killer rendition of Sweet Caroline when I go out for karaoke. It’s my go-to song. Everyone joins in on “So good! So good! So good!”
What People Nominating Him Had to Say
Joe Horne, associate director of instructional technology services, OIT:
"Rakitha's title at UNLV is 'graphic designer II' but in fact, a more appropriate title would be something like 'OIT artist in residence.' Rakitha's work transcends the boundaries of mere graphic design, and his current title fails to capture the extent of his abilities. Yes, he designs (from scratch) a variety of compelling, engaging, and effective graphics for print, digital, and video content. I can take Rakitha an idea and within a few hours he will have taken the idea to a level far exceeding my expectations and getting me (and everyone else on the team) to think about something in a new and innovative way. He is, in short, a genuine talent.
"Rakitha is a superstar and I cannot properly convey how fortunate UNLV is to have him here. He's one of those people who adds so much value to each project with which he engages."
Julie Acheson, OIT intern:
"He is adored by both his colleagues and his students. Rakitha is one of the most passionate, fun, and dedicated people that I have ever known and someone who I believe not only positively represents the office of information technology, but UNLV as well...He continuously demonstrates a positive attitude and regardless of how big or small a task may be, he puts in the same 100 percent effort every time.
"I am sure I am not the only one who feels that the day is a little longer and less bright on the rare occasion he is not in the office."
Karen Asquith, associate director of IT strategic planning & communications, OIT:
"As a staff member, Rakitha is the embodiment of everything UNLV is about. He is dedicated and talented in his profession. He is always learning, collaborating, and improving his craft. He is generous. He is genuinely concerned about achieving the university's mission.
"Bridging the gap between technology and art, Rakitha takes the hard work and great ideas of his IT colleagues to a level where others take notice. It takes many talented IT staff to bring technology advances to campus. But unless faculty, staff, and students get the message, those advances don't provide the value they promise. Rakitha's pictures, graphics, videos, and designs make people stop, look, and quickly capture a message His work brings IT subjects that are often dry or incomprehensible to life. He adds visual and creative elements that help our audience attend to messages they would otherwise be too busy to process."