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Last month, 48 young students spent two weeks in a gruelling 13-day bootcamp testing their resilience, resourcefulness and abilities to the absolute limits in exchange for an intense immersion in real-life learning and problem solving. The students, who were selected from more than 1000 candidates, were taking part in the second SmartEdu University Student Development Programme CEO Challenge and, we’re delighted to announce that, in a grand finale held on August 26, the team mentored by Thalias’ staff came out the winners! The goal of the challenge is to foster and help develop the next generation of Cambodia’s digital communicators, giving them the tools to drive the country’s tech landscape.

Selected from among 1,000 candidates at 16 universities across Cambodia, the 48 students were divided into eight teams which then underwent the bootcamp at Sokha Angkor Resort hotel in Siem Reap. There, they worked on their communication, creativity and critical thinking skills, as well as their emotional intelligence, through a series of high-pressure challenges, workshops and simulations that seriously tested their abilities to think, act, cooperate, communicate and on some days simply stay standing.

Their ultimate task was to address a problem statement by three different companies, BIMA Cambodia, Thalias Co. Ltd and Grab Cambodia. By the end of those two weeks, the original field of 48 was whittled down to 24, representing three team.

CEO Challenge

The team tackling Thalias problem statement found themselves examining the question of how companies in the hospitality and food industries might gather and effectively use current customer data to better serve its customers while still taking account of customer data privacy. In other words, how can the companies better understand their customers’ needs, without violating any laws related to privacy.

Khéma Angkor general manager Céline Troeung was one of the mentors for the team addressing this question and was absolutely awestruck by the talent, dedication and energy showed by the students. “They were all working for days and nights”, she said. “Some fainted, some cried, some were really feeling the huge amount of pressure, but they were still willing to do it. It was such a wonderful experience to be mentoring them for three days in Siem Reap. I couldn’t believe they were only 18!”

The winning team won a top prize of $1,800 and the infinitely valuable title of CEO Challenge Champion. The eight Top Individual Performers were also awarded with a two-month fully-paid internship with Axiata Group in Malaysia. We too extend our heartfelt congratulations to them, and to all of the students who took part in this exciting challenge created by Smart Axiata. As Céline says, “they are the new generation of Cambodia”.

We personally can’t wait to see how these students progress in their chosen careers.