Socheata Nguon, 35 years old, is a very determined woman. Working first as a salesperson in a printing house, then as a café waitress, she climbed the steps one by one to reach her current position as head of procurement with Thalias Hospitality.
Where are you from?
I come from Phnom Penh. I was born here, grew up here and studied here. I received a Bachelor's degree from the National University of Management. But at the same time as my studies, I was working as a sales manager to gain experience, at the Modern Printing House. I stayed there for six months. I didn't get a salary, just compensation to pay for gas and my telephone subscription. I then resigned, because it wasn't really related to my studies and what I wanted to do with my life. I was studying accounting… So I started again. I applied to a café but in the end I only worked there for three days! I had applied to be a cashier... But my job was really more about service or sometimes even cleaning. That wasn’t acceptable to my parents. They thought I wouldn't get any experience from this job. I remember one day friends of theirs came to the café. They knew who I was but they pretended they didn't know me… just because I was a waitress.
Then you started working at Thalias?
Yes, in 2005, I met Arnaud Darc, CEO of Thalias and Hak Lina, Managing Director of Topaz. Mr Darc spoke to me and then offered me a job at Thalias. But my parents still didn't agree that I should be a cashier. But a week later I received a call from Lina. I immediately prepared my CV and went to Malis, which was about to open. They told me they wanted me to join them as a hostess. But it was an evening job, and not what I was looking for. Mr Darc asked me what I really wanted to do. I replied that I wanted to work in the office, and he agreed. So I was hired at Thalias on 23 November 2005.
Have you held the same position since then?
I first worked as an administrative agent at Topaz, then I had a half-time job and then started working, at the same time, as a cashier at Malis in the evenings. So I had two jobs, one at Topaz and one at Malis. Then we had our own butcher’s shop at Topaz. So I also worked a bit as an administrative agent for the shop. Then we had a bakery to supply the two "Café Sentiments", one on Monivong and the other at the Sorya Mall. I also controlled all the bakery’s stocks, such as packaging material... So I had to do the administrative work for several shops at the same time. I then became accountant for the group, Manco, before it became Thalias. Two years later, the group's financial controller resigned, so I was promoted to chief accountant. It was much more related to what I had studied, but I got a bit bored. Indeed, it was a complicated job. You have to focus a lot on the figures, and it's very strict. But there was no other job available, so I had to continue as an accountant until they found another one. That's what eventually happened, so I was able to become administrative director. At that time I was doing a lot of very different things. Then Mr Darc asked me again what I really wanted to do, if I wanted to change jobs.
What did you tell him this time?
It's very complicated because at that time I considered myself to be still a young girl and I was facing my boss. So I answered "I don't know…” He then told me that I would be promoted to a more important position... “Impossible,” I thought to myself! My boss at that time was a role model for me, because of his honesty and hard work. I didn't see myself surpassing him at all. But he had another opportunity in another company, and that's how I got there. I had no outside experience for this job, I grew up and learned here. I think Mr Darc felt that he could trust me, and that he pushed me to do my best every time.
What are you doing today?
I am head of procurement for the Thalias group. I am therefore in charge of purchasing and logistics. Whatever the company needs to buy, it goes through me and I check that everything is in order. I really enjoy this job. Indeed, the accounting was very boring. I would sit in my office and look at the figures. When you're in charge of purchasing, you’re always confronted with something new. You have to find new products, or more…
Why are you so attached to Thalias?
We have a very good manager who takes care of all of the employees. He cares about people. That’s why I have stayed with the company for so long!