Without ever letting go of her calm good humour, Ritha Saroeurn carefully watches over the Thalias group's computers and networks, a job she is proud to carry out in a field long considered a male preserve. Interview:
Where did you spend your childhood? Have you always lived in Phnom Penh?
No, I arrived in Phnom Penh when I was 20 years old. Before that, I lived in my home province, Banteay Meanchey, on the Thai border. I grew up there with my three sisters and two brothers. It was a youth marked by the love of my grandparents, who took care of us tirelessly after the death of my parents. I especially remember the great solidarity shown by the inhabitants, and Banteay Meanchey is a beautiful place, with its green countryside and its famous Banteay Chhmar temple, which I visited very often.
What made you come to Phnom Penh?
After finishing secondary school, I wanted to continue learning, because I wanted to pursue a career in a rather original sector, that of computer science. There were two reasons for this. First of all, more and more people are using computers, so it's a job with a future, and what's more, it's interesting. And secondly, there was also a kind of challenge that motivated me. Unfortunately, most people still think that this is a field reserved for men, and I was eager to prove them wrong! My grandparents encouraged me, and I was accepted onto a two-year training course in Phnom Penh, offered by the association Passerelles numériques.
How was the transition between Banteay Meanchey and the capital?
Difficult, at least at the beginning. Phnom Penh is a rather confusing city for someone who comes from an essentially rural province. But I wasn't alone. I was lucky enough to share a room with one of my sisters, as well as a roommate who later became my husband.
How did your studies go?
We first learnt the basics of computer science, before we immersed ourselves in more technical aspects. I was comfortable with computers, but I had to work harder to improve my English. It took me a lot of time because, in addition to the basic language, I also had to learn a lot of technical terms. I worked hard for that! Then there were the internships in companies where I had to demonstrate to sometimes incredulous people that a woman actually could set up or repair a computer.
How did you get into your current job?
Once I finished my studies, I wanted to improve my skills which led me to enrol at Puthisastra University for two more years. Then one day, I saw an advertisement for a job with the Thalias group. So I applied for it, and I was selected! For two years, I was in charge of technical support, before being promoted to head of department. My mission is to ensure that the computers work properly, prevent and repair breakdowns, configure software and peripherals, maintain security... There is also a didactic aspect, which aims to explain to users the right IT behaviour, how to use the software, the things to do and those to avoid... It's a particularly interesting job, which is changing all the time.
What are your hobbies?
At the moment, I mostly need rest, because I am expecting a child very soon. So I just listen to music and dance in my room!