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Youth of the week: Pheng Sovanvichet

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The proverb “like father, like son” explains the inevitable similarities between parents and their offspring. In Cambodia these similarities often extend to the professional realm, as it is quite common for children to take over the family business when the opportunity arises. Pheng Sovanvichet’s parents expected him to do the same thing, encouraging him to study medicine so he could take over their pharmacy when they retired. But he had other plans. “My parents wanted me to study medical science when I finished high school because we have our own pharmacy,” said the 25-year-old pioneer. Instead he enrolled as a scholarship student of economics and information technology at the Royal University of Law and Economics.

Today his decision has proven to be a good one, as the IT-specialist is the only person in Cambodia who can call themselves a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert. After years studying abroad, Pheng Sovanvichet has now brought his talents back home, working with Wicam Corporation as an IP Core Network Specialist and Sunrise Informatics Center as a Cisco instructor.

While he said he has been obsessed with technology since he was 8 years-old, it was a conversation with a couple he met in Chinese-language classes that piqued his interest in Cisco.

“One day Mr Bryan (the husband) told me about his job, his duties and even his salary of US$1.6 million dollars per year, which made me so interested,” he said.

He occasionally consulted the couple for help, but spent hours alone learning about the cutting-edge technology. “Sixty percent of my time and effort was for Cisco, while the other 40 percent was for university,” he said.

In 2007, he successfully reached the first level of Cisco certification, becoming a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) with a perfect score of 1,000 out of 1,000 on the company’s test. Realising he couldn’t advance further on his own, he enrolled at Ya Wei Training Institute in China to study with Cisco experts. In 2008, he took the exam for the next level of Cisco operators and once again got a perfect score. In his spare time that year he also created a website to share his ideas and experience about new technology and Cisco with fellow IT experts in Cambodia and around the world at khmeritforum.net.

After another year of studying, he tested to become a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert in Routing and Switching. In 2009 he passed the written exam and in 2010 he passed the lab test to become the first person in Cambodia and the 26,884th person in the world to reach Cisco’s highest level of expertise.

Even after his much-celebrated accomplishment, the tech whiz is still not content. “There are always new things being discovered,” he said. “So I have to keep updating myself. I plan to get another CCIE in security; since when Cambodia has a network infrastructure, security will be needed.”

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