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Building a career one step at a time

Building a career one step at a time

Phaktra Sokchea is an executive assistant to the country director of a leading international organisation.


Phaktra Sokchea says you can’t be a great leader unless you have been a servant of others.


 Phaktra Sokchea

  • Education Graduated from high school in 2001 with a scholarship from the government of Cambodia to study at The Royal University of Phnom Penh, where she majored in computer science. At the same time she studied for a bachelor’s degree in English literature at Norton University.
  • Career Volunteered as an intern at the International Labour Organisation upon graduation and became an administrative assistant from 2005 to 2006. Worked as a personal assistant to the general manager and an HR project management supporter at British American Tobacco Cambodia before her current position.

When did you realise what you wanted to be, and why did you decide this was a good career to pursue?

I did not have a clear picture of what I wanted to be when I was at the university, but I knew I wanted to be a successful professional person in a particular field, such as a human resource specialist. I also wanted to set a good example for others and be a great asset for the organization I work for. This is simply because I cannot be successful if my organisation is a failure.

I can also not be a great leader if I have never been a servant of others. I believe my experiences as a personal assistant will paint a great path in pursuing my prospective career. In addition, I have never been afraid of doing something small to get to something bigger and better.

What do you enjoy most about your job, and least?

I enjoy my job the most when I work with people who understand and support me. I also believe they expect the same back from me. No matter how difficult the job is, it is important to know that we are working together and that we depend on each other.

I find it difficult to work in a team or organization when people are not willing to cooperate and try to understand each other. For instance, if someone in the team misses a deadline or is not responsible for their work, it would affect the rest of the team. Therefore, it is necessary to be respected and to respect others.  

Who has been an important role model for you in your career, and who has given the most helpful advice?

My mother has always been a great example for me. She teaches me respect, understanding, responsibility and values. She also works for international organisations. Her advice comes in the form of practical examples. She already knows how to swim when she teaches me to swim, and she doesn't smoke when she tells me not to smoke. This is the critical quality for role models, teachers, brothers, sisters and parents. People will listen to us and follow us only if our actions are consistent with our words.

What do you think it takes to succeed in your career as a young graduate starting out?

What made me succeed in my career was that I was not afraid to start with something small. I did not hesitate to work as a volunteer in order to get a better job with a salary. I have faith that I can do big things well when I can do small things great.  Moreover, I did not give up even when I was turned down for the first jobs I applied for.

Did the theories you learned at school and the practical realities match?

I think there is still a big gap between the theories I learned at school and the practical realities. Teachers and professors rely so much on the textbooks which are generally based on Western or outside contexts and are impractical in a Cambodian context. They should be more practical through using case studies in our societal context.

More importantly, I felt completely lost when I was about to graduate from my university. I had no clear direction of where to start, and it took me some time to try a few things before I could find a good way out. Universities should help graduates more at this difficult time.

What are your career goals and how do you plan to get there?

My career goal is to become a successful professional person in the field of human resource management. To attain this dream I want to be successful in my current position and have a good reputation in this organisation. In addition, I am going to continue my study by undertaking an MBA in human resources or management.

I hope after I get this degree, together with experience from  my current position, I will be able to move my career path to my dream career.


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