From inside her busy office where young tech-savvy Cambodians can be seen plugging away at laptops, Channda Sok recounted her humble beginnings with technology. According to her it all began in the early nineties when she was making a living by selling plastic flowers on Central Market.
“We were all doing our accounting in a book and a customer came up to me and said that a computer could help us with that,” she said. At the time, Sok knew nothing about computers and little could foreshadow that she would become a pioneer in Cambodia's IT world, besides the fact that she was curious.
Soon after that she purchased her first computer from Vietnam and enrolled in a beginner’s computer course at the Banana School. The way Sok tells it is that she had the most modern computer in the class and “the teacher wanted to purchase it. At first just one, but then a set of four,” she said.
That initial sales success led to the opening of her computer store in 1995 after she studiously, with an English-to-Khmer dictionary, learned about how to build a computer and how to install software. Fast-forward twenty years and she is now the president and CEO of Mekongnet, Sun City Apartments, Anana Computer and Full House Decoration.
One of her key lessons about success is that at “first you start out small, then you can grow,” she said, while the other part was being able to stay ahead of the curve and foresee the trends. “People have to be willing to learn and grow because if we are not willing to learn somebody will always be there and become faster,” she said explaining how she has been able to successfully delve into new industries by staying on the cutting edge.
Now, as the vice president and co-founder of the Cambodia Women Business Federation (CWBF), Sok has formed an organization devoted to helping women-owned businesses in Cambodia by providing business services and networking opportunities while sharing experiences.
While Sok never went to university, she understands the value of higher education but puts experience and hard work ethics first because, as she tells us, being a CEO and entrepreneur was not a path for everyone because it involved a lot of time, dedication and management skills.
“If you work hard first, learn from your experiences, join a network, you will be promoted to higher positions,” she said adding that “women can do anything men can do. Just start and learn and do it and don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and soon you will see the result from all your hard work.”
As the Cambodian economy continues to expand and diversify, she sees a lot of potential for women to get jobs in the IT industry, online marketing, customer services, property development, sales and financial development.