For as long as she can remember, Seng Sona has always had a passion for drafting blueprints and designing building- a passion that has grown into a career.
“When I was young, I liked mathematics, especially mathematical formulas and logistics. I was really interested in blueprints, especially the drafting and design, so I chose to pursue a career in engineering,” she said.
Throughout her education, Sona recalls how she was introduced to a lot of smart students and mentors who pushed her to succeed while she was a student at Wat Koh primary and secondary school. After fulfilling her secondary education, she had the chance to study abroad at the Technical University of Denmark, where she eventually received a civil engineering degree. While studying, she also gained a lot of valuable work experience.
“When I was studying abroad, I also interned for an engineering consulting company. At that time, it became clear that I really liked the subject I had chosen,” she said.
After she graduated, she returned to Cambodia keen to enter the burgeoning construction sector where she saw a lack of qualified Cambodians.
“I came back to Cambodia in the early 2011 and have been working for Advancing Engineering until now. After 2 years, I was appointed as engineering manager of the company,” she added.
Within her role as engineering manager for Advancing Engineering—an international consulting firm that focuses on infrastructure and construction projects throughout the developing world—building and safety standards are her top priority. With the growing labour force in the construction sector, people need to be able to live and work safely with adequate protection in high risk jobs, she explained.
“There are usually many partners that join together for a project and they all have different aims, but engineers focus only on construction quality. Sometimes owners or contractors understand why construction costs are high. However, Cambodia does not have building and safety codes yet, so it can be difficult for workers,” she said.
As men typically outnumber women in the engineering sector, Sona encourages women and college students interested in engineering and construction to pursue their goals.
“There are not many Cambodian female construction engineers, and what I know is female students prefer to study chemical and food engineering. However, recently I have joined the Scientific and Engineering Event conducted for the first time at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP). And I have met some volunteer students studying majors related to construction from the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC). I was really happy and encouraged them to pursue the subjects they like without stepping back,” she said.
Traditionally, Cambodian society has placed women in the home, but as the Cambodia job market diversifies and cultural liberalization takes hold, this custom is quickly changing. Now, men and women are offered the same job opportunities, she explained.