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Media director Sitha Nuon on the value of hard work in Cambodia

Moving to Phnom Penh at the age of 18, Sitha Nuon spent years working at a minimart and as a receptionist before rising through the ranks of media giant Havas Riverorchid Cambodia

Sitha Nuon, Havas Riverford Orchid’s media director, was voted Agency Head of the Year in last year’s prestigious Mumbrella Asia Awards. Photo: Sam Jam

When you first came to Phnom Penh at 18, you were working at a minimart.  What was it that drove you to get to where you are now?

I had no qualifications – the only thing [I had] was a high school diploma. I couldn’t continue through to university like the other rich family kids. We have a saying that when you are poor, you have to struggle every day – it’s hard, but you have to have something that you set in your mind. When I moved to Phnom Penh… I committed that I had to have a good job in the city. In every stage of my career, from working at the minimart to my role as a receptionist with Riverorchid, then moving to the media team, at every step I put all my heart into my career to achieve my goal. And this caught the eye of the management also.

What skills do you look for in people hoping to get into the media industry?

In Cambodia it’s hard to find people with skills in media specifically – mostly they’re coming from marketing. There are a few universities that have started offering courses in advertising, but… even when they graduate, we cannot always get them to understand correctly what we are doing. But I think it’s also nice to have someone coming from marketing. Usually we are working with clients and with the brand team also, and mostly they are marketing people. If we have our own marketing person in our office it’s easy for them to talk to the client.

How important is a degree? Would you encourage would-be applicants to attend university?

From my point of view I still recommend having a degree – I think it will make it faster for them to learn. My career has been a success, but I spent ten years here before I became the media director. I had to learn everything from experience – I don’t have a background in this field. So I would encourage them to get the degree. But from our management point of view, I’ve become their case story – they say “we don’t really care about qualifications or degrees, it’s just how people perform”. There may be some people who have graduated from their MBA, but when they start working they cannot perform well. So from a management point of view, they say it’s not always necessary.

What personal qualities do you look for in employees?

The person has to have general knowledge about Cambodia’s media landscape – they have to understand what’s happening on TV, what’s happening outside. And secondly, media people have to be good at numbers. If they’re not really interested in or good at numbers, it’s hard for them to work in media. Our media team is living with Excel every day! And also one other thing we look for is if they can build leadership with other people around them.

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