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  • GrowHer

From part-time real estate to the general manager of Sela Pepper

As a second-year Business Administration degree student, Sopha worked a part-time job doing real estate. During one of her viewings, she landed herself an opportunity of a lifetime. Impressed by her presentation and communications skills, her client offered her the position of General Manager, Sela Pepper Co. Ltd, Cambodia Pepper Processing Plant (Export & Import), the first modern technology facility located in a heart of Cambodia Pepper region – a new country affiliate that they were setting up.

When she was first offered the job, Sopha was in pure shock and could not believe he was offering her such a position despite having no prior experience.

Doubt filled her mind as she thought about taking on this important role. As the General Manager, she would have to juggle managing the head office and factory, working teams, and the administrative demands of the company all simultaneously. Her current CEO however, told Sopha that he could see her succeeding as a manager and that he was willing to give her a chance. Hence despite her worries and doubts, Sopha decided to take a leap of faith to pursue this golden opportunity and told herself she would just try her best.

In the beginning, as a young woman without much experience, Sopha found it very challenging.

Tasked with overseeing and facilitating the construction of the factory about 200 km from Capital City, Sopha had to spend time in the factory by herself. Being in a rural area, there was no electricity in the factory. Sopha had to manage her own generator and necessities.

Additionally, as the company was in its early stages and didn’t have many working teams, every harvesting season, Sopha would travel out of the city to visit pepper farms and speak with the farmers herself and provide them with educational training. Moreover, during these tough adjustment periods, her CEO was often travelling and left her to manage processes on her own.

While she was very happy working as the position of General Manager, Sopha also felt that it came at a price of loneliness at times. Her non-stop schedule kept her very busy with little time for social and family life and she explained how at one point she started isolating herself. This feeling was exacerbated by the fact that she couldn't confide in her family about her work as they weren’t supportive of her constantly being away from home.

Despite facing resistance from others for being a young and inexperienced woman taking a job with big responsibilities, Sopha constantly reminded herself to stay focused and paid no attention to other people’s judgments. She knew she had a job to do and wanted to do her job well. After six years on the job now, Sopha looks back at how far she's come and the effort it took to get to where she is right now. She has established herself well as the General Manager, and after years of experience and results to show for, her family has now come to a better understanding and is fully supportive of her.

From a young age, Sopha had always dreamed of becoming a successful businesswoman and she feels that she has fulfilled her dream.

She expressed how grateful she is that her job has provided her with opportunities she never deemed possible: speaking with government and industry leaders, expanding her global network, and lifelong learning. Moreover, she loves and finds her job extremely rewarding - she gets to engage and work with people at all levels of the value chain from farmers, government and organization leaders. She personally feels that she has learned so much and will continue to learn and share from everyone no matter their position and title.

Her hope is to see more women come into positions of leadership in the field of agriculture, and hopes that her story will inspire and enable others to be confident in taking risks and putting in the hard work to achieve their goals and dreams.

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