Meet Rottana: Rising Star in The Cambodian Tech Sector


អត្ថបទ​នេះមានជាភាសា៖ kmខ្មែរ


By Georgi Simpkin

Communications Consultant

Development Innovations (DI) first spotted Rottana back in 2015 when he applied for their Young Professional Program. A recent graduate of Computer Sciences from the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, he had a natural aptitude to solve problems and an inquisitive mind, which made him a great fit for the DI program.

Rottana described the Young Professional Program as being quite different from other internships, “At DI they brought together technology and soft skills training. They also want to help solve social problems for our country and build networks, which was a first for me,” said Rottana.

During the program, Rottana was placed at Codingate, an award-winning tech innovation start up based in Phnom Penh. Twice a month, he would check in with the DI team for group sharing, additional training and mentoring. Reflecting on the Young Professional Program Rottana pinpoints an important shift in his thinking: “When I learned coding at University, we try to solve problems from our own experiences and ideas. The Human Centered Design training from DI opened my mind to think of solutions not just from me but from the end user. For the first time we had to design carefully for the person who will use the technology. We had to think if it was effective.”

In addition to developing his technical skills at Codingate he was also heavily involved with DI initiatives to promote Information Communications Technologies (ICTs) in the tech community. Rottana volunteered at many tech related workshops, including Barcamp and later Technovation. He remembers how much he enjoyed speaking about ICT during these events, but said this wasn’t always the case: “Before joining DI, I was good at technology, but I lacked soft skills. We had to speak regularly during the DI sharing sessions and it was the first time I speak in front of people. DI gave me coaching and training on how to public speak and it really built my confidence.” Rottana has worked for the last two years as a lecturer at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia and comments, “I really like speaking in public now.”

After the DI Young Professional Program, Rottana was awarded a scholarship to pursue a Masters in Software Development in France. When he returned to Phnom Penh in 2017, he reconnected with DI and joined the Technovation program as a technical mentor. Technovation is a global technology entrepreneurship program for girls 10 to 18 years old, originally funded by DI, now funded by the Royal Government of Cambodia and the private sector. As a technical mentor, Rottana helped the girls learn how to identify a problem in their community as well as teaching them basic coding to create a mobile app to address the problem.

“Rottana was dedicated and very helpful during the Technovation 2017. He was not only accountable for his students, but also committed to do whatever he can to ensure everyone is on the same page,” says Lydet Pidor, Technovation Lead Mentor.

This year, Rottana helped to implement the Technovation program at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, the first season co-organized by the university, DI and the Technovation community. Commenting on this year’s program, Rottana said, “I believe we can solve social and community problems through tech. We need to take advantage of evolving technology and the next generation to do better for our society.”

When asked about DI’s impact on his life, Rottana said: “Before DI, I mostly study all the time. They opened my mind, my world and broadened my knowledge. Through DI I met people, joined tech events on the weekend and found my community. I realized, you don’t have to limit yourself in just one box. You can study hard and play hard.”

Later this year, Rottana is travelling once again to France after being awarded a scholarship to pursue his PhD in Computer Vision and Machine Learning: “People detection robustness using deep neuron networks” at the University of Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France.