The “University of Malis”, a Rich Learning Ground for our Team

SIN Vannay joined the Malis Siem Reap team four years ago as a restaurant supervisor, and continues to grow and flourish there, learning and doing more than ever before, while also setting a positive example for her young daughters.

When I started here, I had only done operations work before, but now I am doing so much more and with a much bigger team to supervise than I have ever worked with before

Vannay grew up at Roluos near Bakong temple, one of the earliest monuments of the Khmer Empire, just 15 miles away from Siem Reap. There, she grew up alongside her younger brothers and sisters while her parents grew and sold sugar cane juice. Vannay often accompanied her mother on the side of the roads leading towards the temple as she sold the sweet juice to passersby. At six years of age, she joined the local primary school before continuing her high-school education at Wat Svay in Siem Reap. Because of the distance and condition of the roads, she could only return home on the weekends.

And while she has huge ambitions that her own two daughters, aged 13 and 15, might be able to go on to university, that option was not open to her. Vannay left school at 15, and went straight to work at a local hotel. Over the years, she worked with a number of establishments with excellent reputations before finally coming to join us at Malis where she hopes to continue, and continue growing.

“When I started here, I had only done operations work before, but now I am doing so much more and with a much bigger team to supervise than I have ever worked with before too, so I am enjoying it very much. Sometimes I worry that I don’t know how to do what I need to learn, but I always try my best, and I enjoy learning so much,” she says.

In that respect, she has found her experience at Malis to be hugely enriching. “Other companies don’t really care about you learning and growing. They just want you to stay at the same level, and never give any time or encouragement for anything else. But here, we are all pushed to learn as much as we can, and it is very good. And it goes beyond what we learn for ourselves. I had never worked in a place before where as soon as someone learns something new, they share it with everyone else, but that is what happens here because the culture of learning is so strong that we all want everyone to participate in it as much as the company does”.

One of Vannay’s current challenges is getting to grips with computers and with email communications with local tour operators and hotels etc, for bookings for the restaurant. “I had never worked with computers before, so it was all new,” she says, somewhat wide-eyed even thinking about it. But it’s clear that she is relishing the opportunity to learn and do and be more than before, not only out of a strong sense of duty, curiosity and professionalism but also, it seems clear, because this is how she can set an example to her daughters.

“I want them to go to university, but I also need them to learn how to make money before they go,” she says. “It is very hard to find money! And Covid has taught us all how difficult things can get and that we cannot see the future. So I am encouraging them to find ways to earn their living, and to find skills so they can support themselves. I can teach them how to manage money, but they have to make it first”.

For now, she hopes to move up the rankings at Malis, and knows she still has plenty more to learn along the way. “I will learn more and more every day, it makes me very happy”.

Written by Nicky Sullivan

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