Riccardo Corrado

Assistant Professor at the American University of Phnom Penh

“Research is a never-ending process; it is all about how much time one devotes to it.”

Riccardo Corrado moved to Cambodia in 2017 from Trieste. He currently works at the American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP) as an Assistant Professor in the Information Technology Management Faculty. He holds the prestigious post of Advisor to the Cambodian Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. Today, we are glad to have him talk about why he moved to Cambodia.

Good morning Riccardo, can you please expand on your academic background?

I obtained a BSc. in Electronic Engineering and then an MSc in Telecom Engineering from the University of Trieste. Then, I took the State Board Exam to become a licensed information engineer and subsequently enrolled in a Ph.D., focusing on wireless networks, from which I graduated in 2016.

How did your career start?

I started as an Automation Test Engineer at Allianz Assicurazioni in Trieste. I was in charge of software testing before the market release. During the six months there, I grew immensely personally and professionally. I realized I wanted to work in academia rather than solely in business.

How did you transition from corporate to academia?

Such radical change requires determination! Therefore, I applied to many of Italy and other countries, including Cambodia. Ultimately I accepted an offer in Cambodia over other opportunities because of the good vibes received during the job interview.

So, you are legitimately part of the “brain drain”?

I think so. I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities in Italy that I could seize here.

So, in 2017, I moved to Phnom Penh. At that time, I worked as a Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at the now named Paragon International University. One year later, I was promoted to Head of the Management Information Systems Department. I held this position for two years.

I’ve worked for the American University of Phnom Penh since 2020. I teach in two courses: Introduction to Information Technology and Systems Architecture. I also mentor students enrolled in the double degree program in collaboration with Fort Hayes University in the US.

Besides prestigious job offers, are there other reasons you decided to move to Cambodia?

I’m astonished by the myriad of opportunities Cambodia offers. I refer to it as “little USA” because it reminds me of the United States in the roaring ‘20s. For example, I was honored to be nominated Advisor to the Cambodian Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. In this role, I work on cloud computing and data engineering projects and other initiatives to enhance Telecom Quality of Service and promote Information Technology (IT) literacy at the university level. Furthermore, I advise drafting new decrees and laws regarding telecom services. In addition, I often partner with big players in the IT sector like Google, Cisco, Microsoft, and Amazon.

What do you like about your job?

It’s flexibility and work-life balance. The fact that I own my own time (even though I love what I do and spend entire days working…) I also enjoy working with big telecom companies, which allows me to learn something new every day.

What do you teach to your students besides technologies?

I try to use methods that allow my students to develop skills in critical thinking and avoid learning concepts by heart. Cambodians are taught to memorize and take pride in remembering complex information from an early age. I try to push students to interiorize concepts instead of learning them. This helps them to elaborate and apply solutions to real-life cases. I also work on another cultural aspect. Students in Southeast Asia see professors as high up in the “hierarchy” and, therefore, unapproachable. I interact with my class as peers, and I try to put them at ease to ask me any question.

What do you like the most about living in Cambodia?

I love the culture of openness and courtesy, especially in younger generations. Their mindset facilitates interactions between locals and foreigners, and this is priceless for someone like me, who works all day surrounded by complexity.

Where is your favorite place in Cambodia?

I like Siem Reap. It is a city where people can relax and never get bored—the perfect alternative to Phnom Penh, which is business-oriented and always bustling. 

Do you have a habit you carry with you from Italy?

There are two things I could never forgo: coffee and pizza. Cambodians love coffee but drink it long and usually iced. Pizza is also widely available here but enjoyed mainly by foreigners.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic influence your teaching?

The most significant change was the switch from in-person lessons to online. Thankfully the transition was seamless. I consider myself tech-savvy and have been specializing in online teaching and implementation of IT in education which made the new format even easier. However, the biggest challenge was rethinking assessment methodology to adapt to online teaching.

To conclude, what is your best advice for Italians wishing to relocate to Cambodia?

Firstly they should learn about the cultural differences and broaden their horizons. Social and professional interactions here work entirely differently, and it makes no sense to come and try to change the Cambodians into our framework of thinking.

Thanks, Riccardo, for sharing with us not just his passion but the realization of a dream!

✍️ Federico Rosmarini