“I am proud to contribute to Cambodia’s welfare and to help women’s empowerment”
Sara Monti , born in Novara, obtained a master’s degree in Law at Milan State University. Starting a brilliant career as a corporate lawyer in Milan, she worked for top-class law firms, then moved to China, where she continued to work for top Italian law firms, specializing in direct investments and Chinese market entry. Sara moved to Cambodia in 2020. Today we have the pleasure to chat with her and get to know her story and her experience of Cambodia.
Sara, why did you decide to move to Cambodia?
I’ve always wanted an international career and have tried to combine this with my passion for the East. I started in China, where I lived for over four years, and then “stumbled upon” Cambodia during a trip with friends in 2018. During this vacation, I met my future husband, with whom I continued a long-distance relationship. As a result, I decided to move to Cambodia in January 2020.
What is your job in Cambodia?
I worked for years for the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China, so I was pleased to continue doing the same in Cambodia. I’m now an Executive Board Member in both ICBA and Eurocham in Cambodia. These associations have allowed me to build a solid professional network and broaden my understanding of Cambodia’s Law and Economy.
Can you please explain what it means to collaborate with a Chamber of Commerce?
I serve ICBA as an “intermediary” for the Italian Chamber’s position and request to be heard in a pan-European context.
For Eurocham, I support the planning of events and promoting activities to boost brand awareness. For example, in 2021, colleagues and I launched a new project to promote women’s empowerment in Cambodia. It’s a series of online and offline events and round table discussions on women’s current standing and viable ways to improve inclusivity nationwide.
Can you please tell us about the youth development initiatives you support?
I started two collaborations through which I could help young people successfully enter the job market.
As a UNDP Cambodia Start-up Advisor, I participated in a program to support young entrepreneurs in making their business ideas a reality. Over six months, I participated in weekly meetings and advised on my expertise, such as contract conditions or business communication.
I also collaborate remotely with Ca’ Foscari University to mentor its ICBA partnered initiative “Developing Talents in Cambodia”. This project took me back to my university days and how much I could have benefitted from mentoring to orient myself throughout my studies.
What is your proudest achievement since you moved to Cambodia?
I am proud of my collaboration with EBA (Everything But the Arms) treaty renegotiations. The EU has recently revoked part of the customs preferences previously granted to Cambodia due to the government’s alleged violations of human rights and democracy.
I cannot go into further detail as negotiations are ongoing, but I can say it has been one of the most stimulating experiences of my career.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to move to Cambodia as a corporate lawyer?
First and foremost, be prepared and thoroughly study all those subjects, i.e., international trade law, international contract principles, Cambodia regulatory structure that are requested once they have moved here.
They should be up-to-date on the country’s socio-economic standing and need to have some prior hands-on experience. To become a well-rounded professional, one should be familiar with the market and the country’s reality to operate.
They should be patient and resilient too in adapting to local customs and lifestyles different from Europe.
How do you find work-life balance?
I recently became a mother and had to reduce my workload to dedicate myself to my family. As a result, I’ve started accepting roles that I can commit to fulfilling promptly. Remote working has helped quite a lot to organize my schedule efficiently, although I plan to return to a normal workload as soon as possible.
Let’s talk about your ex-pat experience; what do you love about Cambodia?
I instantly gelled with the people’s calm attitude to life and work. This tranquillity immediately bewitched me after years of living in the frenzy of Shanghai and Beijing.
Is there anything you miss about Italy?
To walk in the open air. Unfortunately, in Phnom Penh, there are not many green spaces, and I don’t have much time to enjoy the nature of the city. However,I have a deep passion for horse riding, which I started on my arrival in Cambodia. I see this as my gateway to reconnect with nature.
Do you have a favorite spot outside the capital?
My all-time favorite is Kep, a tiny coastal town near Kampot in southern Cambodia. I love to stay by the sea and enjoy the luscious vegetation. So my husband and I go there as often as possible to take a break from Phnom Penh’s frenzy.
Another place I hold dear is the embankment on the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh. It was the first place I ever visited in Cambodia, and I still love to go there in the early morning with my daughter and walk, enjoying the silence and the beauty of the landscape at dawn.
How do you imagine post-COVID Cambodia?
I am an optimist. I feel safe here and confident that the institutions have everything under control. Moreover, Cambodians are extremely careful and rigorously to follow anti-COVID rules. Therefore, regardless of this momentary setback, I believe the economy will start growing again soon.
📌 To make a connection with Sara Monti, visit her profile on our Business Directory here.
📷 Sara Monti