Interview with Simon Tomaszewski, commercial director of CTC Group

This week, Senior Communications Officer Brian Badzmierowski interviewed Mr. Simon Tomaszewski, the commercial director of CTC Group, one of EuroCham’s newest members. CTC Group offers a wide range of training programmes for corporations, including courses on communication, sales, project management, digital skills, and sustainability. SkillGate is the Cambodian branch of CTC Group, with Mr. Tomaszewski in charge of its operations in the Kingdom.

Brian: Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you come to Cambodia and how did you find your niche here?

Simon: I left Europe in 2014 and set my sights on China. I stayed there for four years, working in various capacities but primarily in quality control. I was contracted by European companies who wanted someone onsite to ensure that the goods they ordered met their standards. China was a fantastic place to be in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Later, it became more constrained and difficult to conduct business. That's when I made the decision to relocate to Cambodia.

Given my knowledge of the Chinese market and the relationship between China and Cambodia, it was a natural choice. I was drawn to Cambodia because of the ease with which businesses can be established and the opportunities in the services sector, which has a lot of room for improvement.

Cambodia has already made tremendous strides in providing better services during my five years here. That was very appealing when we decided to open the Cambodian branch of CTC Group, SkillGate. It is a land of possibilities!

Brian: CTC Group consists of four companies. Could you briefly break down each of them?

Simon: Sure, the companies are: Nova, SkillGate, Tabula, and JBS. Except for SkillGate, which was founded for the Cambodian market, they are all based in Poland. Nova is the oldest and has a long history of working with industry leaders such as Amazon, which uses Nova to train their employees in a variety of fields.

Tabula specializes in corporate language training, with a focus on business English and negotiation skills. Junior Business School, or JBS, focuses on practical training programmes for high school and university students.

Brian: Why did CTC Group choose Cambodia?

Simon: There was extensive research involved - a year and a half of making sure everything was correct and testing various scenarios. My partner was with Tabula, and I was with Nova, and we all got together to scout several emerging markets. We considered Africa for a while, with my partner on the ground to see if it would be profitable to run a business there. Profitability can be challenging, particularly if the country's political system is unstable.

In the end we decided that Cambodia was the best fit because it is a stable country with a young population. It is an economy that has grown rapidly and continues to do so. There is a lot of room for improvement, and what comes with it, a lot of room for corporate training. Of course, there will be some challenges, but in comparison to other countries we considered, such as Mozambique, Zambia, and Botswana, we felt Cambodia was the best choice. Given the youth of our population, we provide specialized training for young professionals and recent graduates. These include topics like how to run a business and how to prepare for the real world.

Brian: Why would you say the courses you offer are essential to the modern Cambodian workplace and how are you different from other training programmes?

Simon: I have extensively scouted the local training market, and it is going in the right direction, but it needs a push towards new thinking about education. How we distinguish ourselves from other training companies is that we do very personalised and tailor-made training. We don’t mix and match, we don’t offer 20 spots for a Zoom training, where five of the participants are sleeping, and another five are just absent. Then at the end, they get a diploma and that’s it.

When we come in, we perform an audit, we do a questionnaire, and we consult with management to target specific points of interest, exact fields that prove to be a challenge for the company. For example, for language training, we interview the actual employees, of the administration department, and we pinpoint where the problem is occurring. Is it reading, writing, grammar, or pronunciation? Sometimes it can be a matter of confidence and speaking up. Then we tailor our course to achieve the objective as efficiently as possible. We are fixated on efficiency. We don’t like to waste anyone’s time.

We have a box full of learning tools to deliver the best experience, and we can pull the best pieces to construct the best training based on our audits and conversations with managers. Our trainers are highly qualified experts from various fields who are primarily based in Europe and the United States. Some are professors from MIT and American University, among other institutions, and many have corporate experience, allowing them to teach both theory and practical skills. We have nearly ten trainers in Cambodia, with more arriving in October.

One of our other advantages is that our priority is to stay current. We strive to keep up with global trends in corporate training. And right now, the world's most pressing needs are sustainability, AI implementation, and cybersecurity. Because the environment is changing so quickly, curriculums must be updated and new skills must be taught. Finland is an excellent example; their education system is among the best in the world because they updated their curricula and had the courage to think outside the box.

Exam-driven education has run itself into the corner by prioritising writing skills. AI is making writing so much easier. Thinking critically and being able to fully use those technologies has become much more sought-after skills. What’s really important is critical thinking, being able to think on the spot, and problem solving. We should now move away from prioritising writing and passing exams and focus on speaking and critical thinking. All of those concepts can, and should be, applied in corporate training too.

Brian: What excites you most about working in the Cambodian market? Where do you see it headed in the next five years?

Simon: What excites me the most is how much room for improvement there is. Also, what’s very exciting is the international community and its engagement in the local market. I find that EuroCham is taking on an important role. It’s a very active community and it’s really a driving force in the market, really helping both international companies and local companies to find each other and find fields of cooperation.

The networking aspect of working in Cambodia is very exciting as well – meeting people from all around the world. As you know, there are people from every single country here, running different kinds of businesses. And that’s definitely very exciting because it can really expand everyone’s view and horizons. We can learn a lot about how business is conducted in various parts of the world and how all those ideas meet in one country.

The market can be volatile too, however. There are several sectors that are spurring this rapid growth, such as the real estate market. But this rapid growth requires implementation of several international strategies to keep it sustainable. The market is very saturated, with many projects being completed – a lot of new boreys, a lot of skyscrapers. Cambodian companies need every single competitive edge they can get. The real estate market is definitely one that could use tailor-made corporate training to find it.

Apart from purely corporate objectives, our five-year plan includes extensive collaboration with local communities in the areas of sustainability and human resources. We believe that corporate training has a positive impact on the lives of local residents. Better educated management can provide a more favorable working environment for those on the front lines of commerce. Employee retention improves with better management, resulting in more qualified employees, better working conditions, and higher profits for all.


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