Cambodian Female Achieves Dream of Working at Google

Chan Dalis speaks to Kiripost’s Meas Molika about becoming one of a handful of Cambodians to work at tech giant Google, her journey into the sector and mission to inspire other Cambodian women, and how software engineering can help solve societal problems.
Chan Dalis (third left) will work in a team called Google's Next Billion Users initiative. Kiripost/supplied
Chan Dalis (third left) will work in a team called Google's Next Billion Users initiative. Kiripost/supplied

Chan Dalis’s childhood dream was that one day she would be an astronaut, exploring space to look at the planets, stars, and moon and conduct experiments.

Being awarded a scholarship to study at a high school in Singapore was a life-changing experience for Dalis. In fact, it led to her becoming one of the first Cambodian female software engineers to work at Google Asia Pacific in Singapore.

This came after a failed attempt applying to intern at the global tech company when she was studying at college.

Scholarships to Singapore

Dalis won a scholarship to study in Singapore for eight years from Grade 9 to undergraduate class. In May, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from National University of Singapore.

When she was in Grade 11 in Phnom Penh, the young Dalis found out that there was an offering for ASEAN scholarships to study in Singapore through one of her friend’s family. During that time, the scholarship was not widely publicized in Cambodia.

After a few months submitting her application, she received the news she and her family were hoping for – that she was to be awarded the scholarship to study abroad. However, she needed to start from Grade 9 due to insufficient credit.

In Singapore, she studied at Xinmin Secondary School from Grade 9 to 10 before attending Nanyang Junior College from Grade 11 to 12.

After graduating from high school, Dalis received a fully-funded scholarship for her undergraduate degree in Computer Science at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Dalis won a scholarship to study in Singapore for eight years. Kiripost/supplied
Dalis won a scholarship to study in Singapore for eight years. Kiripost/supplied

Internship at Google Singapore

Dalis applied for many jobs, but consistently received rejection letters. mostly she got rejected. She applied for internships at Google twice until she was finally accepted.

“The first time I applied for an internship there was in year two and I was rejected. In year three, I was accepted. So, Google is one of the hardest companies to break into because they have one of the most difficult interview processes.”

She added, “It was not really easy and as an intern I just tried to work really hard so I could get good feedback from my supervisor. The one who writes your feedback and the People Operations (or HR) is the one that decides whether to convert you to full-time or not.”

She was rejected when applying for an internship at Google in her second year, and finally accepted at the end of her third year at NUS.

From May to July 2021, Dalis worked virtually as a Google intern due to pandemic restrictions in Singapore. After completing her internship, Dalis secured employment with the global company as a software engineer.

“The job application was super tedious. I think my experience is the same as everyone else. I’ve applied to a lot of jobs, but I got rejected by most. I got accepted by some, but, luckily, I was accepted by Google.”

In general, college students in Singapore are required to have internship experience during years three and four. Dalis was doing an internship at the end of her third year at university and got an offer by Google after graduation based on her internship performance.

“In my university, the norm is to go for an internship while you are studying. It’s not just you study for four years and then get a job. Actually, I had to do an internship throughout. What happened was, I did an internship with Google in my third year and Google has a program where they can convert an intern into full-time [worker] upon graduation.”

Dalis is also believed to be the only one female Cambodian student who was studying Computer Science at NUS (The National University of Singapore). Diverse cultures, employees, and equalization of the gender in technology has motivated this young Cambodian female in computer science to have a dream to work for this company; despite being rejected.

She said, “Google has a really good culture and that is the kind of environment that I want to put myself in. What I like about it is that Google has a very diverse culture. People come from different backgrounds and they really try to equalize gender in technology. I also want to be in an environment where women are valued and there are women around me.”

The software engineer wants to see more women involved in technology and science jobs. “I don’t want to be the only female in my team. I don’t know why, I just really want there to be more female,” she said.

Her childhood dream job was to become an astronaut as she loved science, mathematics, and physics. After challenging herself during her high school years, such as joining a coding program, she became interested in coding and carried out extra research related to her Computer Science major.

Her advice for young Cambodians is to experience a variety of things to find out more about who they are and their passions in life.

“It is important to just go and do it, so you will know [about yourself]. It’s harder. You can read about it, you can learn about it in school, but you really just need to experience it.”

She told Kiripost in an interview before flying to Singpore to join Google that, “You will know what you are passionate about and you have to acknowledge that passion changes as well. You have to be flexible and be kind to yourself. Let yourself feel the different passions and let yourself change if you want to change.”

Dalis believes that the more diversified a person is in one working environment, the more creative ideas spark for better solutions.

“It is not only just gender, if you have a demographic that scopes only one race, one gender or one group of ages then you are losing a lot of diversity. In general, having a diversified group of people working on one problem will bring you more perspectives to solve that one problem,” she said.

“A company might change when it is more diverse. For example, more males first and then more females like more balanced. Maybe in discussion, a few new points will come up. So, in general, diversity is important.”

Being a software engineer is not as simple as people think. Dalis believes software engineering has a lot of impact for society to create better solutions for a more convenient life.

“What software engineers create is what everyone uses, they reach billions of people worldwide. Software engineering has made a lot of impact. Let’s say for example, Google Drive. A lot of people use Google Drive,” she explained. “And maybe you improve one feature and maybe you think you can only do one feature, but billions of people use it and you improve the lives of a lot of people.”

Dalis will start her full-time job at Google Singapore in August. She will work in a team called Google's Next Billion Users initiative, which conducts research and builds products for people around the world to help new internet users with budget smartphones to gain the full potential of using Google products.

“I’m personally motivated to make an impact on society. That's why I got into Google because I knew that a lot of people are using Google products.”

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