At 22, Sath Sodany or Da Ny is currently completing her third degree, working fulltime for an international company and starting up her own business. But if you think she has already too much on her plate at a very young age, you’re wrong. Da Ny is also a passionate public speaker. She tells Eileen McCornick her motivations and what’s keeping her ‘busy’ these days.
Good Times2: You’re doing so many things at the same time. Do you still have free time?
Da Ny: I hate having free time. I really want to keep myself busy all the time. That’s why I finished two degrees already, and currently finishing the third one. I also run a start-up business. I believe the key towards achieving many things is just time management. When you do the things that you love, it’s not really hard to fit them all in your list of responsibilities. I am not going to lie that I have somehow given up the traditional college lifestyle or the life that 20-somethings experience, like going out with friends, etc. I work seven days a week because there’s just not enough time in a day.
Good Times2: How did you get into public speaking? Were your parents supportive of the path you’re taking?
Da Ny: When I was a kid, I was shy and was often bullied because I didn’t know how to communicate well. People didn’t understand what I was trying to say. When I started public speaking, I feel like I am helping other children who are also trying to be understood through spoken words. I am fortunate to be able to share my own experiences and see people’s reactions every time I am up on stage. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to share my story.
My parents were, of course, supportive of me. But they don’t have a background in public speaking and neither in business. So it’s hard for them to understand what I am really doing. My mom is a traditional housewife, and my father works in the government. Sometimes, they think I am doing so many things and they can’t keep track of the things I am being involved in.
Good Times2: You said you used to be so shy. What steps did you take to become a successful public speaker?
Da Ny: Honestly, I don’t really know how I did it. But I guess, for people who want to develop their public speaking skills, they just have to put themselves out there. It helps that I am active on social media. I can easily be reached for event invitations and I can also share my events to other people. Not so many Cambodian youths are willing to speak up. I guess we just have to be open to accepting offers that may lead us out of our comfort zones.
Good Times2: How many public speaking events have you participated in?
Da Ny: I have represented Cambodia in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia. I have pretty much been around most of Southeast Asia participating in public speaking events to motivate youth and help people get to know Cambodia. Locally, I have spoken at Ignite, universities, youth events at Meta House and, of course, TEDx. This September, I will be speaking at a business leadership conference.
Good Times2: What were some of your favourite events and experiences?
Da Ny: TEDx! I have always been a fan of TEDx, so it really was my dream to be part of it. Each TEDx event is different, but they all helped me grow. I enjoy going around representing Cambodia in different countries. Now, people know where Cambodia is. It’s not in Africa! Some people really have no idea where our country is. It’s good that they now know that we exist.
I also love it when I travel. I learn so many things. My first event abroad was memorable. I was 16 or 17 that time. My parents were really very strict. I wasn’t allowed to go out, so it came as a surprise when they agreed to send me to China for an event. I was so young that time and have never travelled alone. Simple things like taking public transport and finding a place to eat were a bit scary. But I did well.
Good Times2: Is there any TEDx speaker who serves as your inspiration?
Da Ny: Yes, the COO of Facebook – Sheryl Sandberg. I love how she can speak about women empowerment and the need for them to be leaders in business. As a Khmer woman, I can say we have a somewhat bad history towards our treatment of women. Men and women should be treated equally, no better or worse. I am passionate about speaking about women empowerment issues and I draw inspiration from Ms Sandberg in her TEDx talk.
Good Times2: Do you prefer to speak publicly in English or Khmer?
Da Ny: I prefer doing my speeches in English because it allows me to speak fast and get my message across. For the Khmer language, it’s more like poetry so it has to be slower and the timing of speaking matters. I can do both, but I guess English is just faster and easier.
Good Times2: What advice can you give to those starting out in public speaking?
Da Ny: Be brave. It’s not about language barrier. I know a lot of people use that as an excuse, but they’re just really scared to tell their stories publicly. I want people to know that your life, your experiences, and even your mistakes are something you should not be ashamed of because that’s what connects you with other people. Don’t worry about what others think of you or if you’re shaking when you’re up on stage. Always tell yourself that “this is my story and I am proud of it”.
Good Times2: Where would you like to be in the next five years?
Da Ny: Well, it’s not really a place or the kind of person I want to be. It’s a dream for Cambodia. I want to see more Cambodian women leading businesses and organisations. I don’t want to grow on my own while looking at my fellow women still on the same spot. I want us to all move forward, to show what we can achieve. Cultural change – I guess that’s what I’m really dreaming of.