Irina’s company provides software development for mobile applications as well as human resource systems – one of the largest Cambodia.
Irina’s story begins in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, where she studied IT at a technical university. Despite her high marks, IT was not her first career choice. She wanted to study psychological therapy and help people with deep rooted problems.
This was influenced by personal experiences as a number of friends had come to her for help with their emotional difficulties, some quite serious. Her mother, however, a strong and practical woman, steered Irina in a different direction – towards IT which was just taking off in Kazakhstan. “She is such a strong and stubborn woman that it was just easier to listen to her,” Irina says.
Her mother was acting from knowledge, having been employed by the German embassy in Almaty, with exposure beyond the borders of Kazakhstan. She noticed through her work that Germany in the late 1990s was outsourcing much of its electronic work to India, and that gave her ideas for her daughter’s future.
Irina did not waste any time, enrolling in IT courses and working for one of the first internet providers in the country while studying.
When that company failed, she began working nights at a call center that served Kazakhstan only, where she experienced and learned mobile technology from the ground up that was to serve her well in her future endeavors.
Her employers recognized Irina’s natural intelligence and found more challenging positions for her within their business concern, and so began a rotation of work roles, most of them lasting a few months.
The real breakthrough came when the business purchased a billing solution from Israel. It was Irina’s first taste of what lay outside in the wide world, and at the age of 22 she wanted to be part of it. When Amdocs, the Israeli company, offered her a working position in Bangladesh she jumped at the opportunity.
When asked where she actually lived, she answered: “My base was the airplane.” Did she like this country hopping? Being young and adventurous she enjoyed the luxury of five-star hotels and all the amenities that her job provided. The cycle was finally broken when Amdocs offered to relocate her from Cambodia to Africa, and she refused to move there.
Irina however stood on firm ground, as she was the one to introduce Amdocs into Cambodia through her contacts in Kazakhstan. In late 2007 she decided to stay there and found a position with Visor Group Shareholders, which was one of the four mobile phone companies in Cambodia.
After two years, in 2009, Irina opened her own business. Although at this point there were nine mobile operators in Cambodia, all were using imported software solutions. There was nothing that was produced locally. “So I decided to close the gap and provide the services with my own business solutions.” And that is what she did.
“I knew that I could develop software technology better than anyone in Cambodia, and teach the many bright Cambodian minds that did not have any opportunities.” In order to expose them to life outside Cambodia she took the people who worked for her to Israel, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Moscow and Bangkok, small and different groups each time.
Cresittel opened its doors with five employees, all Cambodian, but it was already a known enterprise in Cambodia’s IT world. The day before the official inauguration, Irina was approached by a customer with urgent needs and took the job right there and then. And when asked what the name of her company was - she did not have any name yet – Irina created the name on the spot, one that she thought suitable using parts of creative solutions IT telecom and the name stuck.
Today, after nine years of managing her business, Irina employs 29 people both Cambodian and foreign nationals. She has relocated to Thailand, at first commuting between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, but has now made Bangkok her base where she lives with her husband and baby son. Irina travels to Cambodia once or twice a month as needed, staying one working week at a time. No matter where she is, she continues to work long hours, “I even worked in the hospital the first day after my son was born”, she confided. And what are her plans for the future? “To continue growing the business!”