The latest in our series of Heroes Work Here articles features a real epic journey – from Cambodia to Jersey – with everything to learn along the way, from a new country to a new culture, new friends and a brand-new career.
Business Support Administrator Rosa Micheljump was nominated as a ZEDRA Hero, not only for the character qualities he brings to his role, but also for his depth of commitment he shows to his chosen path. Despite English not being his first language, and being completely new to the Trust industry, Rosa achieved the highest mark for any candidate in Jersey in the STEP Certificate in International Trust Management in 2021.
Read on to find out more about Rosa’s inspiring story, and the outlook that has helped him choose a different path, learn from challenges and have the determination and commitment to follow his dream.
Tell us about your early life and background.
I’m from Cambodia. Going back generations, my family were always farmers, but after my grandparents lived through Cambodia’s many civil wars, from the 50s to the mid-90s, they decided they want to get a better future for our family. My father didn’t go to a proper school when he was growing up, so as an adult he worked very hard to get an education, learning English along the way.
That’s when I was born, in 1992 in a refugee camp between Cambodia and Thailand. The civil war was still going on when I was born, and when I was very young, I remember having to run in the middle of the night, into a ditch to hide from bombs and guerilla fighters. Most of the adults who went through the war don’t speak much about what happened. They prefer to leave it in the past, try not to let it drag them down, and just want to see a brighter future for their children and grandchildren.
I grew up in a rural village, went to high school and my plan was always to go to university in Cambodia and study IT. I could speak English quite well, and I really enjoyed it, so when an opportunity came up to volunteer with a charity as an English translator for three months, I took it.
That decision led to me working with the NGO for nine years, starting as a translator from Khmer (Cambodia’s national language) to English and then becoming the volunteer coordinator, working with people from the UK, the US and Australia. Deciding to stay and work at the NGO instead of going to study IT as I had planned was a big change. But I just loved meeting different people and cultures. I got to speak in English and learn about how people experience things in different cultures and different countries and hear their life stories.
I was soon promoted to the NGO’s business manager and put in charge of a café and a school that were run as commercial initiatives to help support communities and provide jobs for local people. That was a lot to learn for me, and brought a lot of challenges.
At the beginning I put a lot of hours in, because as I said, I had English, but I didn’t have the skills I needed to run a café. So, I spent a lot of hours learning – reading and watching YouTube videos on everything from how to make coffee, how to lead people, how to serve customers, and then how to teach people to serve customers!
While I was working with the NGO, I met my wife! She was a volunteer, we fell in love, and after she went back to Jersey, we carried on a long-distance relationship for four years. Then in 2020 we decided that it was time for us to be together. It was either her to move to Cambodia or me to move to Jersey, and in the end, we decided that I should come to Jersey. I arrived in February 2020, and we were due to get married in May, but as the lockdown got closer, we moved everything forward, and got married one week before everything shut down. We even ended up in the local paper!
When I got to Jersey, I was really unsure about what skills I had that would be relevant to a job here. But I applied for several jobs and was chosen by ZEDRA for an interview. I didn’t have any relevant experience in a trust, but because I had prior experience of running a small business and managing people, ZEDRA thought I had potential, and I was selected to be the business support administrator in July 2020.
What have you learned about yourself through this journey?
That it all starts with the dream. A lot of people who used to live in my village when I was growing up, are still there. And that shows the difference. If you have a dream and you believe within yourself that you can achieve that dream, and work for it, then something will happen. It might not be exactly to where you wish it to be, but you might get halfway there.
What have been the challenges for you?
One of my big challenges is actually working with people. I am myself a massive introvert, so it’s not easy, but what I’ve learned is that people are important, and everyone has something to contribute wherever you are and whatever role you are in.
My managers have taught me a lot, but also, I’ve learned a lot from the people I looked after when I was the business manager for the NGO. The businesses were set up to give local people jobs, and many people were not educated, so they had to learn how to work as a chef or as part of a café team for example. I was their manager, but they were all older than me, and in our culture, a young person will always respect the older person and listen to them, not the other way round. So, for me it was a real challenge to try and communicate and get everyone on board with the same mission – to make the business successful.
When you just start saying your own opinions, a lot of people won’t listen. Even if people do what you ask, they do it unwillingly, and it won’t last. I had to learn how to really listen to people, helping them to understand the importance of the task first and explaining and showing them how to do it.
I think if people understand the why first, why they need to do something, or why we want them to do something a certain way, then when you show them how to do it, they’re more likely to follow.
You find a middle ground where you both win in a situation, and people feel like they’re part of the mission, rather than just being told to do something.
So that was a challenge, but a rewarding challenge, because I could get everyone on board and help the company move forward.
What character qualities or values have you developed through that experience?
My father always told me to dream, have a bigger dream than your life and to have the determination and commitment to follow that dream. For me, life is an adventure, and you are only limited to your dream, your motivation and your commitment to it.
And also, not being afraid of the unknown. I think with every choice you make in life, there is consequence and opportunity, so I always looked forward to the opportunity that I would discover in the process.
And how do you use those character qualities or values now?
Again, it’s working hard and being committed, being open-minded and willing to learn new things. I believe that learning is a lifelong process, your mind should always be trying to move forward, otherwise you get bored.
When I started with ZEDRA, I didn’t know what a trust was, or the processes that needed to be gone through. Everything was very new, and I said to myself, ‘This is going to be hard’, but as usual I just had to put more hours in compared to other people, and learn, learn and learn! Also, to seek advice and learn to ask the right questions. Everyone here at ZEDRA is so friendly, and they’ve been very supportive in explaining things I don’t know.
Have you had to battle any limiting beliefs within yourself?
Absolutely yes, here I am in a new country, in a new job, speaking a new language – sometimes I can’t believe it myself! How am I here?!
When you have a dream or you want to achieve something, for me I always tell myself that I have a choice. The choice is either to stay in my comfort zone and have things stay the way they are, or to try something different, even though it’s uncomfortable, but it might be a bit more rewarding.
That’s how I view life. If you want something different, you can’t do the same thing – you have to do something different. So there’s a phrase that I always say, ‘Don’t expect a different result if you keep doing the same thing’.
Tell us about a time in your career when you had to do something difficult. What did you learn, or how did it add to your character?
I think there were two moments like that for me. The first one was choosing to stay and work for the NGO instead of doing what I’d always planned. That was a difficult decision for me because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I chose that path.
The other moment was coming to Jersey. It’s a big challenge because it’s a very different place to Cambodia, I think there are only four other Cambodians on the island. The culture is different and when I arrived, I didn’t know anyone else other than my wife and her family. And I still find it a big challenge, trying to fit in the time to understand the way that people communicate here, and the way people build relationships, but making that connection with friends and being able to ask for help, that really does make a difference.
Is there a time that you did something that someone might consider ‘heroic’? And if so, how do you view yourself, your life or your career as a result?
I wouldn’t say there’s one moment, it’s more of a life journey for me. The decisions I made were the opposite to the ones most of my peers chose, to finish high school, finish university and find a job in Cambodia close to their family.
For me, I have this belief that you have one life to explore. So just take that somewhere that you want to be and be willing to explore new things and step into the unknown.
If you had to name four qualities that you think a hero would display, what would they be?
Humility. Wherever you go, whatever role you’re in. The next one would be integrity. You need to have a belief and stand for what you believe in, and that’s integrity for me. Then determination. That’s important and it applies also to my life. You can dream so much, but without determination you get nowhere. And the last one is charisma, being able to show sincere care for people, being approachable and friendly to people. That’s where you find joy.
If you could go back in time and give advice to your younger self, what would you say?
I’d say invest more time in people. Actually, spending quality time with family and friends, that’s where I find joy in life, as I just said. When I was growing up, I would spend a lot of time by myself, because as an introvert, I found that my energy drained very fast when I was around people. But at the same time, being with people made me feel happy and joyful. So I’d tell the younger me to spend more time with people, and be a bit more adventurous in my life decisions.
Then, seek advice early rather than sitting there and guessing. At ZEDRA for me, it’s asking people how they do things, and that’s how you progress from one level to the next.
Also, use your focus on excelling in a few things rather than being a jack-of-all-trades. Because of the experience I’ve had so far, I can do a lot of things – I can fix things, build a computer, paint, make great coffee, make food – I can do all those things, but I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in any particular field. So, I think if you can focus on doing a few things, and do them really well, that would be good.
What words of wisdom would you like to pass on to colleagues who are just starting out on their own journey with ZEDRA?
I’ve only been here for two years, so I’m not sure I’m at a stage when I can provide wisdom yet! From my experience though, I would say, be open-minded in whatever role you’re in, be open to people, to listening to them. That’s how you learn, and learn how to be better.
Also don’t be afraid to take on new challenges – that’s how you grow in your role. When I first started, there were some new projects that came in, and I said to myself, ‘I don’t know how to do this, so should I take on this project or not?’. Then I thought, well if I take the project, I can always ask the manager how to do it. Or if I do it wrong, I can always learn from that.
Seek advice, ask questions. People want you to be good at your job, because it contributes to the success of the whole team.
Do you have a personal motto?
That phrase I mentioned earlier, ‘Don’t expect to see a different result if you keep doing the same thing’. That applies to every part of life. So, if I want to see a change, I need to do something different – I need to study new things, learn new things, and actually spend time with people in order to have friends.
What do you feel most proud of in your career at ZEDRA?
Being part of an awesome team at ZEDRA. They have been very supportive of the work that I do. I feel I’ve grown so much in the last two years. With the STEP studies that I did last year, I got the award for the top scoring student, which I didn’t expect at all, but it was a really nice surprise, and for me that’s another thing to be proud of.
And also, when I chose ZEDRA, I saw the motto: ‘Do More. Achieve More’, and that really inspired me. That’s also what I believe in life: a result comes from action, so the more you do, the more you see things happen. When I watch the history of how ZEDRA began in 2016, compared to now, and see how fast they have grown, it makes me proud to be part of an organisation like this, and very happy to be here.
Pick five words that describe what you feel you bring to ZEDRA life.
A smile! I like to smile at people, and whatever is going on, just smile at people and you’re more likely to get a smile back. You might brighten someone’s day, who knows.
Energy, I like to help people and I like to get things going. Drive and then passion and inquisitiveness. I like to ask questions – why things are the way they are, and why are we doing it this way, and can we do it in a way that’s easier or better?
What would your superhero skill be?
I’d like to fly! I remember when I was at primary school in our village, it was very rural and every once in a while, a plane would fly over the village and all of us, literally everyone, including the teacher, would run out to go and look at the plane. And I always thought to myself, ‘I want to be able to see the world from up there, exploring different places that I’ve never been to. That would be fun’.
What do you hope people will gain from reading your story?
I’d say that everyone is a hero in their own journey. And life is an adventure. When you look at it that way, it’s more exciting, and no matter what hardships you face, it’s part of the story. And that journey and that adventure is only limited to your dream and your commitment. How much you’re willing to commit, is how far you’re going to get.