After graduating from Spain’s IE Business School, he co-founded an online start-up – deparz.com – with three co-founders in 2011. He ran the business, a marketplace that connected mobility advisors with people who needed help moving and settling down in London, for more than three years.
But he left to work at Aimia, a publically traded company which helps businesses launch and run loyalty programs, focused on the retail sector in EMEA and APAC.
He has just moved into a business development role in analytics and research at Genpact, a global IT services company that is listed on the NYSE.
Sokho, who is French-born Cambodian Chinese, says that his MBA gave him the confidence to take on global challenges, and has helped him land jobs ever since.
Why did you decide to begin an MBA program?
I felt like I needed to take my career to the next level, or to do something completely different such as launching my own company which I have always wanted to do. In both cases, I wanted to improve myself and move forward.
What made IE Business School, and Spain, attractive?
I wanted an MBA from a top-10 [business school], which would not take more than a year because of the investment and the opportunity cost of not working, and [a school] located in an attractive city – Madrid is a stunning place, I speak Spanish and who doesn’t love tapas?
You took an exchange to ESSEC Business School – did you benefit?
Yes – it increased my network, and it is helping me when I want to do business with French clients. ESSEC is a really well-regarded business school in France and in Europe. It is also a global reference when it comes to luxury management.
What value do you now place in your MBA?
Above all, this MBA at IE gave me more faith in myself to accomplish big things in a global, complex, and constantly changing environment. I learned a lot in finance, entrepreneurship [and] strategy, among other courses. In addition, I leveraged my network internationally.
It may have [also] contributed in the selection process to join Genpact – I have been told that they knew the value of an MBA from IE Business School.
You rose through the ranks at Carrefour to head of internet marketing and new media – how much of an impact did those areas have on the business?
I worked in the financial services and insurance division at Carrefour which accounted for about a fifth of the company’s profitability. Heading the internet and new media sales channel was a big responsibility, and represented a major part of the company, with massive growth potential.
Why did you leave to found Deparz in 2011? What success did you have with the business?
I was granted educational leave to study my MBA which I accepted with the idea to potentially get back to Carrefour [in] a more senior, international role.
However, I was surrounded by many entrepreneurial spirits [on the MBA] and eventually realised that I wanted to give it a try, and therefore I co-launched Deparz.
Even though it has not reached its full potential, I sense that this start-up experience has been the best thing that could have happened. I will try again in the future.
You then joined Aimia and have now joined Genpact – how influential was an MBA in securing these roles?
I would say that my MBA has had a [hand] in securing my roles at Aimia and at Genpact.
The MBA was a “cherry on the cake”. It gave confidence to my employers. Because they knew that IE had a top-tier international MBA, it gave them even more confidence to recruit me.
What are the main challenges that the retail industry currently faces?
The retail industry currently faces several hot issues: first, the vast amount of data which companies don’t really know how to deal with.
Second, in many countries, omni-channel [retailing] is becoming a reality and retailers need to understand how to cope with it.
Finally, we are witnessing the arrival of innovative concepts which retailers need to understand, digest, and learn to adapt [to] – for example, virtual shops.
What difficulties have you faced in expanding in EMEA and APAC at Aimia?
To define the right market entry strategy is the toughest exercise. Also, the nature of my role requires long and complex sales cycles with multiple senior stakeholders, which increases the complexity of the expansion in EMEA and APAC when you are based in one location only.
Once you have signed a contract with a client, to find and place the right people to work for [or] with our clients abroad is a real challenge.
Do you feel the MBA is beneficial in your day-to-day work life at Aimia and at Genpact?
Yes – I still use some of the things I learned during the MBA such as finance and strategy. Also, I can tap into my global network to access market information.
During my business trips there is nothing better than feeling [at] home – no matter where I go I end up having a drink with an alumnus of IE Business School.