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Alumni Profile

Jennifer Tabet, MILR'01

MILR alumna talks about her time at ILR and her international work

Personal pictureJennifer, Karen and Alex Tabet are siblings who all graduated from MILR program. Jennifer Tabet talks about her time at ILR and her international career.

AS: What career path have you followed after ILR?
JT: Upon graduation, I joined Merck & Co. as an HRBP at their corporate headquarters in New Jersey. From the first on-campus interview I had with them, I made it clear that my main interest is to join a global company because my plan is to relocate back to the Middle East. I was lucky that an opportunity presented itself at Merck’s Middle East Regional Office almost a year after joining the company. My international experience with Merck was invaluable. Being the regional HR Manager handling a region that included 8 countries jump started my career by providing me with a unique opportunity to work on all aspects of HR. 

AS: Can you tell us about your current position/ international experiences?
JT: In 2005 I established my own consultancy company which was a project I have always wanted to do. My main target group is family owned businesses in Lebanon and neighboring countries. These are institutions that have grown in size and have started engaging in regional operations without giving much thought to HRM. Some second and third generation of owners are convinced that HR can be a source of competitive advantage and they are seeking external assistance and know-how to establish their own HR department in-house. The projects I am involved in include consulting work, training and undertaking surveys. In addition to this, I am a part time lecturer at two universities: the University of Leicester long distance MBA program (Gulf region) and Haigazian University in Beirut.

AS: Can you tell us about your time at ILR especially being siblings going through the same program?
JT: Karen, who attended ILR first, encouraged Alex & I to join the program. Our decision to apply was spontaneous and unplanned. I was ready to take a break from my position as director of the Music & Theater department at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation which I held for several years and to explore new horizons. About the same time Alex was thinking of resigning from his job to do his MBA. We both decided to try out the program together for a semester to help us determine whether or not to apply for admission. The rest is history.
It is definitely a unique experience to attend the same program with a sibling let alone signing up for the same classes. We did provide support for each other and we could vent at each other without worrying about leaks. Also, we had the luxury that we could take Karen’s advice about the various classes and of course about professors.
AS: What are some of the most memorable experiences from your time at ILR?
JT: I enjoyed every aspect that Cornell in general and ILR in particular have to offer. My stay in Ithaca was very gratifying. We were surrounded by outstanding, and dedicated people (be it professors, students or staff) and were exposed to the latest trends in management and human resources. I had the opportunity to meet with leading HR professionals who came as guest lecturers and/or as recruiters.  The intensive recruiting seasons were enriching. The real life projects we worked on were priceless and exposed us to HR strategy. Social life was also rich and interesting. I was able to meet individuals from the four corners of the globe majoring in subjects I had no clue existed.
AS: How did your time at ILR help in your career and decision-making?
JT: The curriculum that the MILR program offers is comprehensive and being exposed to all facets of HR in practice and in theory helped me realize what areas interest me most.
AS: Knowing what you know today what are some recommendations you have for current ILRs? In particular those pursuing careers such as yours.
JT: It is very important to be focused on, and transparent about their career objectives. If their goal is to pursue an international career they should not hesitate to make it known to potential employers as soon as possible. Many companies might be global but not all have an internal structure that facilitates global rotations. Of course being flexible and patient is a must. One needs to build a good image and learn as much as possible from headquarters. However, it is critical not to deviate from ones goal.
In my case, for instance, the initial offer I received was to join Merck’s manufacturing headquarters in Pennsylvania. I contacted my interviewer to reiterate my keenness to join Merck but I explained to her that as mentioned during the interview session, my objective is to land an international opportunity and that being in a manufacturing site was not going to help me acquire the needed knowledge that would prepare me for an international career, nor will it provide me with the opportunity to network with the right people. 
Knowing what I know today from the experiences of few of my classmates who were given vain promises of global rotations, I would advise current ILRs to ask their interviewers to give them specific examples and details of HR professionals in their respective companies who had the opportunity to be rotated to an international assignment.

AS: Anything else you would like to share with us?

JT: I first went to Ithaca when Karen moved there. I stayed two days as a visitor and could not wait to leave. I almost swore that I would never return to this place. One lesson I learned from this is never say never again. I returned to Ithaca four years later to pursue my MILR degree and one thing is for sure, Ithaca and Cornell grow on you. I have traveled to many destinations and lived in several countries but one of the places I miss the most is Ithaca, and yes including its long but gorgeous winters.

- Ana Stojanovic, MILR'09