Amee Parekh, MILR '08
First year MILR student, Amee Parekh, speaks about her transition to Cornell from India and her recent winter internship at a Labor and Employment Law firm in San Francisco, CA.
Hi, I am Amee Parekh, First year MILR student. I arrived in the USA in August 2006, for the first time and have loved it since. My undergraduate degree is in Engineering in India, so I guess I am one of the many people at ILR seeking a transition to an exciting career of HR/Labor Relations. I liked working in the technology industry but I found myself very passionate with the idea of training and development of people and that of the organization along with its people, that being one of the chief reasons why I chose HR as a career path. I love it at Cornell and am surprised at how comfortable and at home the ILR school and it's culture has made me feel. I especially love the diversity in the MILR program as it has people from USA, Japan, Australia, India, Europe, UAE, Korea, China, Germany etc. with many different backgrounds and varied work experiences.
I've been in the USA for six months and it still doesn't cease to fascinate me how warm and welcoming the USA is to people from other countries and cultures. That and the close student- professor relationship that the school offers helped me ease the transition from India to the USA.
In the winter at the end of my first semester, I interned at an Employment and Labor Law firm called as Littler Mendelson in San Francisco, California, my first experience in an American corporation. This corporation was ranked topmost for Employment and Law Litigation in 2006. Often, HR professionals need to work closely with lawyers when their companies face litigations, so actually working with lawyers sounded very exciting to me, and besides I got to live in sunny California through the winter! Almost all the clients of these lawyers were Corporate HR leaders from top organizations as well as companies having trouble with Labor Unions.
I actually got to witness two live negotiations, both with the Machinists' Union IAMAW. The lawyers were different and so were the Union Representatives. For me, it was fascinating to watch the live action and some of the histrionics that I got to witness, especially from the Union representatives. The first negotiation I went to was with Rob Hulteng who is one of the best lawyers in the country to negotiate with the Machinists' Union. The other negotiation also involved a very brilliant lawyer who appeared very, very stressed out through out the negotiation and looked like he had a splitting headache. I distinctly remember the first statement he made when the negotiation was done and we settled down in his car to go back to office. He said, “I really enjoyed myself!!”. I pointed out that he was stressed out during the negotiation and wondered how he 'enjoyed' it. He said, “ Oh that ! Amee, that was just an act I was putting together in front of my client to show that it was such a difficult situation and I was working so hard to get him what he wanted !”. It was great to see such out-of-the-box and creative thinking!
In the collective bargaining class, Prof. Sarosh Kuruvilla had mentioned that a lot of labor-management contracts were moving towards a more collaborative approach. It was startling to actually see Management Representatives deciding upon more shop meetings and asking for more inputs from employees and related clauses in the collective bargaining contract. It drove home the point how aligned the ILR professors are with what's happening in the industry and workplace.
I also got an opportunity to do a couple of research assignments with other lawyers, where I had to search through court cases to find a particular type of case so that they could be used in court. The recruiting coordinator also arranged for me to have lunch everyday with a different set of lawyers so I could get to know more people and ask questions about their work. The last day at Littler was probably the most interesting. The lawyer who taught me how to prepare a court case summary, told me that since I was working on the case summary and would have a grasp of most issues, I should prepare a reply for one of the notices that his client had received. He would review it but he wanted me to have a go at it. It was great that he considered giving an intern the opportunity to actually work on something so important.
I had a conversation later that day with the national recruitment coordinator and I wanted to know how I had been selected for such a great internship at a law firm when in my interview I had mentioned that I wanted to work in HR and I did not intend to become a lawyer and hence knew that I wouldn't be a 'potential hire' for them. Her answer stunned me. She said that since most of the clients of the firm were HR professionals, HR interns were viewed not as 'potential hires' but as 'potential clients', maybe as HR we would want the lawyers to represent the company we were working in. I found it to be a great example of strategic thinking.
I am now returning to school for my second semester completely recharged and excited about the year coming up. I will be working as a Graduate Assistant at the Statistics office and then interning at IBM over the summer. I will also be working for SHRLOE, the Strategic HR society at Cornell as VP Consulting Projects and hope to secure some good projects for the students to work upon. The most important thing that I have learn from my experiences so far at Cornell and the USA in general is that it is very important to reach out, be willing to learn, even ask for help when in trouble and most importantly – to make that first move required to initiate and succeed.
- Amee Parekh, MILR '08