Katherine Le Denmat, MILR '06
Katherine Le Denmat is second year graduate student at the ILR School. With an undergraduate degree in French and Sociology, Katherine worked for five years in Human Resources at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in France.
Around this time Katherine realized that undertaking a master’s degree was the best way to advance her career in HR. Cornell was the obvious choice since there is a strong mix between both strategic and functional HR classes as well as a wealth of resources available through the Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS) and the program’s strong association with the industry.
Katherine was always interested in the challenge of living in a foreign country. She spent her junior year in college studying abroad in France. She feels that more than just the opportunity to study in a foreign country, it was a very rewarding experience from a personal standpoint and believes that it cemented her desire to pursue this interest of working in a foreign environment. She recalls how there was never a dull moment and she would learn something new almost every day!
Upon graduating from college, Katherine packed her bags and headed back to France – minus a job, no work visa and no real place to stay over the long term. It was a risk that she was willing to take but didn’t have any idea of how it would pay off. She did find the initial transition to be quite a challenge – from being a student on a one year program to a graduate trying to find a niche for herself in this foreign country. However her persistence paid off and she found an opportunity at the OECD in a bilingual position in HR – where she remained until her return to the US.
During her five years Katherine worked with a number of expatriates from across the globe. Based on her experiences of working in such a multi cultural environment, she feels that one of the important skills to have is the ability to be sensitive to cultural differences and nuances. From a learning standpoint, she was also able to see the differences in the role and philosophy of HR in France versus that of the US – the biggest distinction being the socialist philosophy of France and its influence on human resource policies in terms of how an employee and his/her employment relationship is viewed versus the capitalistic mindset of the US.
Katherine also met her husband Benoit during her stay in France. This deepened her desire to learn more about the country and its culture. Benoit, a French national, was able to explain the distinctiveness of the French. In a broader sense, she feels that one needs to make the effort to try and go beyond his/her social circle which in most cases, are people from the home country. It requires moving out of one’s comfort zone, which can be challenging. Many expatriates make this mistake and hence they do not learn and fully experience their new environment.
Returning to US and more specifically Cornell to study, Katherine believes that her time in France has allowed to her to develop strong relationships with the international students at ILR. Having been in the same position while she was in France, she is able to relate to some of the problems they face in communication and getting used to a culture vastly different from their home countries. She has really enjoyed her time at Cornell.
Katherine is one of the Research Assistants for CAHRS and the Orientation Chair for the Graduate Student Association. ILR has provided her exposure to top executives in the field and the opportunity to learn in a non-threatening environment. The diversity of the graduate students has also contributed to her learning’s of the variance of HR systems and practices throughout the world. Katherine sees herself working in the US in the immediate future but would eventually like to explore a role in Asia. She is already planning a huge reunion when she moves to Bangalore!
- Katherine Le Denmat