Cornell University

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Alumni Profile

Lindsay Donaire, BS '01

HR Professional at Godiva on international assignment, will host ILRHR field study class in Brussels 


Lindsay Donaire

Lindsay Donaire, ILR BS '01, was pleasantly surprised to see the first issue of International eNews. After contacting the ILR school, a place that holds special meaning to Lindsay, she agreed to meet 'virtually' with MILR Dina Gabriel to discuss her international career path after ILR. Lindsay is currently working in Brussels, Belgium, at Godiva Chocolatier's European Headquarters. Also, she will host ILR students for a company site visit when the ILR 658 Strategic HRM field study class travels to Europe in Spring '07.

DG: We would love to hear any reflections on your time at ILR, did you have an international experience while you were here?

LD: Leveraging the previous work experiences I had through ILR (Extern, WISP, Courses), I was able to win an internship with a global organization, Godiva Chocolatier. During that summer internship between junior and senior year, I developed an exposure to several areas of HR: personal development via launching 360 survey for Retail district manager based in New York City, international policy creation by drafting guidelines for Godiva Japan, and preparing Affirmative Action reports for Godiva  USA.

DG: What were your interests and goals?

LD: As I am a first generation American (Father from Venezuela and Mother from Macedonia), I know no other life than that of balancing, adjusting, and being fascinated by other cultures. Even American culture was exotic to me at times! When applying to college, I specifically was drawn to Cornell and ILR for the opportunities to study and live abroad. I was hooked freshmen year. The course was Intro to Organizational Behavior, and it opened my eyes to how organization of groups impacted individual behavior and how that behavior, in return, affected the group. outcomes of that collaboration. I was fascinated starting with the  first lecture. From there, I knew I wanted to be in Human Resources, focusing in on organizational behavior. Additionally,with my personal background, I dreamed of working for a multi-national organization.

DG: What is your current role at Godiva?

LD: I have a dual role as both HR Generalist and Training. My official title is: Human Resource Generalist - Sales, Marketing, and Retail/ Learning & Development Manager - Sales & Retail. Scope is Godiva Europe, which includes Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and United Kingdom. The employee base I support range from hourly employees in the Retail field to middle managers in sales and marketing functions.

DG: How has your time at ILR contributed/helped in your role?

Professor Turner offered an excellent course on European Union and Work Councils, giving me a solid context for my work today. Also influential was the "Group OB" taught by Professor Macy. Our course examined the life cycle of group behavior translated to a range of groups, for example, religion. It increased my ability to draw inspiration from multiple areas - prompting me to question the "how" and "why" of circumstances otherwise taken for granted. ILR career services was also extraordinarily helpful. I took full advantage of the directions offered by the famous Martha Smith, who has since retired. As a freshman, she  gave me the straight story of what potential employers will be expecting. She did a wonderful job of helping me craft my resume. As I grew with ILR, so did the opportunities. From the freshman year externship to sophomore and junior WISP programs, to summer internships, there was abundant opportunities to gain practical experience within the very corporations I was preparing to enter.

DG: How did you get to the role you are in today?

LD: How I stepped into Godiva is 100% attributable to ILR. The former Vice President of Global Human Resources for Godiva, Jose Davila, was also an ILRie. When he had an HR internship opportunity , the first place he went to was ILR. When I saw the opportunity for Godiva, combining my love of food with a potential global career, the choice was simple.

DG: What career path have you followed?

GodviaBased in Godiva’s World Headquarters in New York City, I was very fortunate to hold several different roles and assignments, giving me the depth and breadth for my current position. I started as an Associate, leading college recruitment (including the opportunity to return to Cornell's career fairs - on the other side of the table!), resolving inquires from the local labor department, and enhancing data integrity of the Human Resource IT system. Then I had the chance to manage my own client group, the Customer Service Call center, which was my first exposure to an hourly population. During this time, I also began to be deeply involved in an organizational development survey called Gallup. , Initially  I prepared rosters, then facilitated sessions with teams, and now I build strategy with senior management. After gaining exposure to the corporate employee population and hourly customer service, I was dying to get into our Retail division. To say I am a shop-a-holic is an understatement. Combining my personal interest of spending too much time in retail stores with HR support AND chocolate seemed like a dream! With this client group, I focused on developing a competency model that guided 275+ store managers in the behaviors the company seeks and partnering with the field managers to create a user-friendly, impactful recruitment tool. Beyond the technical aspect of that role, I gained savvy in tailoring  a message  for an audience, and also how to manage a long term project and cross functional team. During this time, I was also the HR generalist for Eastern Canadian stores, which was my first exposure to employee relations outside the United States. Given the socialist context and sensitive language concerns, it prepared me well for my next assignment in Brussels as the Recruitment, Organizational Development, and Retail HR Manager. My new role meant I was the HRG for Retail for 5 countries, based in Belgium, a country with 3 national languages. After 1 year, I was promoted to my current role as HRG and L&D Mgr. Godiva has been very kind to offer me so many amazing opportunities to grow and stretch both personally and professionally. All this in 6 years time - and it all started with a summer internship my junior year at ILR!


DG: What advice would you give current ILR students, both Undergraduates and Masters level, who are interested in international/European careers as HR professionals?

LD: Languages! If you have any interest remotely in International Human Resources, its essential you speak languages other than English. While English is a business language and most organizations use this as the "common" language, it remains limiting. Understanding and speaking another language, especially as an American, not only distinguishes you from your peers, you will also be able to enhance the quality of relationships you make on your global assignments. These relationships are make or break. So the more you invest in mastering a language now while in school, the more competitive you will be a candidate for foreign assignment and make lasting, valuable impact with the local population once you are there. In terms of practical application based on my experience in Europe and Asia, French is the second most widely used language after English. In Asia, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese would be incredible assets if you interest lie in this area. For emerging markets, I emphasize standard Arabic.

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

LD: I am marrying a fellow ILRie, also from Class of 2001 (though he finished in 3 years instead of the 4 it took me). Name: Jim Cheng. His career track was very different - he loved sales and finance so he started in investment banking with Morgan Stanley then moved to wholesale lending for the largest bank in this sector of the market. He loved his job! As I was offered this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Jim was very kind to me by taking the plunge with me to Europe. Now in Brussels, he is taking French courses and a post-graduate degree in conducting business with China from the European Union perspective. His next step is to work locally in Belgium, specializing in Chinese capital markets.

DG: Anything I did not touch on?

LD: Our wedding is plannedin the spring of 2007, during  the first lucky Saturday in the new Chinese Year. During my assignment, we have been learning French and Arabic, golf, earned certification in SCUBA in Spain’s Costa Brava, and traveling within Belgium and throughout Europe almost every weekend!

DG: Thank you Lindsay!

- DinaGabriel

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