Cornell University

February 3 2014

Gratitude for ILR

"I owe so much to the school," says 2014 Groat Award winner

Pamela-Kimmet_200x200At General Motors, Citigroup, Bear, Stearns & Co., Lucent Technologies and now, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc., Pam Kimmet ’80 has relied on a work ethic developed at ILR.

“Dig in and deliver quality work. Absorb, synthesize and share back in a compelling way.”

Those skills were built and tested at ILR, Kimmet said, at a pace and volume that prepared her to hit the work world running.

“There’s this whole set of skills and career opportunities that the ILR program provides which enables you to get a meaningful job immediately after graduation,” ILR’s 2014 Groat Award winner said in an interview.

At ILR’s March 27 celebration in New York City, 2014 Alpern Award winner K. Lisa Yang ’74 and Kimmet will be honored. The awards are made annually for professional achievement and service to the ILR School.

Now senior vice president of human resources at Coca-Cola Enterprises, Kimmet wanted to be a lawyer when she discovered ILR at a high school career fair in Rochester, N.Y.

She was smitten by ILR’s social science curriculum. “It sounded exactly like the right thing for me,” Kimmet remembers thinking.

After becoming an ILR student, Kimmet’s interest in human resources was ignited. Courses such as organizational design and strategic workforce planning, along with several professors, made an impact.

One professor was particularly memorable, she said, crediting Lee Dyer for inspiring her to take a role in HR upon graduation before deciding if law school was still of interest.

“Lee had a way of bringing concepts to life, of helping you to think broadly about issues. He wasn’t easy on us. On the contrary, he was demanding, but had a way that made you want to learn and work hard.”

“Lee is just a cool guy. I love how practical, smart and insightful he was and still is,” Kimmet said.

Kimmet is responsible for the full range of HR support for the 12,500 employees of Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), which she joined in 2008.

In 2010, when CCE sold its North American businesses to The Coca-Cola Company – which in 1986 spun off CCE as a separate publicly-traded company – more than 55,000 employees were transferred in the transaction, for which Kimmet and her team provided significant support.

CCE manufactures, sells and distributes iconic brands such as Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Light and Coke Zero, as well as others such as Abbey Well, Fanta, Capri-Sun and Monster. The company serves Belgium, France, Great Britain, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Net sales for Coca-Cola Enterprises were $8.1 billion in 2012.

Kimmet, who serves as an ILR Advisory Council member and as a board member of the school’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies, said the Groat Award “was nothing I ever expected. It was humbling.”

“I feel I owe so much to the school. I have a lot of gratitude,” Kimmet said, for what she learned at ILR, for the friendships she made and for professors “who have been great mentors and colleagues.”

“Those of us who got our start at ILR – we all have an obligation to the school.”

As chief HR officer, Kimmet is a member of the Coca-Cola Enterprises executive team. The role puts her in a position, she said, to “help individuals achieve their personal dreams and the company achieve success.”

Kimmet acknowledges that some aspects of work HR professionals preside over can be unpleasant. But, overall, HR is “a really gratifying role.”

“Human resources is an exciting profession,” she said. “You get to impact a business in powerful, long-lasting ways.”

Effective HR leadership requires one to “analyze, think and consult with an open and fair heart” and be “courageous enough to raise issues.”

“If somebody really wants to pursue HR as a career,” Kimmet cautioned, “their decision should go far beyond just thinking ‘I like people’.”

Strategic business skills are essential, said Kimmet, who played a key role in evolving Coca-Cola Enterprises into one of the world’s top bottlers by selling its North American business and increasing its footprint in Europe.

At home, Kimmet relaxes by spending time with family and friends, and hunting for art and furnishings with her husband, Dwaine, with whom she shares a love for French design.

Kimmet chuckles that she “tries to exercise” by walking, golfing and working out with a trainer, and says she’s “gotten better” about putting work aside and pursuing other interests.

“But, if you like your work and you care about what you do and who you work with, it’s not a job.”

For Kimmet, work is a passion, still fresh after 30 years.

“Acting with integrity, inspiring and motivating others to do the impossible … at the end of the day, that’s a pretty rewarding life.”