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Originally published in Work and the Coronavirus.

From Crisis to Recovery and Reimagination

Nickle LaMoreaux ’01

Like most of us, Nickle LaMoreaux ’01 was at home in March with her family, trying to stay safe in the COVID-19 crisis. She grappled with the logistics of working from the same house where her three children – ages 17, 14 and 12 – were learning how to go to school online. 

She was also helping IBM lead more than 350,000 employees in 170 countries through the new normal, which she says caused the biggest workplace change since the Industrial Revolution.

The pandemic showed that remote work encourages productivity, flexibility is key and trust underpins success, Nickle said. The crisis proved an opportunity to reimagine the workplace.

Her preparation for her role as IBM’s chief human resources officer began in a small town near Pittsburgh, where she excelled at her public high school. She copped state and national honors in speech and debate competitions, and loved math and science. She traveled the U.S. on road trips with her family, and hiked (still her favorite pastime).

She learned of ILR when a brochure arrived in the mail. It portrayed a place where students who like to solve problems learned how to make careers doing that. 

“I could see myself in that picture,” she said.

On campus the following fall, she appreciated the benefits of a major research institution, “but ILR made it feel like home.” 

Nickle’s first morning and first class at ILR were memorable. Professor Clete Daniel introduced her to collective bargaining and to his steadfast belief that working people deserve fair treatment. 

Associate Professor Michael Gold, whose command of labor law was mesmerizing, was another faculty member who shaped her experiences at ILR. The school’s  learning approach was ahead of its time: “It was truly project-based, long before it was in vogue.”

An ILR education gave her foundational breadth, which Nickle credits with her success at IBM.  She began her career with the company in Raleigh, N.C., shortly after graduation. Three years later, she was offered a position in Shanghai. Married and the mother of a one-year-old, she moved to China: “I had never been to Asia. It was a huge culture shock.” 

It was also a turning point in her career. It made her think about possibilities. Her path led to more than 10 positions within IBM, where she has worked side by side with other ILR alumni. As CHRO and senior vice president, she succeeds Diane Gherson, M.S. ’80, and works with Obed Louissaint ’01, appointed senior vice president of transformation and culture this summer. Nickle and Obed have participated in executive roundtables at ILR’s Center for Advanced Human Resources Studies

In Brewster, an hour north of New York City, Nickle is still working from home most days. The lessons of the past nine months are not forgotten. They’ve shown that the global playbook can be rewritten to reimagine possibilities for the workplace of the future.