BRIDGING CORPORATE CULTURES FOR TWENTY YEARS
(PARIS, France) Almost twenty years ago, an African-American woman living in Paris took stock of the many cultures she had experienced, and of the growing interdependence the world’s cultures had developed, especially in business. Her name is Kathleen Dameron.
The world’s growing multiculturalism fascinated her. However, she saw room for much improvement.
“I want to stimulate people into multicultural competency,” Dameron said. “In many ways, the world is becoming more multicultural, but we also still see people saying ‘There is one right way to do things, and that’s my way; if you don’t do it my way you don’t deserve to be on this planet.’ I want people to use their company’s diversity as a means to accomplish more than they could alone.”
With that in mind, Dameron opened KD Conseil (KDConseil.com) for business in 1992, with the mission of improving communication skills of those whose work brings them in contact with many different cultures.
Dameron actually began to lay the foundation to successfully coach global corporations in bringing their diverse cultures together for common good prior to opening KD Conseil.
The seeds were planted when she studied cross-cultural studies and communication in Southern California at the University of Redlands. It continued when she studied social and economic administration at the Universitè de Paris, a major focusing on law, business, politics and economics.
This foundation really began to take shape when she managed training programs for Thomson Consumer Electronics, the parent company of RCA and Technicolor, and other products worldwide She had also taught English as a second language in the corporate environment.
“A lot of what I do is help people to understand that they have a culture,” she said. “When you are in your own culture, everything goes more or less the same way. When you go to work with a different culture, they will do the same things for very different reasons. And sometimes they will do things very differently; the unexpected is to be expected.”
Dameron’s experiences with different cultures began early. She grew up in East St. Louis, Ill., a neighborhood that today is mostly African-American, suffering from high crime and poverty rates. However, when she lived there in the 1960s to the early 1970s, the neighborhood was very much an American middle class existence. This is what the Dameron family experienced, as her parents were both civil servants, and the family members were leaders in the African American community.
Several years after her father’s death, her mother moved the family to Rubidoux, in Southern California’s “Inland Empire” region. Rubidoux is more ethnically diverse, but there, Dameron encountered people who expected less of her because of her race.
With support from her family, and educators at both Rubidoux High School and the University of Redlands, Dameron proved them wrong.
When she was 18 years old, Dameron moved to Paris, a city that fascinated her from childhood. Although the culture and language was even more diverse than that of the two regions she had lived in the United States, she felt very at ease in France.
“I have always loved Paris,” she said. “It is very diverse culturally, and very open-minded, as well as having amazing architecture and food!”
After completing her college education on two continents, Dameron initially worked as an English teacher, before taking a position with Thomson Consumer Electronics as an in-house trainer. When the company “right-sized” their headquarters, it created an opportunity for her set up her own organization and sign Thomson as her first client.
“I was privileged to start my own business with three year’s worth of contracts in Poland, England, Germany and France dealing with topics ranging from accompanying the French / Polish joint venture to European teambuilding projects to improving communication skills in English,” says Dameron.
Shortly after this, Dameron was hired as the executive secretary for Fashion Fair Cosmetics, which marketed ethnic cosmetics to women in Europe and Africa, and is a subsidiary of Johnson Publishing Company, the publisher of magazines Ebony and Jet.
At Fashion Fair Cosmetics she was responsible for human resources functions, such as motivating employees, hiring and terminations. She was also legally responsible for the organization.
“It was my job to maintain good relations with the French labor inspectors, unions and the equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” adds Dameron.
Having launched KD Conseil while starting with Fashion Fair Cosmetics, Dameron recalls those early years as very intense.
“The heads of Fashion Fair were open to me working part-time, while I ran my training and facilitation business,” she said. “In those days, I worked almost seven days a week, and generally 12 to 14 hour days. I was so passionate about working with Black women from the West Indies, Africa and France. Working on the corporate side of business, as well as the training/coaching side, I gained empathy and insights for what my clients experience on a daily basis.”
Demand for someone who could help business grow on a global level helped KD Conseil grow rather quickly into its own international business.
“One of my best work experiences from those days was the Polkolor project at Thomson,” Dameron said. “They signed a memorandum of agreement and I was on the ground the next week in Poland. I was working as an employee when the managing director called on KD Conseil to assist the newly restructured company to work more effectively with its Polish employees.”
For two years, she spent one week a month facilitating and mentoring cross-cultural relations.
“I was there just after Poland had opened up to private enterprise,” Dameron said. “It was fascinating watching the transition of Poland from a Communist economy to a free-market economy.”
Since then, KD Conseil has helped companies based in Europe, America and other continents develop their own cross-cultural relations strategies. One of her recent clients is an Internet networking company with 70,000 employees in 165 different countries, for whom KD Conseil did a multicultural team building. She has also designed and runs a leadership program for high potentials in a Fortune 500 company.
Her other recent clients include:
- AGF of the Allianz Insurance Group
- Rio Tinto Alcan
- BNP Paribas
- College de Polytechnic, which is the premier engineering school in France, she trains management/leadership executives enrolled in the continuing education program
- ESSEC, the premier business school in France, she trains students enrolled in the Masters of Business Administration and Master of International Affairs programs for executive management
- KCI Laboratories
- Thomson Multimedia
- Tyco Electronics
- Veolia Water
She is certified as a coach by the International Coaching Federation, and she holds certificates in Team Management Systems©, Success Insights©, Situational Leadership II©, Coaching & Modeling, and Self-Relations (Ericksonian Hypnotherapy). In addition, Dameron has a Masters level in Neurolinguistic Programming.
For more information about KD Conseil, call +33(0) 142210073, or go to www.kdconseil.com.
About KD Conseil
Established in 1991, KD Conseil helps multi-national firms understand the different cultures within their organization. By understanding and working through cultural differences, KD Conseil helps the firm develop “shared practices” that will be highly efficient ways of delivering their services and products in a global market.
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