Susie Couture, SHRM-CP, was nervous about giving up her HR job in the U.S. when her husband’s employer presented the couple with the opportunity to move to Thailand for two years in 2012. But she found meaningful work there with a nonprofit before landing an HR role with a wind power company.
As a result of the experience, Couture learned to adapt and gained empathy for others who find themselves in new or uncomfortable settings.
“I think it broadened my perspective,” Couture says. While many people are focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion now, “it’s already part of my DNA,” she explains. “I recognize differences and celebrate them.”
That’s why Couture enjoys spending Saturdays mentoring college students of diverse backgrounds who are interested in HR.
As the college relations director with the California State Council of the Society for Human Resource Management (CalSHRM), Couture coordinated the CalSHRM Virtual HR Games & Student Summit last year. She has also served as past president of the Santa Barbara Human Resources Association, among other roles.
What are you passionate about?
Giving back to our future talent. More than 14 years ago, I started the first SHRM student chapter
at the University of California at Santa Barbara when there was little HR curriculum. It allows our students to develop a career in this field, and it’s a wonderful pipeline for employers in the Santa Barbara area.
What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
As an American in a Thai company, I had to establish my credibility. With a caring heart, I asked the Thai employees, “If you could wish for something new at the company, what would it be?” With their help, I was able to design HR strategic initiatives that aligned with the business goals. I was able to implement health insurance for our employees, who had none before. This was one method I used to gain trust and move forward.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
In Thailand, they have a saying, “Jai yen yen,” meaning cool heart. This is a reminder to be patient and composed when situations get stressful.
Photograph by Jonas Jungblut for HR Magazine.