ANU Alumni news article, 16 January 2019
Author: Eva Medcalf
Kathryn Cooper is highly attuned to the complementarities between Australian and American work cultures.
Currently the Executive Director of the American Australian Business Council (AABC), Kathryn first moved to New York to work for the International Red Cross in their delegation to the United Nations, followed by her appointment as Senior Adviser to the Australian Ambassador to the US.
After over eight years in the US, Kathryn believes that the professional differences between the two countries can initially be challenging for Australian graduates.
"The US is a country of 330 plus million people and it's highly competitive. It's a global beacon for talent and you really do have to differentiate yourself and have an elevator pitch - understand what your unique value-add is and what you're bringing to the table. Here it's not just about being very clear about your talents, skills and achievements; it's also about quickly establishing subject matter expertise no matter the challenge."
While Kathryn says it was always her dream to live and work in New York, she is quick to acknowledge that studying at ANU and living at Burton and Garran Hall (B&G) helped her achieve her ambitions.
"As one of the largest and most culturally diverse halls of residence, B&G set me up incredibly well for what I've done in the US in working with a range of different people. ANU is a quintessentially Australian institution, yet it really fosters an understanding of the world - how to achieve your objectives by working across different cultures, different aptitudes and different environments."
Kathryn believes that ANU alumni have a unique point of difference in the United States.
"In the US you have liberal arts schools, or places like MIT that specialise in tech, or universities that are really strong in business and finance, but what's amazing about ANU is that one institution can be so strong in so many different areas of study. It's part of the reason why I am so proud to be a graduate of the ANU."
Kathryn advises current students to make the most of practical opportunities offered at ANU, such as the Australian National Internships Program (ANIP).
"As part of ANIP, I interned with the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, although I must confess, I didn't realise at the time that there would be such a clear bright line between that experience and my current job heading a business council."
The US focus on alumni engagement is something that Kathryn would like to see Australian universities replicate.
"As the world gets ever more global and competitive, having those networks is key. I'm fully supportive of robust and strategic engagement with the alumni community. And it's thrilling to see where people end up. So many of us at ANU had the desire to live and work internationally, and people have ended up doing amazing things all over the world."
Despite being one of the many ANU alumni doing just that, Kathryn says that she tries to maintain at least some Australian traditions: "We always try to make sure we have prawns/shrimp at the Christmas table!"