Thursday, August 29, 2013

Black Paris Profiles™ II: Kathleen Dameron - Part 2

Part 1 of Kathleen Dameron’s Black Paris Profile™ presents an in-depth look at Kathleen’s professional activities and philosophy. In Part 2, we look at some of the choices that she has made about creating and maintaining her business and what living in Paris means to her. She also shares advice for anyone who is thinking of moving to Paris and starting a business here.


Kathleen Dameron with Tannie Award
Image courtesy of K. Dameron

Kathleen chose to start KD Conseil as a solopreneurship (a single-person business) for the simple reason that it was the simplest way to do so. (She confesses that she hates paperwork and administrative tasks.) For anyone thinking of starting a business in France, she advises the following:

Have a great deal of patience and passion, a strong sense of humor and an ability to deal with ambiguity.

Then, hire a French CPA – called expert-comptable. Do NOT attempt to navigate the French accounting or administrative system yourself!

Attend a course on French business administration, especially to know that the laws and the rules CHANGE continuously. ONLY someone who is dedicated to it can be up to date and accurate. That is why you should not attempt to run the administrative side of your company yourself.

Business in France is even more relationship-oriented than in the U.S., so expect a lot of face-to-face contact with people to develop client relationships: get the business, get the deal, get paid, get the next lead. Americans I know always comment that they can do business on the phone and meet the client face-to-face the day of the intervention. That experience is highly rare in France. People need to eyeball you, to feel your presence.

When Kathleen first came to Paris, she fell in love with the city straight away:

I love the architecture; I love the feeling of the city; I love being a woman in Paris. I love the art, the mixture of cultures, the intensity of intellectual life and of having a good street event…

She settled in the Strasbourg-Saint Denis area, a crossroads among the 2nd, 3rd, 9th, and 10th arrondissements. She loves it because the cultural and socio-economic diversity is great in this neighborhood. It abounds with theaters and restaurants, yet the banking industry is represented there as well. Beautiful architecture triggers the feeling of really being in the city of Paris. In fact, her apartment building lies in the shadow of the magnificent Porte Saint Denis, a Roman arch built by Louis XIV in the 17th century.

Porte Saint Denis
© Discover Paris!

Kathleen is an active member of Democrats Abroad. “What drives her passion about American politics, given that she is a long-time French resident?” I asked. She replied:

I have met Asians (Indians & Chinese) who have this incredible energy that can make one believe this century is THEIRS. Investing in yourself AS WELL AS your country is the light they see for their countries. I have begun to believe that the United States will continue to have a leadership role in the world for a few more years only, and I have an inherent interest that it fulfills that role as responsibly and as constructively as possible.

Given the talk I hear in Asia and what I witness in Europe, the American people seem to have lost critical reasoning AND medium-term self-interest in making social / collective choices. Examples include sub-prime loans, gulf wars, pushing OGM’s, and no health care system. I want to contribute to creating a sustainable world with economic and social justice for all. I would like to contribute to the U.S. becoming an effective world-centered, more multi-lateral participant in a world that has multiple axes.

France is actively struggling with the increasingly multicultural nature of its population. Because Kathleen focuses on multiculturalism at work, I asked her how she views French politics with regard to the various populations of people of color in France. She replied:

In some ways it is much easier for me as a Black American: I am seen as OK because I am American. There has been a low tolerance for open discrimination in the business world for Blacks like me. However, to be of North African origin is to live in the corporate world of discrimination closer to that Blacks experienced in the 1960s in the U.S. I fear that the tolerance level for difference is decreasing as “fear” becomes more acceptable as a political discourse in France.

I have witnessed that corporate opportunities for French-speaking Blacks and North Africans are low, few, and far between. I feel a need for inclusion work in French business to maintain a vibrant and diverse workplace.

Regarding the possibilities for equal opportunity employment, higher education, etc. for the young people of color in France, I feel sad for France as a country every time I read in Le Monde that bright West Indian and North African youth are enrolling massively in Canadian schools so that they can fulfill their potential. I believe that getting to the top of a corporate organization is highly unlikely for them, so the path to success for “visible minorities” may well be “Succeed abroad and then come home to Paris.” Maybe . . .

From attending social events at Kathleen’s home, I know that she loves belly dancing. So I was inspired to ask her about some of her other favorite pastimes. She lists them, in order of importance, as follows:

    1) DANCING.
    3) Hosting network exchange events and parties.
    4) Meditation: both silent and active. Feeling joy in all that I do.

Finally, I asked Kathleen what advice she would give to those who are considering moving to Paris and working in business. Here are her words of wisdom:

The city is beautiful. The cultural life is awesome.

  • Learn to talk about wine, food, and current events in the world intelligently—this is the basis for business networking.
  • Learn about what makes French culture great – high value on expertise, excellent technology, and a passion for good food and wine.
  • Learn the activities where French companies lead in their markets and in their fields. To know the names of key French and European companies is essential. To know the names of the great French and European business leaders & inventors is also a way to establish your credibility as an international business person.
  • Open your mind, to creating success in a way different from the U.S. Actively let it penetrate your way of looking at the world, living, and doing business.


No comments: