Features - Alum of the Month

Louise Chatfield

Louise Chatfield

July 2012

New York Programme

January 92 Intake


What and where did you study before your Mountbatten internship?
Eastbourne College of Food and Fashion – Diploma in Cordon Bleu cookery and a Diploma in Catering/Hospitality
Dugdale-McAdam Secretarial College, Edinburgh – Diploma in Secretarial Studies

What made you apply for the Mountbatten programme?
My teacher at secretarial college told me about the programme and encouraged me to apply. I always wanted to travel and jumped at the chance to live and work in New York.

Describe your sponsor company and your role within it.
Wilde Sapte (now SNR Denton), an English law firm with a satellite office in New York. I was PA to the Senior Partner. It was a secretarial role in an office with 4 UK-based lawyers on a 1-year posting like myself. We were a close bunch and socialised after work and during weekends. Close friends didn’t have such friendly sponsor companies so they would join me on occasion. I was very lucky to have a great place to work.

What was the highlight/most memorable moment of your working experience during this year?
Winning our biggest legal case was a highlight. The long hours endured over a long period of time were well worth it. Also, going to work in the Pan Am building, walking through Grand Central Station was breath-taking. I was still pinching myself at the end of my year.

What was the social highlight/most memorable moment during this year?
Having close friendships with interns, colleagues and some local people made it easy to settle in quickly. Turning 21 a few months into the programme was pretty special. As was watching some basketball games, an ice hockey game, my first Opera at the Lincoln Centre and seeing Genesis perform at the Giants stadium.

Please share a little wisdom/philosophy that you acquired during your internship
Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. It’s the old cliché - make the most of your year as the time goes by quickly.

If you could change anything about your internship, what would it be?
I wish I had travelled more on some weekends. Trips to Boston, Connecticut, Washington, Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Key West, the Jersey Coast and sailing in Baltimore were memorable but I wish I had visited Chicago, Ohio, South Carolina and the Hamptons.

What happened after completing the year - what did you do next?
I worked in Italy for a summer season as a chef, went to Australia on a Working Holidaymaker visa for a year and then joined the Foreign Office in London. I had two 3-year postings in Swaziland and Fiji. For two years I floated around the world covering for staff and living out of a suitcase in Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria, Latvia, Bosnia, Moldova, Skopje, Iceland, Costa Rica, Colombia, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, The Philippines and Cambodia. I also visited Israel, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan on a familiarisation trip during my work on the Middle East Peace Process – it was a very humbling trip and a real eye-opener.

Where are you now in your working life and what do you do?
I left the Foreign Office last year. I have returned to my PA roots, working at the Post Office as PA to the Communications Director. I support the Director to achieve their objectives and organise their valuable time. I also help the team organise large events – we are currently working on a Vision Launch event in May for 1,600 people and will be lending a hand at an awards ceremony next month.

Do you have any future plans that you would like to realise & what are they (career & social)?
I have been very lucky and had a very full and varied career over the last 20 years. I am happy where I am right now and not looking to move.

Is there any other information that you would like to be included?
In the early 90s we didn’t have mobile phones, internet access, email, Facebook and Twitter. I wonder what it would be like now to live in New York with all that technology.