Although she grew up in the suburbs of New York, Natalie Cornell spent three formative elementary school years outside of Paris, where she learned French and “got a whole different view of the world.” It was the late 60s, when student protests were erupting in France and in the U.S., as well as anti-war protests in the latter.
She says the different reactions of the two countries to those events taught her that there’s never one way to solve a problem — a lesson she’s carried forward in her career and life.
When asked how she’s applied this to her work today, Cornell says, “It teaches you to listen well and hear what the client is really saying.”
After receiving a degree in international relations from Cornell University (no relation, she adds with a laugh), she worked in fundraising consulting before transitioning to marketing. Her very first marketing job introduced her to the transportation industry where she worked for the Canadian government helping Canadian transit companies, such as Bombardier, market their products in the U.S.
“I learned a lot about Buy America and how it worked and became a resource for my colleagues around the U.S. on the subject of transit sales into the U.S. from Canada. [This job] really formed the basis of my interest in the transit business,” Cornell says of the experience.
From there, she held management consulting positions at A.T. Kearney and Anderson Consulting (now Accenture), where she focused on promoting the companies’ capabilities, which included freight, airline, and transit work in U.S. and global markets. Wanting to try something new, Cornell briefly left the transportation industry to work for a healthcare consulting firm in Chicago.
She jumped back into transportation when a friend recommended she be hired by Japanese firm, Lecip Inc., to help set up the company and develop its North American footprint. “They had no transit experience outside of Japan,” Cornell says. “I was their first employee in the U.S., and we were manufacturing and selling fare collection systems and LED lights for trains.”
After four years, Cornell was hired by LTK Engineering Services in 2013 as a senior consultant, where she focused on project work, helping write proposals and doing client work. The Pa.-based company works for the transit authority, in many cases as extension of staff.
“We write specifications, help them identify their needs, evaluate proposals and oversee implementation of whatever we’ve designed,” Cornell says of the company’s scope.
Cornell was promoted to her current role as director of business development in January 2015 for which she says her job is “first and foremost, to get good quality proposals out the door.” She also manages all of LTK’s public or customer facing activities, such as the company website, which is currently undergoing a redesign, as well as managing project stories and collateral materials, case studies and all advertising is handled through her department. She is also instrumental in LTK’s activities at various conferences, including coordinating staff attendance and helping develop presentations.
“The culture of LTK is very positive. It’s very cooperative and collegial and I really love that about it,” Cornell says.
When asked about her accomplishments, Cornell says she is most proud of the company’s proposals and its win rate, adding that she will also be very proud of the new website once it is completed. She touts her experience with professional services marketing and being a person who likes to learn as skills that have helped her throughout her career. “Whether it’s getting the right speakers at a conference, or helping design a state-of-the-art website, or writing great proposals, it’s interesting to do and it’s fun.”
Outside of work, Cornell loves to cook using fresh ingredients from her local farmer’s market and is also an avid skier, and a sometime scuba diver. She has “relaxed” her active lifestyle a bit by sailing boats for fun instead of racing them and refereeing high school girl’s lacrosse, instead of playing, which she did in high school and in college.