Senior Compensation Advisor
Claudette Labrecque Simoneau, a woman of great compassion and depth of experience, is turning the page on a major life chapter as her long and exceptional career at Cascades draws to a close.A native of Kingsey Falls, Claudette remembers when Bernard Lemaire and his family first came to town in 1964, when she was only 12 years old. Her father, Irenée, was one of the first Cascaders. She quickly got to know Bernard’s family, as the babysitter of their three young children. Six years later, at Bernard’s request she joined the company as a secretary-receptionist. Only 18 and armedsolely with a high school business diploma, she knew she had a lot to learn.
Claudette was there for the founding of Cascades and she saw the company grow throughout her 50 years of loyal service. Currently an Senior Compensation Advisor at the Kingsey Falls head office, Claudette plans to retire in early 2021. Read on to learn more about this inspiring woman, as she shares her experiences and recounts her time at Cascades.
How would you describe your current position?
I work with the Human Resources team, taking care of variable compensation for all of Cascades. I also work with the Lemaire Family Foundation, where I am responsible for internal accounting along with the General Manager, Patricia Lemaire.
How has the role of women changed since you joined Cascades?
I began my career as a secretary-receptionist, and quickly learned the ins and outs of bookkeeping using a manual accounting system. I also worked on financial statements. Over the years, the addition of new units meant we had to hire controllers, and it was mostly women who filled those positions.
In 1978, Cascades took on its first student intern: none other than Suzanne Blanchet, who later served as President of Cascades Tissue Group from 1998 to 2014. Elise Pelletier, who became the first Personnel Manager in 1982, was the first person to be assigned duties exclusively devoted to human resources. Upon her retirement in 2003, she was VicePresident, Human Resources for Cascades Containerboard Packaging. Today, she sits on the Cascades Board of Directors. Maryse Fernet followed a similar path. She was hired as a human resources manager in 1987 and now serves as Chief Human Resources Officer. Cascades has always welcomed women with ambitious career goals who are keen to take on leadership positions.
What was the most memorable moment of your career?
There have been so many! As for the standouts, I was involved in the development of profit-sharing from 1970 to today, I saw the introduction of IT in 1976 and I was there when Cascades was listed on the stock exchange in 1983. The premature death of my supervisor, Fernand Cloutier, at the age of 46, also had a big impact on me because he was my first mentor at Cascades. In 1991, I agreed to return to work full-time under the supervision of Norman Boisvert, who was very patient and generous with his support as I settled into my position. It was a major career decision, as I had been working part-time since the birth of my first child in 1978. Returning to work full-time was a life choice I felt proud of, and I knew that I’d be taking on greater responsibilities.
What’s the biggest lesson you have learned?
My biggest lesson was simply the ongoing process of learning and adapting to new technologies and to the company’s growing needs. I really learned on the job, as they say. For example, when Cascades was listed on the stock exchange, I knew that I was going to have to overcome major challenges to learn new processes and master financial accounting. But I have to say, the people I’ve worked with over the years have always been very generous with their guidance and support.
What will you miss most about Cascades?
No doubt, the thing I’ll miss most is the chance to work with a great team and amazing people on a daily basis. I feel privileged to have always enjoyed a respectful work environment. Throughout my 50-year career, I have always felt like a part of the Cascades family.
I would like to thank Bernard, Laurent, Alain and Mario for trusting me all these years, because without Cascades, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I would also like to thank Line Couture, my valued colleague and friend of the past 40 years, as well as Luc, my brother and office neighbour, who has also worked at Cascades for over 30 years. I want to thank my immediate colleagues as well: Sonia Turcotte, Manon Bordeleau, Alan Savoie, Isabelle Côté, Mélanie Bouffard, Francine Boissonneault, Jennifer Dingle and Maryse Fernet. But you have to know when it’s time to turn the page, I am ready to start this new chapter of my life.
What are you looking forward to?
I hope to stay in good health. With good health, anything is possible!
At 68, I just want to keep fit and enjoy all the simple pleasures of everyday life. I check the news every morning, I do my crossword puzzle and my sudoku. I go on regular walks and enjoy being out in nature. I want to spend time with my spouse and the families of my three children (one of whom works for Cascades Tissue Group - Kingsey Falls), and, of course, my seven grandchildren, who are my pride and joy. And I would obviously like to get back to travelling once that becomes an option again!
“Claudette is an extraordinary employee, always available at a moment’s notice. She never complained about her workload, and her only professional ambition has been to support the growth of this company which has its roots in her home town. Working with her has been a real joy: her kindness, her positive attitude, her legendary generosity with her time, her skills and her sharp memory have helped us improve our efficiency and contributed to our development. Thanks to her support, Cascades has grown into the company it is today. She truly embodies our values with her respect for others, her undeniable team spirit (which meant we could always count on her!), and her honest and respectful approach to communication.”
Mario Plourde, President and Chief Executive Officer, Cascades
“The daughter of an employee who also helped make the company a success from the outset, Claudette is an exemplary Cascader, a great lady and a true nature lover! She is a beautiful person in every sense of the word. Honest, dedicated and always ready to help and share her knowledge, she is generous with her time and has consistently delivered excellent work. Claudette is THE profit-sharing specialist, in addition to being the chronicler of its history at Cascades. Her skills are beyond reproach.”
Alain Lemaire, Cofounder and Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors, Cascades
“After 50 years, we can honestly say that Claudette has left her mark on Cascades. She has had an exceptional and inspiring journey, and is a model of kindness, generosity and respect. Working with her has been a real joy. Her well-deserved retirement will leave a huge void, but we can only consider ourselves fortunate to have experienced her support, generosity and dedication over all these years.”
Maryse Fernet, Chief Human Resources Officer, Cascades
“People who know Claudette describe her as an extremely kind, humble and caring person. I can tell you that this woman is one of the few people I know who possesses so many good qualities. Claudette is extremely generous, positive, hard-working and caring, to name but a few of her attributes. There is not a hint of malice in her heart, and the well-being of the people around her is particularly important to her. In the time I’ve known her, I’ve come to appreciate her most for her giant heart! Thank you, Claudette, for being a part of our lives.”
Line Couture, Senior Compensation Advisor, Cascades