When reflecting on her career, Sev Gunes-Lasnet characterizes it as not necessarily linear. She began as an aerospace engineer designing high-tech onboard electronics for satellites and working with design and testing teams to manage portfolios of research and development activities. Her experience includes systems design at Airbus in her native France, the lead of an Oxford, UK-based robotics team that trialed a planetary exploration rover and its instruments, and spacecraft onboard computers design at the European Space Agency in The Netherlands.
Her role has evolved from being very technical to more managerial, and she is currently a Senior Innovation Consultant at PwC UK. Yet even with such a breadth of experience and achieving various competencies in her role, Gunes-Lasnet is on a lifelong pursuit of learning.
"What attracts me to executive education is I constantly want to be learning. Whenever I've felt I had mastered almost 95 percent of the skills needed for a role, it prompts me to continue learning to prepare for what's next. Executive education specifically caters to working professionals looking to bolster their expertise and widen their horizon," says Gunes-Lasnet.
Having an unrelenting desire to learn, she believes, makes a massive difference in one's life and how one interprets the world. "The happiness and fulfillment you feel at work are also related to learning and developing, so it's always been very important to me. My career has changed so much from where I started; it's evolved from something very technical to something that's more business-related and links to strategy and finance."
Gunes-Lasnet admitted she was a little nervous about returning to the classroom after being away from an academic setting for so long. Still, she decided to start with Chicago Booth’s Negotiate with Influence, a live-online program taught by John Burrows, senior lecturer in leadership at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy. Gunes-Lasnet wanted to acquire a skill set she could immediately utilize in her current role. Taking a negotiations program seemed like the perfect choice, as it's something we do every day, but maybe not always the right way.
"I've been asked, 'Why would you sign up for a negotiation class? When do you need to negotiate?' The reality is no single day passes where I don't enter some sort of negotiation either at home or at work. The program pushes you out of your comfort zone with actual negotiation exercises with the rest of the (small) cohort, and the negotiations become tougher and more challenging. It is a great place to try and flex your style in a safe environment," says Gunes-Lasnet.
"Professor Burrows likens negotiations to a contact sport. I practiced my skills with executives from around the world – Dubai, across the U.S., Europe, and Asia, who were all at a professional level, yet they pushed themselves to get out of their comfort zones," she says.
The live-online format provides a safe space to practice real-life negotiations scenarios executives routinely encounter. "It was a revelation to find out through practice and planning that I am good at negotiating, and I enjoy it. The program gave me the methodology, experience, and confidence to have difficult conversations I previously dreaded because I found them uncomfortable. The negotiation exercises force you to get out there and embrace being uncomfortable. If you have been developing your own negotiation methods over the years but always wondered if you could benefit from formal training, this program is absolutely worth the investment," she says.