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Welcome to the Financial Times live web chat with Valérie Gauthier who features in our Ten Questions Q&A.

Valérie Gauthier, visiting professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, will answer your questions on Thursday, 9th February 2012, between 13.00-14.00 GMT.

Post your questions to ask@ft.com and they will be answered on the day on this page.


Why did you choose to move from HEC Paris to MIT Sloan School of Management? What are you enjoying most at MIT?

Valérie: I’m on sabbatical from HEC and was invited by MIT Sloan to work, teach and do research on leadership. I’m also writing a book on relational and sense leadership. I particularly enjoy exchanging views, ideas and perspectives with HEC faculty and teaching MIT students is a great experience.

What inspired you to develop the HEC MBA programme? What skills do you recommend I develop for this programme? I would like to apply to study for an MBA next year…

Valérie: My vision for the HEC MBA programme was to build an environment where participants would grow and learn from each other’s experience and expertise as much as from the diverse perspectives offered by faculty in the courses. So with the faculty, I designed a new curriculum where leadership took an important part and where there was good balance between technical skills and behavioural skills. The diversity of the population and the richness of the experience relies on people who are open-minded, hard workers and determined to grow, with the capacity to learn from others and be self-critical.

In the last question of your Ten Questions interview, you said that you probably would have spent more time with your kids when they were young teenagers. Do you believe that women can have it all, e.g. maintain a career in senior management and raise a family at the same time? To advance one’s careeer, it appears that sacrifices have to be made?

Valérie: Thank you for this question. This is a major point. I would not speak of sacrifices, rather of choices; conscious, well thought out choices that you make after sharing and consulting with others. In the case of the family, having open and thorough discussions about what type of balance you need and want, both as an individual and as a family.

In my case, we agreed as a family that it was good for me and possible for the family, to make the move towards a job that would take the greatest part of my time and energy - including lots of traveling. It was made possible because my husband was available and agreed to be very present at home. I also made a commitment to devote high quality time to my children when I was at home. It seems to have worked out. It was hard work and not always easy, but with discussion and understanding, a male-female balance can be achieved for the benefit of the children.

What was your experience like at Stanford? (on the executive education programme) Why did you apply for this?

Valérie: I applied for Stanford’s executive programme, EPSO because I wanted to learn more about strategic leadership and knew that Stanford would offer some of the best faculty perspectives. I was on the board of GMAC at the time and it was interesting for me to get a US perspective on strategy and to bring back my experience and knowledge to the strategic moves I was making at HEC Paris.

I had a great experience with a group of CEOs and executives that came from all over the world. It was intense and challenging, in a great atmosphere of sharing. It was also good to be on the other side, i.e. on the student’s chair, for a change. It helped me think more deeply about what the student experience is like.

The concepts and theories we worked on were very helpful in designing the next strategy for the HEC MBA. We should engage in education and training at regular intervals as we grow in life. There is always so much to learn and, above all, those are moments when you take a step back and think not only about your work, but most importantly, about yourself. Questioning myself and being self-critical has always been part of my life, I find it is very important in order to make sound choices and decisions.

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