SICK’s Chief Compliance Officer and General Counsel shares how she strives to bring her best self to work every day
Many things have contributed to Elise Furlan’s work ethic and overall career development. From her experiences as a Lebanese-American to becoming SICK’s Chief Compliance Officer for Americas and Asia and General Counsel to the North American region, Elise always strives to bring her best self to the workplace. However, this passion did not emerge from a void. Elise’s experiences as a Lebanese-American played a major part in her development, and the challenges of discrimination experienced by her family sparked her interest in law.
A Journey Across Borders
The Lebanese Civil War lasted from 1975 to 1990, and it is estimated that over a million people left the country as a result of it. Elise’s family is a part of that statistic. Her parents came to the United States to escape the civil war, and it had a powerful effect on her world view.
Elise’s strong connection to her ethnic story resulted in a mindset of gratitude for all things, especially the American Dream. Like many first generation Americans, Elise saw that being in America brought tremendous opportunity. She tried to work hard and take those positive opportunities whenever they arose. Elise was also able to find many young minds with similar stories and friends/mentors from all walks of life. However, not everything was so positive.
When Elise’s father suffered from a stroke that left him blind, he experienced several instances of discrimination in his workplace. This introduced Elise to lawyers. Contrary to the general stigma that lawyers are always out for themselves, Elise grew up feeling that they were more often the good guys and gals, especially since it was a lawyer who helped defend her father. In her neighborhood, Elise met an attorney who taught at a local law school.
“She was very influential to how my career developed,” Elise said. “I started seeing her as a mentor figure and feeling like the law was an honorable field and avenue to do good.”
True to her word, Elise pursued law. She got her doctorate at the University of Minnesota, studied at Harvard, and even took time to even visit Lebanon and Britain to study abroad.
“My study abroads were a great early foundation in international perspectives,” Elise said. I have a sincere excitement for diversity and different points of view. It’s been such fun and a privilege to work for global organizations. At SICK, collaborating with international colleagues is a welcomed daily event.”
Meeting SICK’s Legal Needs
Elise has the unique position of being SICK’s Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) while still being General Counsel. The main differences between the two, aside from the duties of the roles, is that the General Counsel role is regional (North America), while being CCO is global (Americas and Asia). Through the General Counsel position, Elise reports to SICK, Inc.’s Chief Financial Officer, Tasha Bury. As CCO, she reports to Dr. Martin Kraemer of SICK AG’s Executive Board.
“The two reporting structures give me the opportunity to learn from prominent leaders in the company,” Elise explained. “I get to see how different boards work and the expectations they have. It’s been so valuable to get feedback and support from my managers and I feel exceedingly lucky to have this dual reporting. ”
As General Counsel, Elise heads a team of lawyers dedicated to meeting all of SICK’s legal needs in North America. This includes contracts, strategic decisions, employment inquiries, and corporate structuring. Elise enthusiastically champions the Legal team: “They are a fantastic group and I’m exceedingly proud of them. We are always striving to improve and grow; it’s easy to want to do that for a company like SICK.”
Thoughts on Leadership
Being both CCO and General Counsel in a larger, international company like SICK can be a challenge. One must have impartiality to succeed in these positions and neutrality must never be compromised. This is a difficult thing to ask of anyone, but Elise finds pride in her work.
“It’s critical for healthy organization to be a fair, impartial place where, for example, workers can be respected, have their dignity, and be encouraged to do their best,” she explained.
Dr. Erwin Sick, the founder of SICK, established goals for the company that are still part of the ethos, and she gets to uphold that through compliance work that supports the Code of Conduct, rules of procedure and other such measures. “I feel like I help safeguard the most critical part of the company: the mission statement and how to carry that out.”
Having occupied two leadership positions for the better part of six years, Elise has her own opinions on what makes a great leader. For one, the ability to listen and learn from others and leverage their ideas is a tell-tale sign. She recounts the advice Rob Barniskis, former CFO of SICK, gave her: “No matter how much you know, one person will never have enough imagination/creativity/smarts as a group. A great leader listens to these ideas then adapts and elevates some to the right platform. Leaders must be visionary and bold but that kind of listening also requires acute humility.”