The questionnaire answered by the Women of Tech is a variant of the Proust questionnaire, named not because Marcel Proust got lost in the Paris metro, but in memory of Emilie du Chatelet, a woman of letters, mathematician and physicist, renowned for her translation of Newton's Principia Mathematica and the dissemination of Leibniz's physics work. She was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the Bologna Institute. Emilie du Chatelet led a free and fulfilled life during the era of the Enlightenment and published a speech on happiness.
Why a career in tech?
I have always been very curious and eager to understand what surrounds me, Nature, physical phenomena, technology, and Science in general. I find it fascinating to be able to apprehend the invisible phenomena of the infinitely small scale as well as those of the infinitely large scale thanks to scientific theories. Also passionate about art, I have since very young wanted to become an architect, in the sense of architect builder / engineer. In my eyes, this represented the quintessence of a profession that was scientific, humanistic and artistic at the same time due to the extreme richness offered by the variety of its practice.
However, this hybrid dimension of the architect-builder, which corresponded to my idealised vision, was lost in France when Louis XV created the École des Ponts-et-Chaussées, which led to a split between the world of civil engineers and that of Beaux-Arts architects. This is why, with this ultimate ambition always in mind, I decided to embark on a slightly atypical adventure to create a tailor-made study path for myself. After two years of scientific preparatory classes for the Grandes Ecoles, I entered the Ecole Polytechnique. I then completed my training with a double degree in civil engineering and architecture from the Ecole des Ponts and the Ecole d'Architecture de Marne La Vallée. Finally, I obtained my HMONP diploma in architecture from the Ecole d'Architecture de La Villette.
Your first experience with technology?
I took up my first job in tech in 2013 as an eco- innovation project manager at Saint-Gobain when I was finishing my architecture degree at the Ecole de la Villette. At the time I was working for the group's research and innovation corporate, navigating between different research centres in France and internationally to help student teams build bioclimatic houses for the Solar Decathlon competition. It was a fantastic experience, combining applied research into construction materials and their applications with an innovative environmental approach.
What do you do today, and why?
After working as a structural engineer specialised in innovative designs and complex geometries at Setec in Paris and then in a design office in London, I decided to take the plunge and work as an architect. This is why I joined Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Paris, where I am now associate architect. I wanted above all to design in my own right, rather than being a consultant on the projects I was involved in. What's more, the philosophy advocated by Renzo Piano's office matched my ideal of an architecture that puts technology to the fore in each of the projects it develops.
Your strengths in this role?
The job of an architect is very similar to that of an orchestra conductor in that he must coordinate all the constraints of a project with a multitude of stakeholders to create a harmonious and lasting built work. The very wide range of courses I took during my engineering studies reinforced my taste for exploring each new challenge with a multi- criteria and parametric approach in which all the components are integrated as far as possible into the final built project (history, local socio-economic context, natural environment, economics, complex programme, etc.). My hybrid profile means that I can communicate with ease and relevance on all aspects of the project, with all the people I work with, and on subjects that are both purely architectural and technical, such as structure, fluids, acoustics, thermal engineering and innovative materials.
Past challenges, failures and disappointments?
It is not always easy to combine regular business trips abroad and going back and forth to the site while being 8 months pregnant... I have sometimes taken the exercise quite far. And very often in male-only contexts where I was not only the only woman but also the youngest.
Best moments, successes you’re proud of?
To see a building on which I worked finally completed and appreciated by users is an immense pleasure. For example, I took part in the adventure of the new Palais de Justice in Paris, for which I supervised the construction site of the high-rise building for two years and its opening to the public was particularly significant for me. More recently, an office building just outside Paddington station, the facade of which I designed, is about to be delivered and it is very pleasing to see my designs materializing in central London!
People who helped, influenced -or made your life difficult?
Many great benevolent professors during my academic career, who inspired me, guided me and sometimes gave me wings. The many fascinating colleagues I have met in the course of my various professional experiences. My friends and family, my unfailing supporters!
Your hopes and future challenges?
After working with Renzo Piano Building Workshop for nearly eight years, I would now like to set up my own practice to design my own architectural projects. I would also like to become even more environmentally involved so that my practice as an engineer & architect can actively contribute to limiting and mitigating the impact of climate change.
What do you do when you don’t work?
I love reading, dancing and mountain sports. I'm also the mother of two little girls aged 1 and 3, so watching them grow up and guiding them to fulfil their potential and flourish keeps me very busy!
Your heroes -from History or fiction?
All the women who have succeeded in making their voices heard or creating a place for themselves to practice their passion. Camille Claudel, Olympe de Gouges, Marie Curie, Simone Veil and so many others!
A saying or proverb you like in particular?
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein
A book to take with you on a desert island?
It's very difficult to choose... I would probably leave with a trunk full of books...
A message to young female professionals?
Never let yourself be guided by fear, but by your passions! Always dare to try!