Académie des technologies

Cécile Villette

  • CEO and co-founder
  • Altaroad
  • 42 years old
  • Sponsored by Chloé CLAIR in 2023

Why Tech?

When I was young, I loved mathematics, which I always saw as a game of logic. This led me to preparatory classes and then to Télécom ParisTech, a choice I made because I saw it as the best computer science education at the time, with the intuition that it would become an essential tool in our society and a means of action for my projects. This is what happened. Without falling into techno-solutionism (tech alone won't save us; we also need to reduce our impact), I started a startup that uses technology to facilitate the circular economy and reduce environmental impact in the construction industry, one of the most polluting and energy-intensive sectors that urgently needs transformation.

Your Background?

After completing preparatory classes and engineering school at Telecom Paristech, I spent over 12 years in consulting at Accenture and PWC in digital strategy and deployment projects. Eight years ago, with the desire to start my own business, I decided to pursue an MBA at HEC, where I met my first business partner, Bérengère Lebental, a researcher at a unit of the École Polytechnique, CNRS, and Gustave Eiffel University. She was engaged in measuring and reducing the impact of transportation and infrastructure through the development of innovative sensors. We shared a vision of an impact-driven startup that uses technology to help industrial players make the right decisions about their transportation, with initial demand from the construction industry. We were joined by a third operational co-founder, Rihab Jerbi. Altaroad, the startup, was born in 2017.

Your First Professional Experience in Tech?

After graduating from Telecom, I joined Accenture's international team specializing in IoT and networks (the topic of my final modules at Telecom). I was sent to Iceland, Australia, and India to work on the launch of connected products (VoIP, IPTV, mobile TV, IoT for home automation).

What Are You Doing Today and Why?

I am the CEO and co-founder of ALTAROAD, a company that uses technology to facilitate the circular economy and reduce environmental impact in the construction industry. I created it to address two important challenges for me: to make a difference in a sector with a high environmental impact and to be my own boss. I wanted the autonomy to work in a supportive and non-hierarchical environment. The word "kindness" keeps coming up when our employees talk about Altaroad's corporate culture, and that's a source of pride.

Your Strengths for This Position?

- A dual engineering/business background, a key asset in a highly innovative "Deeptech" startup where the top priority at the beginning is finding the elusive "product/market fit." - The high-quality education I received at Telecom, which has proved directly applicable years after graduation in understanding the challenges of deploying different technologies. - Skills developed in consulting, particularly customer listening, have been extremely effective tools for navigating uncertainty and the ups and downs of startup life

Your Past Challenges, Failures, Moments of Solitude?

A burnout 10 years ago during my consulting career, with the feeling of sounding the alarm on a poorly sold project, not being heard, and being in an absurd system heading for disaster. In hindsight, that project was toxic. I learned to trust myself more: if I find the environment absurd and toxic, it's better to leave rather than exhaust myself.

Your Best Moments, Achievements You're Proud Of?

Successful launches of my projects in Iceland, Australia, and later in the Czech Republic. These projects required a lot of brainpower, strong international collaboration, and teamwork to secure the launch of cutting-edge technology within strict deadlines. More recently, I felt immense pride when we signed Altaroad's first contract, when we won the European Innovation Council project call as part of the European Green Deal, and when Altaroad was named one of the prestigious Frenchtech 2030 startups—promising companies for France by 2030. I'm also very proud of the Altaroad team, of having convinced key talents at the start, and of seeing the company culture we collectively develop grow so positively and effectively.

People Who Have Helped or Impacted You, or Those Who Made Your Life Difficult?

In a positive sense, several of my managers who stimulated my desire to become a manager and leader by illustrating the crucial role a good leader can play in mentoring, supporting, and motivating. One manager emphasized the mentor's role in stimulating ambition, encouraging me to aim higher. Another manager provided support when taking risks, expressing an interest in investing as one of my first investors when I left to start my own business.

Your Future Aspirations and Challenges?

To turn Altaroad's initial successes into a sustainable, profitable company recognized internationally for its positive environmental impact.

What Do You Do Outside of Work?

I engage in sports, including boxing, running, and hiking, to balance the intensity of work. I also enjoy reading to inspire myself and learn in various domains.

Your Heroines/Heroes in Fiction or History?

Esther Duflo, Nobel laureate in economics, for her inspiring approach to challenging prejudices about poverty through rigorous methodology and data analysis. Her book "Poor Economics: Rethinking Poverty & the Ways to End It" was particularly inspiring for its rigor and consistency in addressing various topics. She rethinks the approach to economic development aid, including health, education, access to credit, and the fight against corruption to achieve concrete results. Emma Watson, the iconic actress who portrayed Hermione in Harry Potter (also a role model!), for her commitment to fighting discrimination and her speech at the UN as part of the HeForShe campaign. She spoke out when she was at the height of her fame, shared her doubts before taking the role, and her reasons for doing it: "If not me, who? If not now, when?"

Your Favorite Quote?

"And if there can be only one, I will be that one." Determination is a strength! I found this TED Talk particularly inspiring on the factors of success: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

A Book to Take to a Deserted Island?

"Culottées - Des femmes qui ne font que ce qu'elles veulent" (Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World) by Pénélope Bagieu, a graphic novel that inspires with the extraordinary journeys of women who are not celebrated enough. "The Secret Power of Introverts" by Susan Cain, to maximize your potential and take pride in your introverted qualities in a society that may not always recognize their value upfront.

A Message or Advice to Young Women?

I was afraid to speak up for a long time—in meetings and in public. Surprisingly, I loved doing theater. I projected myself as someone else, carried their message, and forgot about stage fright. I learned a "hack" for speaking: I project myself as the spokesperson for my team or an important message, which helps reduce the pressure of the audience. For Altaroad, you'll hear me talking about the circular economy and reducing environmental impact. If you're ever afraid to speak up, remember that you're not speaking for yourself: you're the spokesperson for your message, and only you can convey it.


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.

Emilie Du Chatelet

Woman of letters, mathematician and physicist

1706 - 1749