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?
Tech is part of my family. I was born into it. When I was young, I didn't ask myself many questions. I was a good student at school, I enjoyed the abstraction of mathematics and its binary aspect: you either know or you don't know, you either understand or you don't understand. Now, at forty, when I open a science course, I enjoy reading it, understanding it more deeply and developing my intuition. Studying mathematics and science demystifies them, which is a very good thing. The better one understands the complexity of reality, the better one is able to distinguish truth from falsehood and to develop accurate personal thinking. This is both useful and important.
YOUR PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE?
Local school and collège, a famous Parisian lycée, the École Polytechnique, and I became an engineer in the Corps des Mines. I started my career in the administration and then spent a few years in the private sector, in the steel industry, before turning to professional education. My career is a mosaic of varied experiences. Some of the many challenging tech topics I have had the opportunity to work on are: competition in hydropower, the state of cross-border rivers, the steel pipe supply chain, the hazards of starting up a new rolling mill or the design of practical learning situations in schools. I have worked at different levels of organisational charts. These were generally male-dominated environments and I was involved on a few occasions in initiatives to make women more visible.
YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TECHNOLOGY?
I was in charge of the regional service for industrial environment in Lorraine. It was a job at the interface of many fields: operation of industrial sites, pollution or risk control measures, technical regulations, and also team and project management or preparation of political decisions. I learned a lot.
WHAT DO YOU DO TODAY, AND WHY?
I am a teacher of mathematics and business informatics at a vocational school in Düsseldorf, Germany. After 15 years of professional life, I wanted to change my career path, to focus on the human meaning of work, to be with young people, to immerse myself in a foreign culture and to have time for my children.
YOUR STRENGHTS IN THIS ROLE?
My greatest assets are my experience, my adaptability and my commitment. Teaching is a demanding job in terms of relationships. To be able to listen to the students, you need to have solid personal resources. Beyond the content of the courses, I would like to pass on to my students critical thinking, curiosity, self-confidence and openness to the world and to others.
PAST CHALLENGES, FAILURES AND DISAPPOINTMENTS?
My professional changes over the last few years are not at all a planned project that goes according to schedule, quite the contrary. They are the result of great moments of misunderstanding, trial and error, fear for the future, and also of gradually listening to my needs and desires, of slowly changing perspectives, of unusual encounters and chance events.
BEST MOMENTS, SUCCESSES YOU'RE PROUD OF?
I am proud to have succeeded on the path of academic success as a French engineer. I am proud that I no longer follow a set path and that I am able, day by day, to follow a path that is my own.
PEOPLE WHO HELPED, INFLUENCED -OR MADE YOUR LIFE DIFFICULT?
Some people in the private context have had a determining role for me. In the professional context, colleagues supported me in difficult times and later became very close friends. I can think of five woman friends I knew at different times in my life, all former colleagues: we were women in a man's environment and that's how our friendship started. Now I know that people I trust can make me see the world differently and get me out of my dead ends. Conversely, people in positions of power have shown me facets of themselves that I did not expect and that sometimes disarmed me. When the discourse doesn't correspond to reality, you can quickly lose your footing. I have become more lucid about certain types of behaviour that do not correspond to my values.
YOUR HOPES AND FUTURES CHALLENGES?
To continue to learn, to discover, to change. Next year I'm thinking of asking for a part-time job so that I can follow further training and open myself up to a new profession, to accompany young people in another setting, also rich in individual relationships.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU DON'T WORK?
I spend time alone, with my children and with people I like. I go for bike rides, I've taken up the guitar again, I'm trying my hand at drawing, I've recently started meditating, I read.
YOUR HEROES -FROM HISTORY OR FICTION?
Scarlett O'Hara and Jane Eyre are the two heroines of my youth. They are two emotional, authentic women who take hold of their destiny, face what happens to them with courage and live their lives to the full. My heroes in history have always been Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. I have just read a book written by Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, Arun Gandhi, on education for non-violence, which I really enjoyed. I am also moved when I read to my children in the evening the albums we have at home about Malala, Rosa Parks or Marie Curie.
A SAYING OR PROVERB YOU LIKE IN PARTICULAR?
"You can only see well with your heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes. "
A BOOK TO TAKE WITH YOU ON A DESERT ISLAND?
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, from which the above quote comes. It's such a beautiful book. For me, it tells of solitude in the middle of the world.
A MESSAGE TO YOUNG FEMALE PROFESSIONALS?
Take the time to listen to yourself and believe in yourself.