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?
A career in Tech… My orientation towards technology was a given actually. I'm a mechanic's daughter and I was under the cars with my dad all the time. It was the next logical step for me to work on rocket boosters. I have always loved science and languages.
Your professional experience?
I have a university education in physic chemistry then, molecular and biomolecular in Montpellier and a Master's degree in Technical Science of Matter and Energy in Toulouse, then, an expert training in software engineering in Paris. I was a software quality engineer at Hispano Suiza on aircraft calculators and then an engineer on the Ariane 5 rocket flight programme at CNES. At Arianespace, I was responsible for the production of boosters, solid propellant boosters and electrical systems for Ariane, Vega and Soyuz. Then, transferred to French Guiana, I became launch team leader at the Guiana Space Centre. After this great experience at the GSC, I flew to the Netherlands to work at Airbus Defence and Space NL on the solar panels of the satellites and particularly currently on those equipping the European Service Module (ESM) of the ORION spaceship. This is NASA's Artemis programme, which aims to visit the Earth's natural satellite again, not just for a few days, but to establish the basis for a permanently crewed human outpost in the long term. By the way, one of these spaceships will soon take a woman of color to the moon (it's quite a symbol!)
Your first experience with technology?
I have always been involved in technology. Beyond rockets, ATV freighters or the European module service of the ORION spaceship, I did research during my internships such as at the “Laboratoire de Réactivité de Surface” in Paris on gold nanoparticles to establish a chemical method of heterogeneous catalysis or my experience at the CRBA (Centre de Recherche de Biopolymères Artificiels) in Montpellier on the development on the scientific, and technological aspects of a material effective in accelerating the proliferation of human tissues used in modern medicine.
What do you do today, and why?
I am a product assurance engineer and team leader at Airbus Defence and Space in the Netherlands. The transversal functions allow me to touch all scientific disciplines. Due to my origins on the diverse and multicultural island of Reunion, I enjoy working in an international and English-speaking environment with colleagues, suppliers and customers of different nationalities. I am ambitious and would like to become the head of a service or department in the future. I think I belong on the path to the life I want to have.
Your strengths in this role?
My first asset is my self-confidence. I am a reliable person who can be counted on. I know my skills and limitations and I can intimidate people with my confidence. I am committed to everything I do and I follow through on my commitments. I interact well with my team members. I take care of them in order to be effective collectively for a good performance. I stand up and speak up to protect. I do not tolerate injustice. I am creative and have a very good attitude of cooperation/collaboration and I am pragmatic in always looking for problem solving.
Past challenges, failures and disappointments?
In the context of the various challenges I have always faced in my life, I have a very high degree of resilience and courage. I always evolve by putting myself out of my comfort zone to constantly push my limits. The biggest challenge I have faced is leading a team of mostly men during the rocket launch campaigns in Kourou. I had doubts and my first launch campaign seemed difficult. I was under pressure, but I understood that if my director had given me this responsibility, then I had to be up to the task. I rolled up my sleeves and we had many successful rocket launches. My failure was not knowing how to choose a life partner who could be at my side to move in the same direction. This has led me to be a single mother of 2 young children very early on in the last 10 years. Which complicates the organization of life as a woman, a solo mom and a working woman in such an exciting field. I have felt more than a few moments of loneliness. But, my way of life allowed me to meet wonderful people as astronauts or other engineers.
Best moments, successes you’re proud of?
Every day is a real joy. No two days are alike. Nevertheless, key moments of recognition have given me a smile and brightened my heart to encourage me to continue my mission: having given birth to my son Antony and my daughter Annahe, rewarded at the Talents d'Outre Mer in 2015, making a biographical documentary film with an official broadcast in 2023. I am still waiting for my next success with the creation of a space academy in Reunion Island to promote awareness, educate and train our young people to become space entrepreneurs.
People who helped, influenced -or made your life difficult?
Many people have accompanied me in this life path, first my parents, then my English and German teachers at the Etang College, Reunion Island, then my Physical Sciences teacher at the Louis Payen High School, Reunion Island. Catherine Louis trained and inspired me by her benevolence during my end-of-study internship at the Laboratoire de Réactivité de Surface in Paris. Daniel Groult, my former director at Arianespace, helped me grow in confidence. When I met Claudie Haigneré, I was encouraged by her elegant way of thinking.
Your hopes and future challenges?
The next step in my life is to continue my development to become a department or service head of a space company or agency but also to start my own business and create it with and for my children. I am in the process of locking in my brand and launching a line of products related to my brand. If that happens, I will become a Minister or the first woman of color President of the French Republic. Also, on achievable desires or challenges, I would like to write a book(s) about nanosatellites, space research and science in general.
What do you do when you don’t work?
I like to ride my motorcycle, walk and dive. I also give my time to CASODOM, U3P, PIKALI, 3AF, Woman In Aerospace, Elles Bougent...
Your heroes -from History or fiction?
My heroine is Laureline (from the Science-Fiction comic strip Valérian et Laureline) for several reasons related to science-fiction in space but also because the impact of her presence in the story has changed even the title of the comic strip. Laureline is very atypical and has a strong character that makes her complementary with Valerian in their role of Space-Time Service agents.
A saying or proverb you like in particular?
My motto is in Reunionese kreol: "pa kapab lé mor san essayé", which means that it is indeed difficult to know what one is capable of if one has not tested one's abilities. This formula illustrates an unfailing determination to face certain situations. In English, I would say "Going above and beyond" rather than "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
A book to take with you on a desert island?
I could have said a book of "Bernard Werber, La papillon des étoiles" but I will definitely answer: a notebook with white pages and my pen to write my story and each adventure I would live on this deserted island: to describe and draw the problems encountered and the possible solutions.
A message to young female professionals?
I say it and continue to say it to everyone, believe in yourself and dare to be yourself, this will give space to others to be able to feel safe to be themselves.