Académie des technologies

Isabelle Leang

  • R&D Engineer in Artificial Intelligence
  • Valeo
  • 33 years old
  • Sponsored by Guillaume Devauchelle in 2022

Why a career in tech?

Actually, my studies led me to the tech field because when I was a kid, I loved doing maths, so I pursued my studies in science. Why work in tech? First of all, because it's fun! On the one hand, you experiment, you analyze, you create new things; and on the other hand, it’s motivating to develop technologies that will improve people's lives! Then, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become so popular in recent years that I couldn't resist the wave. There is so much to do and explore in this area that there is never a dull moment!

Your professional experience?

After preparatory classes for Engineering Schools (mathematics and physics), I joined ENSEA and I graduated in 2012. Unlike what the future held for me, I didn’t become an electronics engineer! During my 1st year internship at the university of Taïwan, I discovered Computer Vision, a branch of AI consisting of analyzing and understanding images from cameras. During my last year of engineering school, I specialized in Computer Vision. Several experiences have marked me, in particular my end-of-studies internship on Computer Vision at Thales and a few months spent on Deep Learning at the Machine Learning laboratory of UPMC (LIP6). So I completed a PhD in Computer Vision and Machine Learning at ONERA and ISIR (UPMC).

Your first experience with technology?

My end-of-studies internship was my first significant professional experience in tech. It is there that I discovered both the business and tech worlds. I was in a research lab at Thales where people were developing camera-based perception algorithms for various applications. I developed an algorithm that had to be embedded on a mini-drone: it was fun because it is small and it flies, but it was a technical challenge! Besides the technical aspect, I found it enriching to see the different R&D professions, the projects in progress, and especially the engineers who were doing this work. It made me want to do the same.

What do you do today, and why?

I am working at Valeo in the Driving Assistance Research (DAR) department as an R&D engineer and Valeo expert in AI. My job is to develop algorithmic solutions for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Valeo is a French company, world leader in the automotive industry. It is obviously a pride forme to be involved in technological innovations to create smarter automotive systems that allow safer driving. I enjoy working on concrete projects that meet the needs of major customers in the automotive industry. Collaborating with international teams is one of the interesting aspects of the job. Indeed, Valeo's AI teams, which are spread over several countries, must coordinate their strengths and know-how to successfully complete the projects. Finally, it is very rewarding to see that the solutions I have been involved in, are marketed in vehicles currently on the road.

Your strengths in this role?

Logical rigor, scientific curiosity and perseverance are very useful to me in solving complex technical problems. Demonstrating critical thinking and pragmatism are key to making the right technical choices and delivering projects on time. Finally, adaptability, open-mindedness and listening are necessary qualities to evolve in an international environment within multi-cultural teams.

Past challenges, failures and disappointments?

During my career, women have very often been under-represented and it hasn’t always been easy to live with, except for the DAR where there is a greater gender balance. Public speaking is always a challenge for me but with practice and experience it becomes easier, as the proverb says “practice makes perfect”.

Best moments, successes you’re proud of?

I am proud to have contributed to one of Valeo's biggest AI projects, which is now integrated into systems in production. I also had the opportunity to write patents, participate in publications and present my work at scientific conferences. This allowed me to be recognized as a Valeo expert in my field in 2020. Currently, I am involved in the development of new generations of ever more innovative algorithms for ADAS in collaboration with teams in Ireland, Germany, Czech Republic, Egypt, India and the United States

People who helped, influenced - or made your life difficult?

Coming from a family of immigrants, being able to benefit from the French education system was a chance, it gave me the means to get by in life. There are and always will be obstacles to overcome in life, but at each stage of my student or career path, I have met caring people who have trained me, helped me and believed in me, and it is thanks to this that I can do the job I do today.

Your hopes and future challenges?

I would like to continue to learn new things, to develop my technical expertise so that I can continue to have fun in what I do! In my field, where research moves very quickly, the challenge is to stay in the race, to question yourself and to change course if necessary. Greater challenges await me in future projects at Valeo, and in my new role as technical leader, I will provide guidance and choose the right technical strategies.

What do you do when you don’t work?

My activities outside of work: spending time with my loved ones, sports, reading, my Bible study group; and being a big foodie, cooking and baking.

Your heroes -from History or fiction?

When I was a kid, I watched a lot of TV. One of my favorite series was the science fiction series “Stargate” (from 1998) where one of the protagonists is an adventurous woman scientist (Samantha Carter), captain and physicist, exploring other planets and alien peoples with her team through the Stargate.

A saying or proverb you like in particular?

As a Christian, my motto is taken from the Bible: "God, the Lord, is my strength" (Habakkuk 3:19). It reminds me who I can turn to when I face personal or professional difficulties. Indeed, he has given me everything I have, he is the support of my life.

A book to take with you on a desert island?

The Bible for its countless riches: its teachings, its truths and its promises, from which hope and faith flow. Meditating on the Word is essential for me as a Christian, it is knowing God personally, according to what is written: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9.10)

A message to young female professionals?

Dare to be adventurous because you have the ability, don't be afraid of novelty, don't censor yourself. You can really have fun in tech!


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