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?
As a kid, I remember hearing radio programs my parents were listening to, describing economics, environmental or society issues… I then told myself “When I grow up, I’ll be an inventor”. A few years later attending middle school, I had the opportunity to visit a manufacturing facility. I discovered a hidden, complex, and fascinating world producing what surrounds us. I chose to become an engineer to design and adapt what we learn from the world to society’s needs.
What is your career path?
After graduating from high school, I joined the mechanical engineering department at UTC, 5 years of mathematics, humanities lectures, material strength experiments, group design assignments… After a manufacturing internship at Scania Trucks, a 6-month exchange program in the Netherlands, and 2 internships, one in Germany at the Robert Bosch GmbH and one at Renault, I graduated as a product development engineer.
Your first experience with technology?
I started as an Ergonomics & User Experience engineer at Renault, working on commercial vehicles. My job in a nutshell? Making sure that vans were best suited to the needs and comfort of passengers.
What do you do today, and why?
I currently work for the SNCF group (the French railway operator) in the engineering rolling stock department. I am manager of a system and electrotechnics engineering group working on high-speed trains, the “TGVs”. Our mission is to improve the reliability of our trains and improve the riding experience of passengers by adapting the trains to their new needs and expectations. We cover a wide number of systems, from the traction system to Internet on Board or HVAC systems. My role is to make sure my engineering teams get the best conditions to fulfill their missions.
Your strengths in this role?
As an engineer, I have strong analytical skills and an excellent ability to implement solutions in an efficient and precise way. Another strength is my ability to take a step back, get perspective on issues, and find creative solutions to solve them. I also communicate with other sectors about my team’s achievements. And I am very patient and perseverant in my everyday interactions.
Past challenges, failures and disappointments?
I felt down when I started working for John Deere in Germany. I had just left my first employer, the one who “shaped me”, the one which culture, organization and processes I embraced. I was suddenly in a new company, a new country, a new culture, and a new language: I was completely disoriented. The new company hired me, trusted me so I had to meet the challenge! I did, and worked there for almost 10 years.
Best moments, successes you’re proud of?
I am a mechanical engineer currently leading a team of systems and electrotechnics engineers! They are experts, passionate about their jobs, and interacting with them at the beginning almost felt like learning a new language! I managed to master this area of knowledge and I am very proud of that. That’s another aspect of being an engineer: a lifelong learning experience!
People who helped, influenced -or made your life difficult?
Thanks to the in-house company network SNCF Mixité, dedicated to strengthening the role of women within the group, and encourage gender balance, I attended a 1-year mentoring program. Through meaningful and stimulating exchanges, my mentor helped me to take a step back and find my own solutions! Beyond this empowering experience, networking withing SNCF Mixité helped me reach my full potential thanks to meetings & conferences but above all, thanks to the projects I was engaged in.
Your hopes and future challenges?
Gain a more complete vision of the train exploitation system to support a sustainable mobility.
What do you do when you don’t work?
I play the piano and recently resumed taking lessons to improve and discover new pieces! To get some steam off, I have been practicing judo recently. Last year I was awarded my blue belt, which I am very proud of! I also read a lot of novels. Otherwise, I love spending time with my husband and 2 children, discovering new places, new countries.
Your heroes -from History or fiction?
The word “heroines” echoes with childhood and magic. As a child, I loved Matilda from the Roald Dahl eponym book. A brilliant little bookworm surrounded by failing parents (and a sexist father…) and a very authoritarian school principal! She decided to stand up against the failing adults and take revenge. I admired her astonishing intelligence, her independence, and her courage.
A saying, or proverb you like in particular?
It is not a saying, rather 2 verbs that I often refer to: to dare and to persevere.
A book to take with you on a desert island?
It is a difficult choice… If I were on a desert island, I would probably enjoy re reading the “Maddadam” trilogy by Margaret Atwood. It is a dystopian story in which mankind is overwhelmed by a plague… These 3 books echo our contemporary crises like the environmental negligence, the power of big corporations, food challenges, genetic engineering…
A message to young female professionals?
Do not let preconceived ideas about STEM and tech jobs dissuade you from taking a very fulfilling career path; forge your own opinion! Yes, you can be a woman and still be yourself et reach your full potential in a tradionally male-dominated environment. You, we, belong there. Being an engineer means having a wide range of jobs, all of them very exciting!