“Do not limit yourself“
What made you choose welding as a career, which is a highly male dominated segment?
It was just a fact, even before i started my career in welding. During my engineering school, there were about 10 per cent girls. After second year, I realised that genders were balanced in secondary school and most of the women chose another path where things looked maybe more open for them. This situation was 30 years ago. But I am still not sure whether things have drastically changed.
Could you quickly take us to your qualification background?
I started my career with an Engineering Diploma in Mechanics and Aerospace Techniques, together with BSc and Msc in Maths, Computing, Fluids and solid mechanics. Then, I switched to Materials Engineering and passed the corresponding Masters Degree. Finally, when it was time to pick a topic for a PhD. I had the chance to have one with Aluminum laser welding.
Could you brief us on your journey so far into welding?
Just after the PhD, I gave more preference to continue in Aluminum laser welding as one among the speciality. Therefore, I was hired by the French Welding Institute as Research Engineer. After a couple of rich years sharing my time between EU funded research projects, solution oriented studies for customers and teaching, I switched to management. I took over the library and information management department, then the publications and from 2005 to 2008 I used to be the coordinator of International Standardisation programmes. Early 2009, I was appointed as CEO of the International Institute of Welding.
Could you please share your experience of some of the mega project you worked upon?
I would prefer to mention a very modest project which is one of my best experiences of constructive collaboration with a client. We were contacted by a company who is not using welding technologies as per. They had an issue with porous tubes used to cool down plastic films quickly before they are put on rolls. The only technique to abutt the tubes was laser. The client showed a great curiosity for the process, and our staff was also very involved in the project. Across the years, we developped a true partnership based on mutual trust and permanent improvement. This is really rewarding to see that it is still going on after about 15 years.
You are now a CEO of IIW (International Institute of Welding). Your experience into this position?
Just great. I cannot believe myself at this position since almost 10 years. The big difference with specialized jobs is that you cover everything from IT, communication, finances, project management etc… The most important is the work with all the people from over 50 countries who are engaged in the organisation as volunteers. I truly love the diversity of cultures and the dynamism it brings to my daily working time.
Any project that you are currently working on?
Last year, we elected a new President who is leading an important work on strategic thinking. We are just at the beginning, redefining the vision and mission, but shortly the operational aspects will be built up and I will be able to bring my energy into the project.
Please share some of the interesting anecdotes during your career?
Lots of funny stories about things happening during formal ceremonies, amazing time visiting plans, everywhere in the world … One came to my mind : A couple of years ago, a young folk came to me and the IIW President introducing a concept of International Conferences for young people. He convinced us to link IIW with his project and I attended the event. This was great with a unique mix of classic lectures, study cases, good networking. The best was the welding competition at the end. I was involved in a team. I must say this was one of the best experience I had. Going back to my school years, being asked about the Fe-C diagramm, programming a robot. The only thing is I was not the best element of the team, especially for some practical aspects like welding with a virtual welding machine (to say the truth, I was justridiculous), so we did not win. This kind of experience truly helps to keep your feet on the ground and brings some humility. As a result, we now have regular International Conferences for young people.
What kind of challenges do you come across and how do you manage to cope up with the same?
The most difficult part of my job is to set the cursor amongst the different groups composed of staff and volunteers to achieve performance in the organisation. I’m afraid, this is not a specificity of my position as CEO of the IIW but for everyone in management. What really helps me is to have real breaks every evening and week-ends, so I come back with clear mind and positive attitude to make things moving.
Have you any time faced gender discrimination at work, as the stream is male dominated?
The French Welding Institute (IS Group) has a very strong gender equality policy, so on this side I never had such an experience. The international community is even more open with lots of inspiring women at eminent positions.
What are your future plans?
I will serve in my current position as long as people are satisfied with the job done. I think I still have some missions conduct. In the next decade, I’m becoming 50 next year, I would like to focus on passing my experience to the next generation.
Closing message, especially to the female.
Do not limit yourself, nobody expect you can set the limits.