UTC: the perfect matching machine

Adaptation is a key feature for all living organisms; it has nothing innate about it and has to be learned. When Luc Alba came to UTC Compiegne in the very beginning, with a diploma that was as yet not recognized, Luc Alba agrees that the conditions then were acrobatic compared with the means UTC has today, yet they served to reinforce the self-confidence of his comrades and himself, such that they all were able to adapt to a variety of real-life situations they were to encounter.

UTC: the perfect matching machine

UTC: the perfect matching machine

In the presence of Luc Alba, we could qualify him as ‘curious’ and ‘open-minded’ and definitely not dogmatic yet a hard thinker when needed. This former boss of the Software Engineering department at Sagem Mobile phones (2003), ex-Director at Ulysseo, a software editing company, is clearly adamant about new-wave social network addictions and others – not that he calls for a rejection of technologies but more the (mis)uses made and the subsequent total loss of critical minds. In a sense, it is logical that he finds it impossible to reject those very tools he himself developed over several years.

Travel and signal processing

It was not, however, the technological gadgets that motivated his first employment. “After I had gained my engineering diploma, I in fact wanted to make a break with UTC and head of to work outside France”. And what could be better in this respect than accepting a job in petroleum exploration, for the Compagnie Générale de Géophysique. From the Arctic Circle to California, via Brazil, the Congo or Spain, his job was with missions designed to identify promising geological structures. “90% of our drillings turn out to be dry and the cost of an echographic sonar sounding campaign is 10 times less than drilling a bore-hole”, explains Luc Alba.

A real soft spot for software engineering

After spending several years prospecting, Luc Alba moved back to a more sedentary life-style as a software developer for the same company. “Learning how to modify, upgrade and develop software packages was not a real difficulty at all”, explains Luc Alba, well aware as he was concerning the “adaptability genes” provided by his years at UTC. This new activity in fact shows him the path forward for his next career moves: as a consultant in software engineering, especially in the field of programme architecture, which is the key to finding modular software solutions, given their demonstrable competitive advantages. “We realized that a large number of software functionalities can be re-used and that an advantage accrues from thinking ahead for system target during the design phase” underlines Luc Alba, who see here an analogy with Lego® construction. Thus he then became interested in development processes per se, establishing two start-ups with major industrial groups as clients. He also later enjoyed his incursion to the industrial world of mobile phones and the first “apps” with SAGEM … to the point that today he heads the department responsible for deployment of profession-intensive software packages at SAFRAN.

Too many standards kill initiatives

Today and 60 years old, Luc Alba sees himself as a facilitator for the development and deployment of software packages for use in the aeronautical sector, which bring with it a new challenge: standards inflation and regulatory overkill process, whether it be in the public or less known in private sectors inasmuch as the trend is in-house. “Safety in aeronautics is primordial: any change or evolution of a given system requires ten engineers to demonstrate that the risk factors are fully under control. The statistical end-result is that air transport incurs about 20 times less accidents that with cars/trucks on the roads”, underlines Luc Alba. Standards he agrees are important, but nevertheless it is their sheer proliferation that impinges negatively on the corporate performances factors: on one hand, you have the intermeshing of processes and after a while the engineers are ‘out on a limb’, so to speak; on the other hand, a lot of time is wasted in justifying every move, with the engineers forced to play the role of lawyers rather than being totally focused on solving the problems to hand, as (and before) they arise. Alongside his professional track-record, Luc Alba has remained faithful to UTC, as an Bureau officer of ADAUC (which became Tremplin, the UTC alumni association) in 1998, helping professionalize the association in close liaison with its Bureau officers, a long-term partnership with UTC and a true service offer based on a reliable data base (witness the UTC graduate entrepreneurs who today are members of the Business Club. Today UTC counts some 26 000 graduates round the world. He is also a keen follower of the Prix Roberval, a prize given each year to books (etc.) that promote a better understanding of technology.