Pragmatism at its best

Valérie Guénon grad­u­at­ed from UTC in mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing (Mate­ri­als and Tech­no­log­i­cal Inno­va­tion) in 1986, and has spent her entire career with Safran. She is cur­rent­ly Direc­tor of Safran’s Prod­uct Envi­ron­men­tal Pol­i­cy. Inter­ac­tions has sin­gled out a lady whose foot­steps reflect a high­ly prag­mat­ic career. 

Why do you invoke prag­ma­tism ? “Because I need­ed some at one point. I was a good stu­dent and I could have done a Bac C¹ at the time, but I fol­lowed the Lycee’s D stream out of inter­est in the nat­ur­al sci­ences. But this choice closed the door for me to the clas­sic “prepas” at engi­neer­ing schools,” recalls Valérie Guénon. 

And your choice to go for UTC ? “It has imposed itself very quick­ly, because it trains engi­neers with an inte­grat­ed prepara­to­ry course, recruits future stu­dents on the basis of a dossier, includ­ing those with a Bac D, and offers a bio­log­i­cal engi­neer­ing branch. Anoth­er par­tic­u­lar­i­ty that appealed to me: dur­ing the inter­view, recruiters were not only inter­est­ed in the grades but also in my per­son,” she adds. How­ev­er, I got a “slap in the face” in the first semes­ter of the year by fail­ing the two main UVs. But this in no way dimin­ished my deter­mi­na­tion, as I was not allowed to do so. From that point on I did­n’t fail any more and I even fin­ished among the best in the class,” she says. At the end of the core cur­ricu­lum, prag­mat­ics takes over again: she chose the Bio-Engi­neer­ing branch rather than Mechan­i­cal Engi­neer­ing. For what rea­son?” It was when I learned that all stu­dents at the time find­ing work with­in three months of grad­u­a­tion, except for the girls in the Bio­log­i­cal Engi­neer­ing branch, which I changed my mind,” she adds. 

A choice that she does not regret at all and which allowed her to make a choice that was rather rare in the 1980s, to car­ry out two long intern­ships abroad. “In my 4th year, I did a first six-month intern­ship in the Nether­lands. And in the 5th year, with all my UVs val­i­dat­ed in the first semes­ter, the UTC offered me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do a mas­ter’s degree which, in the Unit­ed States, takes two years. I left for two years at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Delaware in their Mechan­i­cal and Aero­space Engi­neer­ing depart­ment, com­bin­ing the last year of my engi­neer­ing stud­ies with the first year of my Mas­ter’s degree”, stress­es Valérie. Guénon. 

In 1988, on her return from the Unit­ed States where she turned down a job offer at Dupont de Nemours, and with her dou­ble degree in her pock­et, she was offered three jobs: one at Renault, the oth­er at the GIAT — renamed Nex­ter in 2006 – and final­ly at Snec­ma. She chose the lat­ter which, fol­low­ing the 2005 merg­er with Sagem, became Safran. Spe­cial­is­ing in com­pos­ite mate­ri­als, Valérie Guénon ini­tial­ly held var­i­ous tech­ni­cal posi­tions there. Then, after becom­ing Head of Euro­pean research pro­grammes for the Safran Group, she took part in the cre­ation of the Clean Sky² pro­gramme launched in 2008. In 2009, she became Qual­i­ty Direc­tor at Safran Land­ing Sys­tems, then Direc­tor of insti­tu­tion­al affairs for the Group’s research and tech­nol­o­gy, and final­ly Head of Safran Uni­ver­si­ty before tak­ing over as Head of envi­ron­men­tal policy. 

Her role as Direc­tor of the Prod­uct Envi­ron­men­tal Pol­i­cy of Europe’s lead­ing aero­nau­ti­cal equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­er? “On the one hand, this involves rep­re­sent­ing the Group vis-à-vis the inter­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions which estab­lish reg­u­la­tions relat­ing to the envi­ron­men­tal foot­print of avi­a­tion, such as the Inter­na­tion­al Civ­il Avi­a­tion Orga­ni­za­tion (ICAO), an inter­na­tion­al body that is an inde­pen­dent body of the UN), but also Euro­pean and inter­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions. And, on the oth­er hand, to coor­di­nate the group’s actions in this area, whether tech­ni­cal or com­mu­ni­ca­tion-relat­ed. The lat­ter being of cru­cial impor­tance at a time where the envi­ron­men­tal foot­print is in the spot­light”, explains Valérie Guénon. 

In addi­tion to this major role, there is a sec­ond one: the def­i­n­i­tion of an envi­ron­men­tal strat­e­gy for the design of future prod­ucts. “We are fac­ing a major chal­lenge: that of reduc­ing the envi­ron­men­tal and cli­mat­ic foot­print of avi­a­tion and antic­i­pat­ing the tight­en­ing of future inter­na­tion­al envi­ron­men­tal stan­dards, espe­cial­ly as our prod­ucts are designed to last for decades. We must there­fore not be mis­tak­en about their per­for­mance in gen­er­al and that of the envi­ron­ment in par­tic­u­lar,” she adds. 

¹ Bac S: spe­cial­iza­tion in maths and/or physics 


Le magazine

Juin 2023 - N°60

Une recherche tournée vers un avenir soutenable

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram