A Frenchman in the stars

Nabil Had­jaz, who grad­u­at­ed from UTC in 2011, major­ing in Mechan­i­cal Engi­neer­ing, used to dream about becom­ing an astro­naut. Today, he works with them, after suc­ceed­ed in join­ing the world’s elite in space explo­ration. He is an engi­neer for the Cana­di­an Space Agency (CSA) and works with NASA on the ISS (Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion) programme.

«Nev­er give up and always move for­ward.» These are the words with which Nabil sums up his jour­ney and track-record. His per­son­al sto­ry is proof that deter­mi­na­tion leads to suc­cess. Born in the Val de Marne Depart­ment, 5th child in a fam­i­ly of 6, he grew up in a mod­est but rich val­ue-added envi­ron­ment. His inter­est in sci­ence quick­ly focused on aero­space ques­tions. His father, a work­er, worked on the run­ways at Orly. It was here that the boy found him­self attract­ed drawn to engi­neer­ing: «I want­ed to under­stand how planes flew». His moth­er took him to the library where he read sci­en­tif­ic mag­a­zines. A dream came true: to become an astronaut!

After his bac­calau­re­ate S, he went to a prepara­to­ry class at a lycée. «I didn’t know how to become an engi­neer; I was the first in the fam­i­ly to do this kind of study. I stopped the prepara­to­ry class after six months, because it didn’t suit me”. Nabil did a DUT and dis­cov­ered vibro-acoustics through an intern­ship that he loved. As N°1 of his class, he was admit­ted to UTC in the Mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing branch and then took the elec­tive spe­cial­ty the acoustics and vibra­tion branch for the engi­neer. In 2009, Nabil suc­cess­ful­ly applied his mantra: «Pure luck does not exist, you have to cre­ate your own oppor­tu­ni­ties». He obtained a schol­ar­ship to do a dou­ble degree at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Sher­brooke in Cana­da, fol­low­ing the meet­ing of a Cana­di­an pro­fes­sor vis­it­ing UTC.

Nabil returned to France in 2011 and worked at Safran design­ing an engine for Air­bus, before fly­ing to Mon­tre­al in 2013, with his deter­mi­na­tion as his only lug­gage. This was fol­lowed by an exem­plary career at Lock­heed Mar­tin and then at the Cana­di­an Stan­dards Asso­ci­a­tion. A new chal­lenge came in 2019: «At NAV Cana­da, I was trained as an air traf­fic con­troller, as direc­tor of oper­a­tions, I decid­ed how many planes would land at Mon­tre­al air­port. A strate­gic job wor­thy of a movie: I coor­di­nat­ed NORAD mis­sions to pro­tect North Amer­i­can air­space by direct­ing the fight­ers that took off in case of a threat. Not bad for a «Frenchy»!

In 2022, Nabil is now a Cana­di­an cit­i­zen, and has ful­filled his dream by join­ing the pres­ti­gious Cana­di­an Space Agency after a long process of inter­views and secu­ri­ty inves­ti­ga­tions: «I work as a sys­tems engi­neer. Cana­da is in charge of the robot­ics part of the ISS: the arm, the mobile base and the mini robots. I liaise with inter­na­tion­al part­ners such as NASA and Space X. I man­age the projects of MDA, the con­trac­tor that devel­ops the Cana­di­an hard­ware for the ISS. My mis­sion is to ensure the func­tion­al­i­ty of the hard­ware for the safe­ty of the astro­nauts and the mis­sion. My favourite part is man­ag­ing the emer­gency mea­sures to pro­tect the station!”

Nabil dreamt as he watched the space shut­tle on TV, now he finds him­self in a meet­ing with those who worked on its design. «It was super intim­i­dat­ing at first! But in meet­ings at the Space Agency, every­one respects each oth­er and is allowed to offer their opin­ion or pro­pose ideas. It’s real­ly a fan­tas­tic work­ing atmos­phere, and it’s very excit­ing to work with NASA.» Noth­ing is impos­si­ble for those who know how to give them­selves the means! 


  • 2007 : admit­ted to UTC after gain­ing a DUT
  • 2011 : obtained a dou­ble degree UTC — Uni­ver­si­ty of Sher­brooke (Cana­da)
  • 2011–2019 : engi­neer at Safran, Lock­heed Mar­tin and the Cana­di­an Stan­dards Association
  • 2019 : Direc­tor of Oper­a­tions, NAV Cana­da (air traf­fic control)
  • 2022 : Cana­di­an Space Agency — Senior Sys­tems Engi­neer — ISS (Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion, NASA)

Le magazine

Avril 2024 - N°62

Faire face aux enjeux environnementaux

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