Christine Kerdellant is the editorial director of L’Usine Nouvelle, L’Usine Digitale, Industrie & Technologies, Bip and Enerpresse. She is the Godmother of the 2021 graduation ceremony. Interactions interviewed her!
Can you tell our readers why you accepted the role of Godmother of this 2021 UTC graduation ceremony?
It’s an honour! And it’s the first time I’ve been asked to do this.
What does this engineering school represent for you?
First of all, it was the school of Charles Foucault, the ex-editor and quasi-founder of Usine digitale, a brilliant and imaginative journalist with whom I loved to work before he left for Switzerland to found a start-up. So I had a good image of him from the start! Then, it was at the UTC that I got into an autonomous self-drive car for the first time, an experience that really amused me and opened up new horizons. Finally, UTC was our partner for the exhibition «Industry seen from above»… All this creates links.
What do you expect from this class for the rest of their professional career?
That many students choose to go into industry! Engineers can have great careers here, and “the sky is the limit”… There are not enough engineers in France, so the doors are wide open for the best of them! And then, in the race to carbon neutrality by year 2050, which is our obsession, industry represents 20% of the problem and 80% of the solutions. We won’t make it without technological innovation in all areas, especially energy.
What do you wish them?
I wish them to do like Gustave Eiffel, very fashionable this year (and about whom I wrote my latest book): to succeed in making France shine throughout the world. The engineers’ France was so much more innovative than that of the bureautechnocrats!
What qualities and skills make the difference today?
Adaptability, intelligence, initiative, a taste for risk… But these are the same, I think, as those that enabled people to have a great career and a good life a century ago!
You very often highlight the engineering professions in your columns. What are the beliefs of your media about the world of engineering?
We address industry executives, but mainly engineers. We show them that the world of engineering is infinite! It leads to a wide range of activities and professions, depending on whether you choose to go into AI, hydrogen, agro-food…
If your career had been different, would you have chosen to become an engineer? In what field? Why would you do that?
I dreamt of becoming a journalist ever since childhood. I didn’t want to hear about anything else. I had to fight to get there, because everyone around me absolutely wanted me to become an engineer. In the end, I went to HEC, which seemed more logical to become a journalist (it wasn’t in reality, and being an engineer would have allowed me to become a scientific journalist rather than an economic journalist). Today, we regularly recruit young engineers who want to become journalists. They are the best profile to follow aeronautics, cars or energy at L’Usine Nouvelle, L’Usine digitale or Industrie & Technologies…
You very regularly put forward the engineer of the future, via very successful articles and events, how do you see this engineer of the future?
They will be familiar with AI and more generally with our new digital tools. But whether he creates his own start-up or joins Thales or L’Oréal, I imagine him/her wanting to work on the key issues of the world to come, with saving the planet in mind… He/she is also someone who works by «try and learn», who is not afraid to make mistakes. Today’s Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Elon Musk like to surround themselves with people who know what failure is: they had some themselves in their early days and know that these ‘scars’ are the passport to greater success.
Has the health crisis reshuffled the deck?
Yes, it has caused an acceleration of trends, whether it be the use of teleworking or the rise of China. The boss of Camif — which sells items related to our homes, advocates recyclability and short circuits, and has taken the initiative of no longer buying anything outside Europe — told me a few days ago that his results have progressed as much in 1 year as he had hoped for in 5 years!
Your rankings help choose an engineering school. How do you proceed?
For four months we collect data from the schools or the CDEFI (it’s a long process, because we judge on dozens of criteria), we validate them, and then we establish scores on about ten items (international influence, proximity to companies, research, etc.). We change the criteria every two years or so.
Finally, what is the end-of-year news for your media company and its prospects for 2022?
Usinenouvelle.com is the leading BtoB website in France! The audience is constantly growing on the subjects of Aero, Space or Energy… And it is not about to be dethroned, because over the next few months we are going to integrate into L’Usine Nouvelle other brands from the group’s industry division: Info-chimie, the magazine Packaging, etc. At the same time, the monthly paper magazine continues to be the industry reference, and with the lockdowns it has continued to consolidate its position.