Interview with Claire, Process Engineer at Valeo
Belgian by nature, French by nurture, Claire is an open-minded, team-oriented and diligent Process Engineer at our Étaples site in northern France. We caught up with this enthusiast and (busy!) mother of two to find out more about what motivates her in her interesting role.
How does a Belgian engineer end up at Valeo Étaples?
Claire – Well, I’m technically Belgian, yes, but have been living in France since the age of two, when my parents moved here. I feel like I’m from here, although my entire family still lives across the northern border. My education, however, was very much a French recipe: a base of science baccalaureate, a layer of engineering prep school, specialising in chemistry, topped off with a PhD in material science. Voila.
My PhD was actually financed by Valeo, meaning I was already working as a PhD researcher at Valeo. When I graduated, I was offered a role at Valeo Créteil. It would have been more computer focused, which I wasn’t exactly looking for. I wanted field experience — I wanted to be on my feet, in dialogue with people, seeing results in action. During my studies, I always thought I would become a researcher, but when the interesting role of process engineer at Valeo Étaples became available and required my skills in welding and metallurgy, I went for it — so that’s where I am today!
And what exactly does a process engineer do?
C. – The first clue is in the job title itself — we engineer the processes required for the production of new Valeo products. Basically, we industrialize product designs. Product teams send us the designs for new products and we look at everything from budget, technology and machines, to deliveries, safety, and environmental concerns to come up with a solution. As a welding expert, I focus on products that often require – surprise, surprise – welding.
Once the production line is built, we check the security, traceability, cycle time, and, of course, the reliability of the product. We also work on implementing flexibility on existing lines to produce new products. Working at a production site means there are always critical challenges, because what we do is directly linked to what will be produced and used by the clients and end-users.
So, what excites you about this role? What keeps you coming back for more?
C. – That’s an easy one, it’s the teamwork. I don’t work alone, I’m always in contact with many different people, such as suppliers, colleagues, technicians and experts — we all help each other. Considering all the moving parts involved, you need good people skills for the job, and it helps when they are all good people too! If you can work together, everything is possible.
And, finally, what advice do you have for all the future process engineers out there?
C. – Be true to yourself, don’t pretend to know everything, and accept your errors — they allow us to grow. Be rigorous, curious, and never lose that scientific mindset. You’ll need your engineering skills, but good communication skills are also important to report to and train others effectively.
The next generation of process engineers will work in a much faster environment as Valeo’s production is in a constant state of acceleration. We could have a whole other conversation about the advances in automation and robotics at our site. Did you know we produce over 30,000 alternators per day?
What’s next for Claire at Valeo?
C. – Well, funnily enough, I just received the title of Expert, which I had been working towards for a while. I’m very proud of this. So, for now I have enough interesting projects to keep me busy for the next three to four years — let’s see what comes next then!