Interview with Morane, Research & Innovation engineer at Valeo
Morane trained in medical science, specializing in polymer chemistry, before an apprenticeship brought her to the Health & Wellbeing department at Valeo. She now works at a state-of-the-art technology campus, dreaming up innovations while collaborating with cutting-edge startups and engineering schools for the future of mobility.
Morane, can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do at Valeo?
Morane – I’m 27 years old, from Paris, and I’ve been working at Valeo for three and a half years. I came to the company through an apprenticeship in Valeo’s Health & Wellbeing department, working in research and innovation. After a year, I transitioned to a full-time role in Thermal Comfort. My job title is Thermo Physiology Engineer, which means creating the best physiological environment in the car for the driver and passengers.
Did you train as an engineer?
M. – Not at all. I trained in medical science, biochemistry and physiology – nothing to do with automotive engineering at all! I loved chemistry, so I went on to do a chemistry master’s with a specialization in polymers. That’s what brought me to Valeo – my apprenticeship was in Project Management in the Research & Innovation Material team at Valeo’s Health & Wellbeing department. At the end of the apprenticeship, I used Valeo’s internal tool “Career Path” to help me find my full-time role. It’s a way to see opportunities at Valeo that match with your skills and interests.
I found two roles and applied to them both, then I had an interview to help me decide which one I wanted to pursue. I was attracted to the Thermal Comfort role because it involved project management, plus here I get to use all my early medical training as the role involves understanding how the body reacts to different conditions and our internal mechanisms for controlling and regulating temperature and comfort.
Tell us more about your work environment and team.
M. – I’m based at the campus of the Ecole Polytechnique, at the Drahi-X-Novation Center, which is a startup incubator. We’re a team of about 20 people over here and we run everything with an agile approach to work, creating new ideas through workshops and brainstorms, making use of the school’s fab-labs and 3D printers for rapid prototyping, and working closely with all the other startups at the Center, as well as with other schools in the region and across France and Belgium.
Are the other startups at the university also working in mobility?
M. – Some are, but many are from totally different sectors. Every six months there’s a new intake of startups. We offer them advice about developing their technology, and in return we get access to all these new innovations. One startup was building a huge robotaxi drone, and another was working on the contactless sensing of vital signs, which is very closely aligned with what we’re doing – sensing the way the body reacts to different thermal conditions and environments. It’s an ecosystem designed to drive innovation, share skills and create new ideas.
Talk me through a typical day at Valeo’s office on the Ecole Polytechnique campus?
M. – That’s hard because every day is very different. A large part for me is technological scouting and research, discovering new innovations in different domains to see how we could implement them at Valeo. We have workshops and brainstorming every month, with regular testing of our demo car in a climate chamber at the Thermal business unit HQ – a huge tunnel where we can test the car in different conditions of sunlight, wind, humidity and temperature. The car is on rollers so we can measure gas and energy efficiency at different speeds.
Right now, we’re also developing software to detect if passengers are too warm or too cold. It activates different temperature functions to bring people back to thermal neutrality. We have coders in our team, as well as experts on sensors and specialists in simulations. It’s the mix of different skills and sharing all our ideas and experience that make every day fun and different.
What’s the atmosphere like at Valeo?
M. – It’s a fundamentally positive and friendly place to work. There isn’t pressure around hierarchy and seniority, which is very helpful when you’re working in innovation. Curiosity is vital in this sort of role, and it’s an environment that encourages curiosity . When I started, I was worried that I didn’t have the right technical skills because I came from a different background, but I had a really great boss. He was two months away from retirement and used that time to mentor me and pass on his experience. He was fantastic at training me and helping me to learn quickly, while encouraging me to be myself.
What’s been your proudest moment so far?
M. – I developed a demonstrator to showcase our Thermal Comfort Software innovation at different auto shows around the world. Recently, I presented the demonstrator at a Ride & Drive event with Stellantis and Renault, Mercedes-Benz & BMW. It was the first time I presented our work to clients. At first I was a little stressed, but then I got into it and the presentation flowed nicely. I was surrounded by all my colleagues, and the clients were very interested in our work. That was a really proud moment for me.