Interview with Laurène Rokvam (Bo 210)
AFAM: Hello, Laurène, and thank you for this interview. After two internships at Airbus as technician first and then manufacturing engineer, you started your career at Airbus in 2013 as a Quality Engineer. Was it a coincidence or your conscious and well-informed decision to start your career in the aerospace industry?
It was not a coincidence; I have always been fascinated by this industry and this was a dream to be able to work for such a giant of Aerospace. It is pretty amazing to have the chance to work for something you’ve loved for so long and to see the result of your work.
AFAM: when you started your job at Airbus ( and earlier as an intern) how much of what you did, saw and experienced was about your “dream job” and how much of it was “reality”, sometimes boring, monotonous or even disappointing? Could you think of a few examples?
As you said, I’ve done two internships at Airbus before working there, so I had three different positions. The first one was in Toulouse, so the site is amazing with all the Final Assembly Lines, you have the possibility to see so many things! And the knowledge of the people in this company is amazing, I’ve met great people there. I was still an intern so I was doing a lot of experiments on material, which meant a lot of waiting time and I was not necessarily close from Manufacturing. When I did my second internship, I was still working for the Method department, still in the materials but on Composite in Nantes. I loved it! I was close to Manufacturing, the Team was great, I learnt so much and I was able to conduct the tests I wanted and have a direct impact on the production Quality. When I finished this internship, the position they offered me was inside the Quality department to do some Statistical Process Control SPC and some problem solving. I loved problem solving but SPC, not so much… And you can not always expect problems to happen! So the job was much less interesting, less manufacturing, more data analysis, no more Design of experiments (DOE). I realized that it was not what I wanted and that in such a big company you’re a bit lost in the middle of the ocean. Too many people for not enough opportunities. If you want to go above and beyond your job, you’re stepping on someone else's foot. So after almost two years, I realized it was time for me to see something else and go back to Manufacturing.
AFAM: In 2015, after you took your first steps in the aerospace industry, you decided to leave France to come to the US. Why so?
As described above, I was a bit disappointed by the job I was doing, and the industry was not in a great shape at this time. I also realized it will be complicated to grow in this company and if I was staying now, I would spend most of my career in this company.
I was 25 with an American citizenship so it was time for me to try something else.
AFAM: When you came to the US, did you try to find a job in the aerospace industry? If yes, what was your impression? Please tell us a few words about this change in your career, how did it go for you?
I was looking for a job in the US when I was still working at Airbus, so from France which is not an easy task. I started to apply to different jobs in the Aerospace industry but didn’t receive any feedback. After a few weeks, I contacted the AFAM to see what I could do better to reach the US market. Aurore Prevot (former Arts et Metiers representative in the US) helped me with my resume and my cover letter and while we were still working on it together, she told me that an Alumnus was looking for a Project Manager in the Chicago Area. It was for the Packaging Industry and a medium size company, the fact that it was a French company also helped me a lot to make my decision.
It is always a bit stressful to make a decision: new job, new field, new country, but at the end of the day it was a good decision!
AFAM: As of today, you work as a project manager at Serac Inc. Please tell us a few words about your day-to-day job and the company you work for.
Serac Inc is a company designing Filling / Capping machines for all type of Industry from motor oil to food and personal care. My job is to manage the project from A to Z with good quality, respected schedule and high satisfaction level of the customer. I’m helping the Sales Team before the sale is happening to make sure the pricing is ok and the technical solutions are adapted. Then I will work cross functionally with Finance, Engineering, Supply Chain and Shopfloor to make sure the project is moving forward. My day-to-day job is all about communicating with the customer, anticipating issues and solving issues that I didn’t anticipate.
AFAM: Is there anything in your life and work you miss from working at the aerospace company? What do you like the most about your job?
I loved the final product and working with so many different people with different backgrounds, it was really something nice about working at Airbus. I also loved working on Materials.
AFAM: how did being a gadzarts help you in your career?
Laurène: Being Gadz’Arts has helped to be humbler, it has helped me to find something good in each individual I met and make sure to use this something to make everyone happy and good at what he is doing.
From a more practical standpoint, as I said earlier, this is Aurore who helped me to remodel my resume and she is also the one who presented me the opportunity to work in Serac Inc. All this has been happening thanks to the Alumni. But even before this, my very first internship at Airbus, the one hat started everything, was also thanks to an Alumni!
AFAM: what would be your piece of advice to the students who are currently looking for an internship in the US ( in our Shasta program we currency have 18 students)
Be patient, do not hesitate to ask for help and take every piece of advice you can. Network is really useful so do not hesitate to use it. Working in the US is a great experience so keep trying, it will work and you will not regret it.
AFAM: thank you very much, Laurène, for sharing!
Laurène with her husband in Chicago in 2020 ( photo: courtesy of Laurène)
Other interviews of "Ad astra: dreams and reality of aerospace engineering" series:
Interview with Jean-Christophe Boulon (Me 213)