Becoming a mechanical engineer and a large-bore engine specialist in the shipping industry was not an obvious career path for a young girl growing up as the youngest of five children in a family with modest income in France in the 1990’s.
However, from a young age I loved engines. I have always been amazed by the ability to harness such colossal power through them.
But how did I take my passions from watching my dad clean and fix our family car every Sunday, with him explaining the different elements of the engine of our Renault Espace, to my career as an adult where I explained new features of engines to him? Engine industries have historically been dominated by men and so the path was not smooth.
In my early years I continuously requested a remote-control car from my parents, but they refused. From age 4 to 21 years old, that ambition drove all of my choices: my high school program, attending university in France and an exchange year in Sweden, which meant that I could study building the real deal instead.
Therefore, at 21-years old I emerged into the engines industry, so happy to be designing crankshafts and putting my hands deep in Finite Element Analysis and Multi Body Dynamics. I lived for three amazing years designing engines that were gradually larger in size in the middle of an automotive industry where investment was being shifted from diesel programs to electric machines. This is how I discovered the world of large-bore engines. At the Wärtsilä and MAN factory plant, anyone can feel small. This is a world where engine power was described in MegaWatts and with double digits, it represented the dream that had not even crossed my mind yet.
Which engine enthusiast would not love working on such powerful machines? Yet slowly I started to notice the inconsistencies between my daily work and my environmental consciousness.
While becoming more sensitive to the growing ecological crisis and taking serious measures to reduce the environmental impact of my private life, such as becoming vegetarian, my professional life was going in the opposite direction: I was contributing to projects where the goal was to build machines that consumed more and more fuel.
Eventually, my cognitive dissonance reached a full-blown conscious crisis. I resigned from my job and decided to take time to think. As many of you may agree, the best place to think about your life and your choices is close to the sea.
My reflections started at the Kattegat sea on the coast of my adoptive town of Gothenburg and ended on the Marmara Sea in Istanbul where my four weeks of travelling ended. This journey made me realize that I wanted to keep working in the marine industry, but also help protect the planet at the same time. This is when I saw the job opportunity at Lean Marine.
I liked their devotion to improving vessel efficiency: all complexity hidden behind a simple but elegant solution to optimize propulsion system and reduce fuel consumption onboard a vessel. These Swedish propulsion optimization experts were also essentially solving the dilemma of protecting the environment versus protecting the livelihood and commercial success of a vessel by disabling the choice between saving fuel emissions and compromising on engine performance.
For me, Lean Marine is a company with no-bullcrap technology solutions, and their strength comes from the experience of their employees and customers. They have examined, and continue to examine, all of the inefficiencies in a propulsion system and think of the simplest way for all people involved to solve the problem of maintaining engine performance but with reduced fuel consumption. The simplest way was manifested as a technology called FuelOpt™.
We all know from our driving of cars that to reduce speed variations is the most efficient way to reduce your fuel consumption. This is why, in some cars, there is a cruise control button. For the same thing to occur on a vessel that is sailing, constant power for achieving the most energy efficient voyage must be maintained through continuous manual adjustments of the lever. This is so time consuming for the crew and nearly impossible to perform at all times.
FuelOpt™ is the missing link between the crew and the machinery: you want to lower your fuel consumption and you know keeping your power constant would do the trick. With FuelOpt™, you can let the propulsion automation system do it for you!
In the same way, if you have a controllable pitch propeller, you want to have the best pitch to RPM ratio possible to limit the fuel consumption while keeping your engine safe. FuelOpt™ also bridges this need by considering hundreds of parameters to find the optimum point on your engine map and the ideal corresponding pitch for the required speed or power and regulate dynamically in real-time.
In this technology I have found the ideal balance for my love of engines, but also the planet and its resources. To any women trying to forge a career as an engineer in this male-heavy environment, I would say go for it! If your passion is working in the marine industry as an engineer or a sea captain, don’t let some stories from others get in the way of your dreams. The change has started in the marine industry, and it is us, the women, that will continue to make happen until it is a perfect playground for women to succeed.