top of page

Aurore BLANCHETEAU: Persevering and courageous engineer in agri-food R&D.

This April at SciGi is dedicated to the agri-food industry.

The agri-food industry is the industry that transforms agricultural products 🌱 into food that can be consumed by humans. We start with a nice interview with Aurore Blancheteau, Research and Development Engineer in agri-food. She tells us about her experience, the difficulties and the lessons she has learned from her journey.

Dive into this moving, enriching and stimulating interview!

Hello, my name is Aurore Blancheteau, I am 33 years old and I live in the Lille area.

I am an Agro Engineer. I graduated in 2013 from the JUNIA ISA engineering school in Lille, which trains in the fields of agri-food, agriculture and the environment. I followed a generalist curriculum that allowed me to tackle both agri-food and agricultural subjects with a 5th-year specialization in Nutrition/Health.

My career path

I am an engineer and I worked for nearly eight years as an engineer in charge of R&D (Research and Development) at MEO-FICHAUX SAS.

It is a company which regroups two family-owned agri-food SMEs in the North of France (59) that import, roast, package and market ground coffee and beans for their own brand (MEO coffees), for private labels and as a subcontractor for major brands.

I joined the company as part of my end-of-studies internship in February 2012. At that time, the two companies had not yet officially merged. I was attached to the company FICHAUX INDUSTRIES which had just invested in a new packaging line for ground coffee in capsules compatible with NESPRESSO® machines.

There was no R&D department in the company. Product development was controlled by the management and monitored by the quality control manager.

I was recruited by the "Industrial Process and New Product Development" manager, who had coordinated the development of the first compatible coffee capsule for Nespresso® machines and the purchase of the new production line.

As the product was very innovative and required a specific full-time job, they first assigned me to set up the quality control plan and write the associated quality documents.

Quickly, other missions related to this product multiplied. I specialized and developed a "container/content" expertise (capsule/coffee).

The diversity of the missions and the novelty allowed me to develop multiple skills, especially in project management and relational skills. The diversity of the people I met on a daily basis but also within the framework of specific projects (suppliers/customers/suppliers) enriched me and allowed me to develop my relational skills.

At the end of my internship, I applied to continue working for the company, whose ambition was to continue developing the coffee capsule segment compatible with Nespresso® machines.

I continued with a 6-month fixed-term contract, which was renewed for 3 months to finally be transformed into a permanent contract in May 2014 as an Engineer in charge of R&D missions.

This made it possible to create an R&D department, consisting of my manager and myself. I was then assigned to the coordination and monitoring of operational action plans.

Women have their place in Research and Development in the agri-food industry and not only in quality.

My missions

I took part, for example, in calls for tenders where I defined the coffee blend plans that I submitted to the management and to the quality and sales departments on the basis of the customer prospect's specifications. I would then coordinate the preparation of samples and their shipment. In the case of the validation of the offer, I organized the industrial pre-series to validate and confirm the parameters of the product that we had defined (roasting colour/granulometry of the coffee/weight in the capsule/etc.). Then I coordinated the production start-up with the other departments of the factory (production/quality/technical/shipping), making sure that all the parameters were respected in accordance with the specifications validated by the customer.

As the R&D missions and projects multiplied beyond the "coffee capsule" sphere, we transformed the former quality laboratory into an R&D quality control laboratory and recruited an R&D laboratory technician.

My curiosity and my thirst for learning pushed me to enlarge my field of competence on very diversified projects (technical/quality/packaging).

My management is very invested and involved in the development of the industrial tool, expecting advanced technical skills from me and my profile. As I am by nature very invested and committed, I tried to gain their trust and recognition by getting more involved.

The exchanges I had were captivating and exciting. I was challenged and that gave me energy but I think that my position as a "woman" forced me to always prove that I was competent. Being passionate and invested, I didn't take into consideration that it required much more energy than necessary.

As the company is mainly composed of men, I had to adapt myself and my way of doing things to gain trust and respect.

This was not easy when I first joined the company. As a young, introverted 22-year-old woman from an engineering school.

This status is reserved for a minority of people in the company (3 people including the CEO), were not very well perceived and welcomed in the company. The engineer was perceived as "someone who knows everything and is better than the others".

This led to various remarks and criticisms, in particular from my manager, which only reinforced my ambition to prove them wrong.

Unfortunately, this over-investment and over-commitment got the better of me and my health and I had to be stopped for 8 months for burn-out.

What I take away from this experience is that, as a woman, I was able to bring a multidimensional approach where I succeeded in establishing a relationship of trust with my colleagues in the different departments and especially with the machinists in production.

Beyond the relational aspect, I continued to be in this learning notion by opening myself to others and their knowledge.

I was inspired to be innovative and creative while remaining pragmatic, analytical and rigorous in my work.

Women in agri-food

Women have their place in Research and Development in the agri-food industry and not only in quality. And indeed, women are often categorized in this field for reasons that escape me. I have often been called a quality engineer...

Women are more and more present in the food industry, which has long been dominated by men. I have also noticed a positive evolution in the company in the last two years before my departure, with the recruitment of two female machinists. Two invested, competent and conscientious women, who often exceeded expectations in terms of productivity. Despite their technical skills, I often saw a reluctance to listen to them (technical department/management).

My hobbies and passion

These eight years have been dedicated to my professional mission and I have left little time for my resource activities of yoga, which I started practising in 2016, but also walking/hiking. Nature in a very general way is my refuge and I am very attached to my agricultural origins.

I have a passion for cooking and that was the main activity I did after work to prepare my lunches. I didn't have much time and I ate at work, so I wanted to cook good things that would bring me this gustatory pleasure.

My break allowed me to develop my yoga practice and recharge my batteries in nature. I still had this passion for cooking that accompanied me.

I was leaving the company in July 2021 through a contractual termination and I wanted to take advantage of this time to experiment in the field of cooking.

Another field where the place of women is just as complex.

It is driven by this passion and under the advice of a friend who had herself reconverted as an independent caterer/chef committed to zero waste, that I completed my cooking training at the cooking school, Cuisine Mode d'Emploi(s) created by the starred chef Thierry Marx. This short but dense training teaches us the basics of French gastronomy. I obtained my Certificate of Professional Qualification (CQP) in January 2022.

I did my 3 weeks internship in a restaurant Saisons Cave à manger in La Madeleine in the North of France (59), which promotes seasonal, 100% local and refined food. The experience was so enriching that I extended it over a period of 5 months. I continued my experience of catering in a center of well-being and soft practice (yoga/pilates/etc.) which proposes a service of catering and tea room, La Villayoga in Bondues in the North (59).

My future

These experiences have enriched and nourished me personally but I was missing these scientific challenges, these issues to solve!

This is why I want to reinvest with my new "weapons", the field of food and these challenges!

They are numerous and engaging, so it is now more than ever that the agri-food industry needs women who are thoughtful, sensitive, determined, creative and ambitious in order to advance and evolve practices.

For me, I have chosen to balance my life and invest in the three pillars: personal, professional, extra-professional.

I am working on an ebook on anti-inflammatory nutrition in collaboration with a friend who is a dietician and trained in micro nutrition. I continue and evolve my yoga practice and I regularly relax in the countryside in the nature that I want to put at the heart of my new job search.

I am currently looking for a new opportunity in the management of innovative projects carried out by a company that is committed to the subjects of food, social and ecological transition.

Some advice

In conclusion, my career path is that of a young woman in her thirties who is invested, committed and conscientious and who believed that she had to prove that she had value and skills by always investing herself more, by accepting more than she could handle!

So yes, I encourage you to simply be yourself with your qualities, and your skills and to listen to yourself and trust yourself. Do not accept to be devalued, to be underestimated. If this is the case, then either you take it upon yourself to change things if you feel you have the possibility or put your energy where it will be useful to you and to others.

Thank you to those who took the time to read my testimony, hoping that it can bring you either answers or just a vision of what can be an R&D engineer in the agri-food industry!

Take good care of yourself!

29 views0 comments


logo sci gi.png
bottom of page