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Mathilde DELANGUE: Improving and optimising toys for the future

Hello, my name is Mathilde and I am an engineer at SMOBY TOYS SAS which is a plastic toy development and manufacturing company based in Jura, Burgundy-France-Comté, France.

Mathilde DELANGUE: Improving and optimising toys for the future

SMOBY TOYS SAS is a French company that designs and manufactures plastic toys. We are the first French toy manufacturer with more than 72% of our production made on our sites in Arinthod and Moirans-en-Montagne. The whole concept and design of the toy is imagined by our development team on the Lavans-les-Saint-Claude site.

At SMOBY TOYS, I am the Project Manager for Product Optimization, Innovation and Continuous Improvement. My department is integrated into the Design Office and it is composed only of me, if we exclude my superior who is in charge of the whole Design Office.

I was hired 4 years ago as a work-study student, in September 2018, for mainly an Optimization work, meaning that I work on toys that are already on the market. My role is to reduce its production cost while keeping the same product quality for example by improving the tooling.

One year later, when I was hired on a permanent contract after obtaining my engineering degree, I took over also the innovation part of the company. I am in charge of the development of new dyes and new materials (biosourced and recycled materials for example). I also carry out technology monitoring to develop other technologies. Finally, the Continuous Improvement part consists in continuously improving the products, the manufacturing process and the organization of the company’s production. I work hand in hand with many other departments to reduce our waste, recycle our materials, deal with the end of life of our products or stock shortages.

Mathilde DELANGUE: Improving and optimising toys for the future

After high school, I did a DUT in Chemistry as an apprentice at the IUT St Jérôme de Marseille. I worked for two years in the chemical analysis laboratory of AREVA TA in a CEA. I really enjoyed it and I have great memories of these two years. I had hesitated a lot to do a Professional Licence in Analytical Chemistry but following the advice of my master of apprenticeship at the time I turned to an engineering school because I was starting to go in circles in my laboratory and I needed my missions to be constantly evolving.

I then joined ITECH, the Textile and Chemical Institute of Lyon, to be trained in Leather, Textile, Formulation and Plastics. I specialized in plastics because of my company. I believe that ITECH is one of the only engineering schools to have (many) more women than men. I think it was lucky because none of our professors ever favored the men in our class over the women. I worked for two years as an apprentice in pre-development at Flex-n-Gate, automotive equipment. This work can be considered as innovation. And it is after this experience that I went to work at SMOBY TOYS.

I started this profession a little by chance, after two years in the automotive industry, I had a breach of contract because I did not like at all the profession and the atmosphere and was damaging to my personal development. I was the only woman in a team of about ten people and my apprenticeship master made it clear that I was not his first choice for the job and implied that it was not made for a woman. So I had to find a host company for my last year in engineering school. I answered an offer from SMOBY and got the job, as well as a similar one in another company. I chose to join SMOBY because it is a brand that many French people know and having had SMOBY toys as a child it resonated with me. Moreover, I had a good contact with the internship supervisor who is still my superior today. The fact that it was a French company also meant a lot to me, moreover very few toy companies produce today in France and it is a pride to work for one of them. The proximity of the head office and the production site (45 km) was also a plus because I was told that I would have to go there almost every week for my work.

Unlike the previous company, my integration went very well and the fact that I was a woman was never considered a downside. My mentor had already earned the respect of our male colleagues and I just had to follow in her footsteps. However, she admitted to me that her start was a bit more complicated than mine and that she had to prove herself more than once.

Mathilde DELANGUE: Improving and optimising toys for the future

Surprisingly, the only company where I had a bad experience was when my supervisor was a man. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but a good manager can completely change your experience in a company. From my personal experience, if you don’t have a good feeling from the beginning, I advise you to avoid working with that person. Looking back, I don’t think I would ever work at Flex-n-Gate. When I was hired, I was disgusted, yet I took the job because I was afraid I wouldn’t find a work-study position for the fall. Looking back, I should have listened to my intuition and not go. But on the other hand, it was that disastrous experience that got me where I am today so it’s a blessing in disguise.

Mathilde DELANGUE: Improving and optimising toys for the future

Apart from my job I devote myself to my hobbies, my family and my friends and I am also involved in a feminist collective, #NousToutes39. I actually created the Jura branch of the #NousToutes collective at the end of 2020 with two other women. We carry out demonstrations, workshops, online and face-to-face trainings with the aim of raising awareness about the sexist and sexual violence suffered mainly by women and children with the objective to change something in society.

  1. Instagram NousToutes39

  2. Site web NousToutes39

  3. Instragram NousToutes

As for my hobbies, I travel a lot with my friends and family and therefore I hike a lot. I am also passionate about camping and my partner has converted a truck into a mini-camper which allows us to move easily. But my great passion is animals. We have two rescued dogs at home, Java and Walker who is a blind dog with a rear end disability due to abuse. I also have a cat, Maora, who I adopted at the beginning of my studies. I also started horseback riding a few months ago and quickly became addicted to it.

Mathilde DELANGUE: Improving and optimising toys for the future

I try to keep a good balance between personal life and work life. I live 10 minutes walk from my work so I don’t waste time in transportation. Secondly, my company has a very good policy on this and respects the right to disconnect well so I’ve never really had a problem finding a balance. I have my work email address connected to my phone and I will check it once a day if I’m on vacation but I only answer in case of emergency.

If working in the toy industry is what you really want to do, you should not hesitate. It is really a world apart to work there, because our main job is to make children dream. Moreover, it is a very mixed sector, in which your gender does not matter much or at all and they are always looking for juniors.

Mathilde DELANGUE: Improving and optimising toys for the future

I’m repeating myself a little bit but trust your intuition and remember that you have the right to be respected in your work.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate! Here my email address is :

Goodbye 😊

  • Research by Probonolab team (Chamsia A.) : Thank you!

  • External volunteers : Pauline et Amine

  • Talents HOP! : Salma, Leïla, Nadia, Nedjoua, Samira et Soumeya

  • Edited by Carolina C. and Mazzarine D.

Mathilde DELANGUE: Improving and optimising toys for the future


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