Clélia Chatelain


Civil engineer, Geneva

"The most inspiring part is when I walk on the slabs that I’ve done all the calculations for and know that the people who will live in that building will be safe."

My career path

I’m a civil engineer. It’s a very diverse profession – during our studies, we learn about everything from civil engineering works (such as tunnels and bridges) and underground networks, to hydraulics and highways, but mostly we look at buildings. I currently work at EDMS, a civil engineering firm in Geneva, where I’m responsible for projects involving footbridges and buildings. So you’ll find me, for example, alone on a large building site. There are a lot of calculations involved, in both maths and physics. I take architects’ plans and get them ready for the builder by calculating, for example, the resilience of various materials, and a hundred other things. I do the calculations, speak with the different teams at the office and monitor the work on site. Not to mention the administrative duties. My work is very varied.

I’m passionate about all aspects of what I do, to be honest. I love my job. The most inspiring part is when I walk on the slabs that I’ve done all the calculations for and know that the people who will live in that building will be safe. It’s a heart-warming moment. I like having meetings with people, and I very much like the firm I work for ; it’s a welcoming place, we appreciate a job well done and we all respect each other, no matter where we rank in the company. Plus I tell myself that I learn every single day, so in 20 years my work might just be flawless !

My career path. When I was 14, I watched a documentary in which a woman was standing on the Millau Viaduct and explaining her job. I saw she was a civil engineer and thought : “That’s what I want to do.” At school, I took extra maths courses because I knew it was important. I went on to study at HEPIA in the civil engineering department, and I was often one of the only women. During my last year there, I started looking at different companies and liked what I saw on the EDMS website. I applied spontaneously and got a call-back that same day. Then I met with all three of the partners, who told me at the end of the interview that they were interested in my application and that I could meet with them again after I finished my exams. So that’s exactly what I did. I was the first female civil engineer to work there.

My mother has supported me the whole way. My childhood friends, whom I’ve known since I was three years old, have all taken different paths, but we’re always there to support each other. To sum it all up in one word, I’d say “organization” – I work full time.

A downside or obstacle ? Engineering is very male-dominated, so you constantly have to fight prejudices that professors and, of course, other students have against you. For example, if I got a calculation wrong, someone would say, “It’s normal that you have no concept of space.” That’s annoying, but it drove me to go the extra mile, to work hard and prove that I could do the same as them – or even better. The hardest part is on the building sites. I know I have to be stricter and not the typical girly girl. I have to be very professional. But nothing holds me back. If anything, it’s invigorating.

I’m proud of myself, of how far I’ve come, of what I do every day and that I’m keeping at it, and I’m proud of my company.

The Proust Questionnaire

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Au-delà de votre profession

Du sport trois fois par semaine et passer du temps avec ma fille le week-end, lui faire découvrir des choses.

Des personnes qui vous inspirent

Mes parents qui ont beaucoup travaillé et se sont bien occupés de mon frère et de moi. Ils sont des exemples.

Un livre & un film

Peu de lecture loisir. Je lis surtout des dossiers professionnels et je regarde des documentaires sur les constructions !

Un objet

La bague donnée par ma formidable grand-mère avant de décéder, je ne la quitte pas.

Une couleur

Le vert

Un rêve

Que ma fille soit heureuse toute sa vie et voyager.