Alice thought of making her career as a civil engineer in bridges in Lyon. This Lyonnaise, who loved her job, decided to branch off into the field of ecology after becoming aware. Currently an adventurer, she would like to find, in the long term, a job in line with her convictions.
Work: in search of meaning
For the start of the school year, Rue89Lyon wanted to question work and the meaning that Lyonnais find in it (or not). This week, find our series “Work: in search of meaning” composed of portraits, interviews, surveys and testimonies.
To capture Alice, you have to have a little patience. Always on the go, between treks, bike rides, community involvement and participatory projects, the 25-year-old young woman takes advantage of her new freedom and puts her phone aside. In April 2022, the engineer took a year off without pay, driven by the desire to get involved in the fight against climate change.
Despite his busy schedule, we end up finding a place there and fixing an appointment. Decked out on her bike, her blonde hair tied back and her backpack slung over her shoulders, Alice tells us about her atypical journey, from a committed engineer to an adventurer in search of ecology.
A passionate engineer who was not destined to branch out into ecology
The daughter of an accounting secretary and a production manager, Alice grew up near Chambéry and was “always a model student”, interested in everything and anxious to “open as many doors as possible”.
After high school, she went to a major engineering school in Lyon, which met her expectations, despite a somewhat difficult start.
“I went to civil engineering and frankly I loved what I was learning. We had a lot of varied courses and behind each subject, I understood its usefulness, it wasn’t stupid and mean. What we did was always quite concrete: we had machining courses, courses on machines, robotics courses, more manual courses, group work, and I liked that. »
After school, she did an internship in a design office that builds and repairs bridges. An area she coveted. She ended up being hired there at the start of the covid crisis in 2020.
“I’ve always found bridges impressive: they connect, they’re aesthetic, useful and they last over time. In cities, there is often a bridge that is emblematic. I also saw the technical side and the challenge. »
With enthusiasm and almost a depth of nostalgia, Alice speaks of her “pleasant” and “stimulating” beginnings in the profession. She learns from contact with her colleagues and is seduced by the diversity of the projects offered to her. So far, the engineer has nothing of the traditional profile of the “bifurcator”: the one who flattens everything, undermined by exhausting or uninteresting work, in which she no longer finds meaning. Well in her work, nothing suggested that Alice would want to change her life.
Teleworking in confinement: a click towards ecology for this engineer in Lyon
Her first questions come during the third confinement, in April 2021. For the first time, she finds herself in continuous teleworking. The hiker, in love with wide open spaces and social contact, finds herself locked up in her apartment.
“For two months I stayed alone in my living room, on my computer all day, and then I started to have a click. I had plenty of time to think and reflect. I felt very very concerned by the ecological emergency and climate change. I started reading articles and watching videos on the subject during all my breaks and I had a realization. »
His bulimic interest in the environment does not come out of nowhere. The young woman describes herself as a teenager and young adult, already sensitive to ecology, nature and animals. This confinement was a turning point for her. Faced with the amount of information she stores on climate change, Alice finds herself helpless in the face of the inaction of part of the population and political leaders.
“This kind of awareness, it weighed on me. I had the impression of realizing such serious things and that we were so few to be aware of them. I said to myself ‘this is horrible, something has to be done’. I realized that my job was cool but that I wanted to put my energy to the benefit of a cause that is closer to my heart. »
“I wondered why I loved my job and suddenly it suited me more”
Alice then enters a long period of solitude. She confides little in those close to her and keeps her questions in the back of her head for almost a year. The engineer is above all plagued by nagging guilt.
“I felt like a princess who had everything, a permanent contract, a decent salary, an apartment with her boyfriend in a cool city, and to say “no that’s not what I want”. I told myself that I had done five years of study and that I was putting them in the trash. I wondered why it only happens to me, why, when I loved my job, all of a sudden it didn’t suit me anymore. »
To calm this guilt, but above all out of genuine commitment, Alice tries to arrange the rest of her life to be as eco-friendly as possible. She begins a zero waste approach, consumes less meat and is involved in a popular education association.
“I entered the “Nature Scouts”. It is a movement of French scouting, secular of Buddhist inspiration. I find myself 100% in these values, because it is based on three pillars: life in nature, ecology and Buddhism, more like a philosophy of life than a religion. We try to teach these values to young people. »
At work, nothing really pushes her to leave and she remains rather fulfilled there. Even if the construction of concrete and steel bridges to make new highways does not enchant him, this type of project remains marginal. Rather, his duties consist of repairing existing bridges, a mission that does not interfere with his ecological principles.
A year off to branch off into ecology or become an engineer again in Lyon
For a time, Alice is content with her commitments in her free time, but her doubts return and the desire for change is felt more and more. His conscientious and organized mind urged him to find another job, more focused on ecology, before leaving his design office. The engineer must realize after a few months that she cannot manage to look into it and “takes [son] two-handed courage”.
“I was questioning myself on such a scale and I was so involved in my work that in the evening I couldn’t do any research. I told myself that I had to take a break, that it was useless to get sick. The solution was to stop working and take time to reflect, settle down, meet people, test things. »
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She then thinks of resigning, then retraces her steps, and instead goes on a one-year unpaid leave. With a little apprehension, she asks her employer and comes back relieved when he accepts without difficulty.
“Taking a one-year unpaid leave gives me time to find what I want to do or to tell myself that I wasn’t so bad and stay in this job while continuing to invest myself in the association on my free time. »
“Participatory construction sites allow me to discover ecological construction techniques”
Today, the young woman is still undecided, and is groping to find her future professional path. For the time being, she is exploring the world of participatory construction sites, where individuals come together around a construction project and participate in it voluntarily. These projects allow him to learn new things and get closer to the world of ecological transition.
“Participatory construction sites allow me to discover eco-construction techniques with biosourced and geosourced materials such as wood, earth, straw, stone. What you don’t learn at all when you do traditional building. »
The opportunity also to break with loneliness, for the one who has now become a privileged interlocutor of those who wish to branch off into her circles of friends.
“On the worksites, I meet a lot of very inspiring people, with quite original and enriching backgrounds. I meet a lot of people who have branched out like me, it makes you feel less alone. »
Working in ecology: a professional objective
Alongside construction sites and her days as an adventurer, Alice spends most of her time looking for training or jobs that she might like, in connection with the ecological transition. She remains focused on the idea of finding a new professional path.
The engineer is also accompanied by an adviser from the APEC (Association for the employment of executives) who makes him pass tests but often stumbles on the multiplicity of the centers of interest of the young woman.
“I wonder if I want to get into agriculture, waste recycling, the fight against plastic, the preservation of biodiversity, the management of water and forests… Everything m interest and I see a reason to fight in all these areas. I don’t know how to choose. »
Next step for Alice: make professional scenarios. She hopes that these kinds of discovery internships will allow her to know more in depth the ecological professions that she still idealizes. Finally, allow him to be at peace with his choice.