Amandine Reix: even the sky is not a limit

Her grandfather was a coal miner, and at the age of 40, she manages a satellite program involving a hundred people. Her social elevator? Engineering studies, and a few key encounters that helped her gain confidence and keep that confidence despite obstacles, conditioning and stereotypes. Meet Amandine Reix, program director at DGA, who graduated from ENSTA Paris.

As a child, Amandine Reix could spend hours playing with Lego. "My sister and I loved the idea of building something together. We wanted to build big and complicated things! Today, I still like to build things as a team... I've just changed my scale a little bit!" confides the child from Metz, who has become a program director at the DGA, with a smile.

"In high school, like almost everyone else, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Like many young girls, I was a pretty good student, as good in math as in French. A lot of teachers told me "you're a girl, go for a literary major...". I preferred to find out for myself, and quickly realized that mathematics offered more choices of orientation."

After graduating with honors, Amandine Reix entered a preparatory class for the grandes écoles in Nancy, with boarding facilities. With the competitive exams came the time to make choices. "The little Lego assembler in me was very attracted to large projects, such as public works, the possibility of building large structures, as well as complex programs such as submarines or satellites...".

In the end, it was ENSTA Bretagne, and a first year of military training in the four corners of France: Air Force School in Salon de Provence, parachutist certificate in Pau, fusilier-commando training in Dijon, then the Air Force technical training school in Saintes, the good student turned into a fighter ready to face anything in three dimensions.

"Before that, I was not at all athletic! During this year of military training, I learned to surpass myself and to maintain a new relationship with my body, with which I was reconciled after two years of preparatory school."

Then began two years of engineering training at ENSTA Bretagne, with a third year of engineering and a research master's degree at IMT Atlantique to specialize in artificial intelligence.

The DGA offered her a position in Angers as an architect in human factors, change management and organizational transformation, which she held for 4 years, also the time to give birth to her first two children.

In 2010, Amandine Reix became technical manager of tactical drones deployed in Afghanistan. "It was both a huge responsibility, because the lives of soldiers in the field depended on the quality of the equipment, and therefore on my work, but it was especially exciting!"

At the end of this experience, Amandine Reix passed the competitive examination to become a weapons engineer and gave birth to her third child. "I then took advantage of my maternity leave to get involved in a social network created with friends, the "Mumaround". The idea was to fight against the isolation of young mothers at home. The project grew considerably and received enormous media coverage, including an appearance on the TV show Les maternelles, a wonderful experience!"

At the end of her maternity leave, Amandine Reix felt for the first time the issue of returning from maternity leave. "There was no malice on the part of human resources, but while on leave for more than a year, I had of course been replaced at the head of my previous project, and it was an opportunity to reinvent myself!"

The solution came from ENSTA Paris, with the Advanced Training in Systems Engineering (FAIS) that the young mother enrolled in. "This training in systems engineering was very beneficial because it allowed me to take a step back. I was able to put everything I knew into perspective, but with a method that allowed me to better understand my job."

Armed with these new skills, Amandine Reix had what she called her "15 minutes of fame" when she was awarded the prize for Woman Engineer of the Year by the CDEFI (Confederation of Directors of French Engineering Schools). "I was very happy to receive personal congratulations from Elisabeth Crépon, Director General of ENSTA Paris. It was a great achievement!"

Amandine Reix then joined the Armed Forces Staff, and was then called to join the office of the Délégué général pour l'armement (General Delegate for Armament) as head of operations and finance, a very demanding position in which she accompanied the Delegate during his hearings at the National Assembly and the Senate.

Her most recent position was that of director of the observation satellite program, a position in direct liaison with the CNES (Centre national d'études spatiales) and numerous international cooperations requiring frequent travel, not always easy to combine with family life.

However, these difficulties in reconciling family and professional life could never have dissuaded Amandine Reix from having children. "For me, it's really a whole. It is so beautiful to create a human being! Creating satellites is also very beautiful: you have to know how to carry out all the projects that life offers you! To do this, I can only advise you to get help of course. I deeply believe that in order to grow up well and become a balanced adult, a child needs a network around him/her more than the exclusive devotion of a mother."

When asked what she would say today to the indecisive young girl she was in high school, Amandine Reix doesn't hesitate for a moment: "If you have the ability, going to engineering school is a real multipass to the future. You can do anything with this diploma: R&D of course, but also finance, human resources, having several careers in a lifetime. But my main message is to follow the people who inspire us, and help us remove the mental barriers that prevent us from dreaming big."

So, after such a brilliant career and a top position, does Amandine Reix still have dreams? The answer is not long in coming: "Plenty! I'm only 40, and life is long! We can imagine anything, and why not the construction of a base on the Moon! It would be a nice "big and complicated" project like the ones I wanted to do as a child. Space is a beautiful field where everything remains to be invented, and where women naturally have their place!"

With an energy as beautiful and an enthusiasm as great as that of Amandine Reix, there is no doubt that the next giant leaps of humanity in space will be feminine.