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Sustainable future starts with modernising industrial facilities

Sustainable future starts with modernising industrial facilities

At the crossroads between industry and artificial intelligence, SAMP was created by Shivani Shah and Laurent Bourgouin, a perfect example of how cultural, geographic and gender diversity brings value to the world. SAMP is a recent investment from ENV, the corporate venture fund of ENGIE, and we took the opportunity to ask Laurent and Shivani a few questions. 

I think now people consider as peers people who have the right skills and the right background independently of the gender - most of the time. Laurent

Our personal biases are sometimes so subconscious that we don't realise them. Shivani

A few words about you?


I'm originally from India. That's where I did my bachelor’s in computer science. I then came to France to study in Grenoble where the environment is very good for research. I went on to do a PhD thesis in Saclay, in the field of AI and machine learning

My family background inspired me to pursue business, and I had tried a couple of startups before. I wanted to attempt a startup where I could merge science along with solving a real problem. So I joined the Entrepreneur First cohort where I met Laurent and we launched SAMP together about three years ago. 


I’ve been passionate about heavy industry and particularly the energy industry for a long time and it’s where I spent the last 20 years of my career. I graduated from École Centrale as a mechanical engineer after which I did a PhD in 3D modelling of complex systems in Australia. 

I started my career after my PhD at ENGIE when it was still called Gaz de France, as project manager for inspection and maintenance of natural gas facilities. Then I joined an engineering company where I was head of a business unit in charge of design and maintenance of offshore renewables and offshore oil and gas.

More recently, I worked at Dassault Systèmes, where I was technical director in charge of solutions for the energy process and utilities customers. So my entire career has been at the crossroad of heavy industry and digital. And so no wonder we started SAMP with Shivani to use digital to help this industry move to the 21st century, which is absolutely needed to meet modern challenges around sustainability.     

And you also had this entrepreneur side to you like Shivani has?


Yes, I think it started back at Gaz de France when I did the “Coup de pouce” training organised by the Crigen Lab about “intrapreneurship”. It was an amazing week in Sophia Antipolis, and that's where I got the bug and knew I wanted to launch my company at some stage. 

It took me a long time to actually take the leap of faith, but now I’ve done it and it’s an amazing journey!

Tell me more about SAMP


Our mission is to help the industry transform quicker. It's our strong belief at SAMP that in order to meet the ambitious goals demanded by the energy transition and the carbon emissions reduction, we can only do this if we first transform the existing industrial facilities. And that's our mission at SAMP to help transform these facilities faster. That's what makes us wake up with a smile every single day and go through the technical challenges. We strongly believe that having this industry transform quicker is the first step towards a more sustainable development.

Do you think being a woman / a man in this career is more an asset or a hindrance ?


I'll go with the cliché answer, but honestly it really depends on the context, because it is really up to how others perceive you in a certain situation. So it really depends on the situation if it is an asset or not.

However, we must acknowledge that there are not many women in this field, so I can use this opportunity to actually talk about it and empower everyone -especially women- to pursue it if it is of interest to them. So it can be used as an asset.


I think it has been changing for the last 10-15 years, and even more quickly now. 15 years ago when I was doing inspection and maintenance on the field, being a man was an asset because operators in the field wanted to talk to their peer, sort of, which is a cliché, but then it was 15 years ago!

I think now people consider as peers people who have the right skills and the right background independently of the gender - most of the time.  

So I would say being a man used to be an asset but I think it’s now neutral, which is how it should be. 

Shivani, do you think the situation is different in other countries, like in India for instance?


I would not completely agree. I understand that it's quite different but I will say something: in my masters in Grenoble we were hardly 20% women whereas in my bachelor’s in India we were 45% women.

The situation in India is so diverse. You can have a metropolis city and you can have villages. So you would find the same differences as you would in France, but on a much larger scale because there are 1 billion people with different languages and different cultures in India. 

For you, professional equality is…


For me professional equality is two things: equal opportunities and a conducive environment

What I mean by a conducive environment, is that every person involved is taking self-responsibility to become aware of their personal biases, whether gender or racial, and has awareness that their decisions will be more objective when they are based on the skills and the fit and not based on their preconceptions.

So I think if every individual works on that, it's a good practical step towards achieving the conducive environment that is needed.


I would say professional equality is the only way to tap into the full potential and diverse perspectives of all individuals, which I think is desperately needed in order to face the modern challenges of our society. We need everyone's skills and full potential, and that's the only way to achieve it.

It should be a no-brainer.

Do you have an experience related to gender equality?


It was a while ago when I was doing a root cause analysis of an industrial accident. It was a facility with many pumps in the building, in the room, and the guy had to go through a procedure to turn off a specific pump. He actually stopped the wrong one which turned out to be the cause of the accident. We were investigating with this guy to understand why he turned off the wrong one.

It took 20 or 30 minutes for the guy to admit that internally within his team – and there were only guys on the team— they were not using the normal naming convention for the pumps, they were using the name of famous actresses… and you can imagine the type of actresses they used…

And so he got confused with the names and he turned off the wrong one. So it's a very sexist approach, and the guy was really ashamed to admit how they usually referred to the pumps

There was a twist to the story. I learned that six months later, their boss changed and the new boss was a woman. And they had no more accidents, no more near misses.


On my side, I'll share one story that happened to a friend and he's actually a man. So he was quite courageous to share the story. He's a writer and author and he was at an event where he was supposed to meet the ambassador of a certain country.

There was a couple sitting at the table, so he walked up to them and greeted the man, and started speaking. But the man said, “Well, I'm not the ambassador. It's the woman next to me.”

And that's when my friend became aware of how much we assume that it is going to be the man. Our personal biases are sometimes so subconscious that we don't realise them. So I think through examples like this we become more aware of them. And to be honest if I had been in this situation I might have assumed the same as well.

Going back to your job, what dimension of what you’re doing do you find the most exciting?


For me, I would say it's that for the last three years, the entire life of SAMP, I haven't had the same day twice!  Every single day has a different challenge, different joys, different difficulties. Every single day is different, and that's really exciting.


For me, the most interesting part is to be part of a mission, a project which is solving really challenging problems. At the same time, you're putting together a team that is talented and committed, so all of this in one place is something I really appreciate. 

What's the craziest project you've been working on?


It's cliché and it's expected, but I have to say SAMP is an amazing project.

Throughout the last three years we've been feeling really blessed and the success that we see today is pretty amazing.


I would answer the same and especially because of the scale at which we're attempting it and the risks we're taking.

It really makes us committed to it, so it's a bit crazy in that sense. The problem we're solving is impactful and we're going really fast. The speed at which we are going makes it really more challenging because you have to learn new things every single day and challenge yourself every single day. So that's quite crazy.

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