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Testimony 15/03/2021

"We must not dream about success but work for it"

From Syria to France and from civil engineering to energy, Mary Hanhoun, Senior Research Engineer at ENGIE Lab CRIGEN always wanted to have an impact on climate change. And her message to other women is particularly meaningful!

The energy sector has its own unique challenge because everyone use energy.

And we need woman at all levels to change the dynamic and reshape the conversation and to make sure women’s voice are heard and heeded.

Mary Hanoun

Can you tell me a few words about your professional background?

Mary:  I’m from Syria and it’s where I did my studies in civil engineering. I then worked as an engineer in the European Observatory of Aleppo for one year.  I then got the opportunity to come to France to do a PhD on nutrient recovery from waste water in the field of process and system engineering.  
After that I did a post-doc at SupAgro in Montpellier on how we can identify and minimise the environmental impact of industrial processes.  Even before the end of my post-doc I was hired by ENGIE to work on the circular economy and life cycle assessment of new processes, especially green hydrogen, CO2 valorisation and bio-energy. 

Why did you choose the energy sector?

Mary:   The energy sector has its own unique challenge because everyone use energy.  So, by working in the energy sector you can touch many people everywhere.  The energy sector affects climate change and at ENGIE we are working to lower carbon emissions and contribute in a big way to a more sustainable world.  
In all our activity we have a big role to play, we can make a real difference. This sector is always changing so there are many opportunities to innovate.

And did you find that being a woman in this tech sector where usually there are more men than women is more of an asset or a handicap?

Mary:  You know, I never think that being a woman makes me more or less competent.  I agree that men and women don’t have the same behaviour but at work I think we are the same.  Women are now working in many domains like driving a truck or an aeroplane.  When I look at my male colleagues I never feel that they are more clever than me.  

How do you imagine the future of energy or the world of tomorrow?  

Mary:  Due to fossil fuels energy has been a major problem, particularly on the global warming and it has also created political tensions. The global demand of energy is rising because there are more and more of us on earth. The demand is likely to be doubled by 2050 with the added factor of rising living standards. This rising in energy demand will increase the carbon emissions and the environmental impact.  It is our purpose to find the means of meeting this challenge and to find another way to produce energy. To achieve this change  will require a huge collective effort.  So, at ENGIE Lab CRIGEN we are involved in several projects about bio energy, hydrogen, wind energy, and many more.  We have to work together and find solutions which is are economically and technically feasible, that minimise environmental effects, and are acceptable by the society.  We have to work on these four aspects to develop new processes and new technologies.   

Do you think women have a specific role to play in achieving the carbon neutrality?

Mary:  Not only women; everybody has a role to play. Education is important, and it’s never too early to teach children about environmental impact, like  turning off the lighting before leaving your room, not using more water than needed.
I, for example, try to teach my little kid, make him more sensible and more responsible about this question.  And I take care not to consume a lot of energy . 

Is there a project that is especially important to you ?

Mary:  During my PhD I worked on a project about how to recover phosphorus from waste water and use it like a fertiliser in a sustainable way.  At the end of the day it led to save energy and chemical products, by recovering a product with an economic value.  That means minimising environmental impact and reusing waste in new products. 
I really enjoyed this project because it was connected to energy and I did lots of new processes and models to optimise all operational parameters. I really like to work in laboratories and I have a dream to come back to lab work one day.

Do you have a message for your fellow women?

Mary:  Women today are CEOs, entrepreneurs or whatever they want.  We can become great leaders and we can inspire the next generation to reach greater heights than ever before.  We must not dream about success but work for it.  And we need woman at all levels to change the dynamic and reshape the conversation and to make sure women’s voice are heard and heeded. 

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