Being an engineer in Cherbourg: “a real feeling of freedom”.

Being an engineer in Cherbourg: "a real feeling of freedom".

25 January 2021
defence Mobility Nuclear shipbuilding
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The first is working on a major nuclear project, the second on naval defence project engineering. Alexis Turcan and Jérôme Lecolazet have both chosen the Cotentin region to live and work. Seduced by the coasts and landscapes of the English Channel, these two passionate engineers share with us their Cherbourg living and working experience.

 Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

Alexis Turcan: I am 27 years old and I have been working at Assystem for 4 years now. My current duties mainly concern the commissioning of the Flamanville EPR.

Jérôme Lecolazet: I am 41 years old and I have been working at Assystem for about ten years. A year ago, I decided to move to the Cotentin region where I am in charge of piloting and developing our naval defence activities.

Can you describe your missions to us?

Alexis: I work on the part of the Flamanville 3 power station where steam is transformed into electricity. As a configuration management engineer, my job is to ensure that the modifications to the reactor under construction are taken into account, ensuring all the documents needed to certify this are updated, and that the equipment tests are conclusive. Alongside these activities, I am also a trainer at Assystem and at a partner engineering school. I give a two-day training courses, aimed at all audiences, to raise awareness about the nuclear industry.

Jérôme: I manage and develop our engineering activities in naval defence, and more particularly, in the field of submarine construction. From design to dismantling, testing, production infrastructures and industrial digital. I support the French programme, all of whose ships are built in Cherbourg and I am developing this activity on international projects, particularly in India, Brazil and Australia, where it is mainly a question of technology and know-how transfer.

What do you like most about your work?

Alexis: What I like the most is the feeling that I am concretely participating in the development of our industry and our energy independence. But it’s also the satisfaction of encouraging electricity production that emits little CO2. I see my work as a commitment to our fellow citizens as much as for the planet.

Jérôme: For me, it’s rather the diversity of my job that drives me, divided between technique, strategy, commercial development, financial management, management, recruitment… and the management of hard points!  These varied activities mean that I never have time to get bored!

What made you take the step of moving to the Cotentin region?

Alexis: After spending my whole life in the South of France, I wanted to discover another side of the country. I also wanted to get closer to the reality on the ground concerning the commissioning of a nuclear power plant. After a period of exchanges with my managers and Assystem’s mobility department, I decided to move to Cherbourg to work on the Flamanville site. Assystem supported me throughout this mobility, both in preparing for my departure and, at the end of my assignment, through the move that followed. I also received financial assistance to help me settle in, and training to accompany me on the new site.

Jérôme: What convinced me to take the step was the professional opportunity to work on naval defence projects. Until now, I had been working exclusively on control-command in different sectors. This adventure was an opportunity to change my professional perspective, to meet new teams and new clients. The Cotentin also offers a different quality of life compared to the Paris region, which is not negligible. As a Norman, coming back to this region represented a return to my roots, which was a life-saving experience for me.

What are the biggest surprises you’ve had while living in Cherbourg, both professionally and personally?

Jérôme: From a professional point of view, I was amazed to see for the first time a submarine over a hundred metres long under construction. At that very moment, I realised that mankind was capable of building a small submersible village in complete autonomy, with a nuclear boiler room and a complex weapons system at its centre. From a personal point of view, it was my first sunset on the cove of the Brick which will remain a nice surprise for me. The Cherbourg coast offers magnificent and very impressive landscapes. We usually think that it always raining and windy with grey skies, but in reality there is a high level of sunshine in the region, contrary to what one might think. In addition to nature, we must also remember the quality and comfort of life, a region on a human scale, real estate that is still accessible, and a travel time that generally does not exceed 15 to 30 minutes. 

Alexis: As an engineer, it is indeed the big projects that make us dream! I have very strong memories of my arrival at the foot of the Flamanville EPR. It was the first time I’d ever seen a power station from so close. I was bluffed. But it was with its seaside that the region blew my mind. Indeed, there are the same stretches of fine sands as in my native region of the south-east but with 10 times fewer people! This gives us a real feeling of freedom and allows us to enjoy the magnificent landscapes in complete tranquility. One of the major strengths of the region is also the possibility of living in the city or in the countryside. There are two types of inhabitants in the Cotentin: the city dwellers in the centre of Cherbourg who can do everything on foot, and those who choose to live in the countryside with plenty of space at their disposal. You can therefore choose between these two completely different lifestyles, thanks in particular to the extremely attractive employment area of the region.

What has changed in your daily life?

Alexis: Quite simply, the climate, the landscapes and the quality of life! I now live in a house for almost the same budget as my 30m² near Marseille. I no longer have to deal with morning and evening traffic jams, my travel times have been significantly reduced. Of course, I had to get away from my family and friends, but the Cotentin region has since become a favourite holiday destination for them!

Jérôme: First of all, the calm that reigns in the region changes you from the inside. Then, it is much easier to move around and you feel a closeness with the inhabitants that you don’t find in the big cities. It’s a different pace of life where, instead of going to the big supermarkets, you prefer local and artisanal products.

What advice would you give to an engineer who wants to settle in the Cotentin region?

Jérôme: I would tell him to hurry up because the region will soon be very popular!

Alexis: I would advise people who wish to settle in the region not to listen too much to the clichés or worries that can be relayed about the region. It’s by experimenting by himself/herself that he/she will be able to enrich his/her professional and, above all, personal career path.

 > Have a look on Assystem vacancies in Cherbourg

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Alexis Turcan

Configuration Management Engineer Assystem

Jérôme Lecolazet

Senior Business Manager Assystem

Other jobs in France
#INCREDIBLENGINEERS

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