Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Kirsi Hedman and Julie Gay, women in motion at Bertin Technologies


The year ahead holds great promise for French ETI Bertin Technologies. Proof that it's still possible to be in the tech sector and to produce in France and Europe, but also that great careers are possible for both men and women engineers! Find out more from Kirsi Hedman, Business Unit Manager, and Julie Gay, HR Director of Bertin Technologies

Kirsi Hedman (Left) and Julie Gay (Right)
Kirsi Hedman (Left) and Julie Gay (Right)
How would you define Bertin Technologies' identity today, after the many changes it has undergone?

Kirsi Hedman: Maybe I will start with my role: I’m the leader of the CBRN business (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear threats) and also, I’m the CEO of Bertin Environics subsidiary in Finland. So my responsibilities cover the Finnish subsidiary but also the CBRN activities in France. All of these responsibilities cover approximately 25 million euros in terms of revenue. I have been acting as a CEO for 11 years now at Environics which was acquired by Bertin 1 year ago. After that, I got a new responsibility also covering the CBRN business in France, so this is new for me.

How do I define the company? It’s a technological and innovative company which is growing. It’s also an industrial company which has very interesting critical customer groups. We have very demanding customers requiring high technology products and solutions.

Julie Gay: Bertin is experiencing strong external and internal growth. Internally, this implies an ambitious recruitment policy. On one hand, it is about replacing people who leave, even if we have a low turnover compared to the sector, but also about creating positions to respond to this growth.

What challenges have you identified over the next few years, both for yourself and for your perimeter?

KH: We are a growing company, and growth is a continuous challenge. I think the most important part of it, is human resources management. How we keep the talents we have now but also how we get new ones that are compatible with our aims, and also have the skills and mindset we need. Of course, we need skills, and we need team spirit just as important, but we also need courage, some risk-taking, some ambition, and trust. I think that is very important because we are so an innovative and growing company that the managers cannot understand everything, cannot do everything, cannot decide everything. The decision-making must happen at all levels of the organization.

JG: Bertin is best known locally or in certain very specific markets. We do not have the same reputation or the same resources as the large French technology companies. However, we have the ambition to increase our notoriety and get more spontaneous applications. Bertin recruits both young graduates and seniors. We offer permanent contracts, work-study contracts, internships and VIE (International Corporate Volunteering). We are looking for technicians, executives and doctors, from CAP to bac+8.

For technical positions' recruitment, we are very open. We recruit all types of training: universities, BTS, engineering schools, top schools… What is important for us is the person and her skills, and it comes before the name of the school on a resume. We are not looking for people who already have 100% of the required skills. Each profile has something to bring to the company.

How is Bertin Technologies coping with the gradual internationalization of its brand and customers?

KH: It’s a French company but also an international one. I come from Environics, a Finnish company which is 37 years old and has been an international one from the beginning. 90% of Environics revenue has come from outside Finland for years. Environics has always been an international company, so it has not been a big topic for us as a Finnish company to become part of a French company. This has forced the company to be even more international than it has been earlier. We are also forcing the group to use English as a company language for example. We all have to improve our English skills in order to coordinate together. This is one of the first challenges.

Moreover, customers are worldwide, even if Bertin Technologies has a strong footprint in France, we have already customers all over the world (60% of revenues are from outside France).

JG: This year we are planning at least 120 recruitments for permanent contracts, work-study students and interns; if we continue our growth, it will be even more in the coming years. Today we have 650 employees worldwide, and we are recruiting across all of our sites and in various fields (engineering, production, sales, cross-functional functions, etc.).

How would you define Bertin Technologies' corporate culture?

KH: Our corporate values are trust, skills, team spirit, and courage. I really feel that this is in place in the organization already. This integration of our Finnish company in a bigger one has been challenging of course, but we prepared carefully and added some consigns on how it might happen. It has finally been very smooth and the main reason for that is that we already shared Bertin’s values. The company’s culture has been quite equal even though Environics was only a 15 million euros revenue company and Bertin was more than a 100 million company. The story behind is also quite similar. So, it has been easy to communicate, and to adapt to each other, and there has not been any kind of misunderstanding.

JG: From a HR point of view, what is important for us is the personality and the state of mind, its adherence to Bertin's values: team spirit, courage, trust and talent, to which I would add motivation and curiosity.

Gender diversity is a key issue in the technology sector. How did your vocation come about? How does gender diversity express itself within the company?

KH: It is a subject we must keep in mind. But I feel that there are not any issues, or big issues, related to this. We are a technological company, and we know that there are not many women having this kind of education which we require to work here.

If we have an open position, like a technical engineer position, we may have quickly 20 applicants but no more than 2 or 3 of them are female. We do not have many choices, but my understanding and my strong faith are that at Bertin Environics we will choose every time the best whatever the gender of the applicant. I have been the CEO of a technological company in the military business for 11 years, so, of course, in Environics it is not an issue to be a woman.

JG: Bertin employs 30% women, particularly in support functions such as HR and marketing. When it comes to engineering positions, we are limited by the number of female engineers graduating from schools. But for us, what is important is to take the best candidate, man or woman, without discrimination in one direction or the other. We nevertheless try to push for more female candidates, and we ask our recruiters to make an effort in this direction. Excessive positive discrimination would amount to favoring a person who does not have the required skills. We cannot discriminate to the detriment of quality; this would not serve the cause and would only have negative impacts.

Is being a woman engineer in a tech company today a non-issue, or is there still room for improvement?

KH: It is a little bitunusual, still today, and there is room for improvement. But there are limitations. We need to accept that we will not have the same number of females and males in the organization because we don’t have enough female applicants for new positions. We do not have an equal amount of managers female and male because the organization does not have enough females. But I feel that who will be appointed as a manager or having a new role is not dependent on the gender.

When I was a kid, I had some relatives’ female who had a very impressive political position, she was an engineer. I felt that there were no barriers to choosing whatever position or kind of carriers in my life. So, I had no limitations by myself. Also, I have had good luck because, in my last 20 years, there have been no barriers in my career. Maybe when I was young, in the first company where I was, there were not equal rights. But it wasn't a problem for my career next to that.

I don’t really think about it. I just take the role, the responsibilities, and the challenges that I must face. I’m not a female, I’m a person to takes some responsibilities.

JG: The current society does not encourage women to position themselves proactively to exercise more responsibilities. Various studies show that a woman waits until she has 90% of the skills to apply for a new position, while men start with 50 or 60% of the skills. It is our role internally to support women in applying for positions of responsibility, perhaps a little more than others.

But the problem goes back further. In high school, it is already too late, we should act in primary school and even in kindergarten. It's good that engineering schools communicate in high schools and show that there are women engineers who are passionate about their profession. But I think it's already a little late, interests develop before then. It is a societal problem that must constantly be highlighted and promoted by women's technical careers. All the more so as the needs of French companies for technical and scientific profiles will be the challenges for decades to come.