Charles de Gaulle navire de la Marine Nationale

Laurence Craver: Site Manager for the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier refit

22 November 2017
On September 26, Usine Nouvelle magazine handed out the Women in Industry awards in ten categories. Woman in Industry of the Year for 2017 was Laurence Craver, aged 48 and site manager for the intermediate refit of Naval Group's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.
Class of 1993
Engineer in Naval and Offshore Architecture

A woman engineer’s career in naval defense

Ever since high school, science and technology played a big part in Laurence's education. From the port town of Lorient, and fascinated by naval shipyards, she arrived at ENSTA Bretagne (then known as ENSIETA) in 1989. Three years later, having graduated with a major in Naval Architecture, she began her career at DCN, which later became DCNS and then Naval Group.

Straight after graduation, she plunged into the complex and enormous universe of naval defense at the Brest military shipyards, beginning in engineering and then moving on to the work site of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. In 2000, she was transferred to Toulon, where she was responsible for the aircraft carrier's nuclear steam supply system. At the same time, she began professional training to be a nuclear specialist in Cherbourg and completed certification as an atomicien, French Navy personnel certified to work on the fleet's nuclear propulsion reactors. 

With the exception of four years working as a program manager, Laurence has spent her entire engineering career on naval work sites.

Naval Group entrusted her with the refitting of the Charles de Gaulle, France's sole aircraft carrier. 

This is a colossal, €1.3 billion project involving 4 million working hours, 160 subcontractors, 2,000 workers on site daily and 24/7 activity. 

At the time of writing, the project is halfway complete and the aircraft carrier is expected to be ready in autumn 2018. Laurence Craver explains: "We have to address all the obsolete features of the aircraft carrier halfway through its lifespan so it can provide another 20 years of service. I oversee the site managers and make sure we meet deadlines. My main goal is the health and safety of everyone working on the site, ad this is followed closely by my secondary goal, which is the quality of our service."

This excerpt was published in a Usine Nouvelle article at the time of the awards:

"Three years of preparation were necessary to begin this project, in close cooperation with the ship's commander and officers, on a dedicated 280,000m2 site at the naval shipyards. According to her colleagues, she is rigorous and has boundless patience. She keeps her eye on deadlines, spending half her time in her office and the rest on board the ship."

Woman in Industry of the Year

When she received the Usine Nouvelle Woman in Industry of the Year award, Laurence Craver was touched by the many congratulations she received, which highlighted the importance of human relations on the job. "I was both surprised and pleased by the number of messages I got following the award, both from my own company, Naval Group, and from the subcontractors I work with. This award helped me recognize the quality of the professional relationships I've built. And that's a great reward!"

Laurence describes this award as a strong symbol of women's place in engineering and on large-scale industrial work sites.

 "Most of the time in my job, being a woman makes no difference at all. And if I do notice any difference, it's that it can sometimes be an advantage, because women's management style is often more attentive, and that's appreciated." 

She adds that training is vital. "Good training is essential. You have to make sure that the program you choose prepares you for the careers of the future. Training continues right through your working life: getting involved, always trying to figure out how things work, and being curious."

 Modesty, professionalism and good people skills characterize this ENSTA Bretagne engineer. She's fulfilled in her career with Naval Group and is proud to represent her employer as the Woman of Industry 2017.