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Meryem Elalaoui Lamrani, Hexcel: Do the right thing, not the easy thing

Meryem Elalaoui Lamrani discusses her journey from electromechanical engineering graduate to Plant Manager at Hexcel Morocco and emphasizes the importance of finding an employer with values that match your own.

Meryem Elalaoui Lamrani, Hexcel: Do the right thing, not the easy thing
READING TIME

4 minutes, 50 secondes

Growing up in Morocco, Meryem Elalaoui Lamrani always knew she would go to university after finishing high school.

“It was never a question,” she notes. “With a few exceptions, all the women in my family went to university and they are all working.”

She was good at sciences, and mathematics in particular, which made engineering a natural fit. The fact that she chose to specialize in electromechanical engineering surprised some people, and especially her father. He worked in the automotive industry and knew that this field of engineering was not a popular option for women. But she had a clear vision of what she wanted to be.

“I looked to the films and TV and it was really the way I imagined myself – being active, working on machines, wearing a safety hat! I was attracted by this world.”

Elalaoui Lamrani obtained her electromechanical engineering degree at the L’École Nationale de l’Industrie Minérale (ENIM) in Rabat in 2007. To further prepare herself for a career in production management she then moved to France to study for a Master’s degree in Industrial Management and Logistics at MINES ParisTech.

The right environment

After her studies she returned to Morocco to join multinational consumer goods corporation Proctor & Gamble (P&G) as a process engineer. The company is known for its robust training and career development programs.

“From a technical point of view, the company is a kind of school where you can learn a lot, but it’s also known to offer fast career progression,” she explains. “As long as you are working well, delivering against objectives, you will advance to higher levels easily. As proof of this, the first time I was promoted I was on maternity leave as this happened to be the time they were carrying out the evaluations.”

During her 8 years at P&G she gained experience through a number of roles.

“My career progressed very well. I had the opportunity to work on different jobs, from operations to project management and materials qualification. I learned how to be a good manager through my work and from the training I received, but also through internal mentorship.” 

She decided to leave P&G following the birth of her second child to enjoy a short break before continuing her career.

Her next employer turned out to be another well-known American company with leading market positions and operations worldwide. Hexcel’s facility at the MidParc Free Trade Zone Industrial Park in Casablanca, established in 2017, also offered an opportunity to work in Morocco’s thriving aerospace sector. The plant converts HexWeb® honeycomb materials into engineered core parts that are used for structural reinforcement and lightweighting of aircraft structures, helicopter blades and other applications.

Hexcel commenced an expansion of the Casablanca plant in December 2021. This will double the size of the site to 24,000 m2. The number of employees is expected to increase from 120 to 400 when the project is complete in 2023. (Picture © Hexcel.)
Hexcel commenced an expansion of the Casablanca plant in December 2021. This will double the size of the site to 24,000 m2. The number of employees is expected to increase from 120 to 400 when the project is complete in 2023. (Picture © Hexcel.)

Elalaoui Lamrani was attracted by Hexcel’s purpose and values.

“I liked the mindset of the company,” she observes. “I was totally believing in the values that Hexcel was sharing. It’s important for me to be in an environment where I will feel comfortable with the principles of the company. Also, the aerospace sector in Morocco is ‘the place to be’ and there was good opportunity for growth at the new plant.”

Inspiring the next generation

She joined Hexcel in 2017 as Operations Manager and quickly built up her knowledge of composite materials and processes. In June 2021 she was appointed Casablanca Plant Manager. In this role she’s responsible for optimizing the technical, human and financial resources of the facility, ensuring that it is profitable for the business.

The Covid-19 pandemic has of course presented big challenges, she admits.

“Aerospace was one the sectors most impacted by the crisis. We’ve seen demand drop, and we have seen a lot of reorganization in many of the companies in Morocco and in the world in general. The good thing is that we are in a unique situation in Hexcel Morocco because we are in a plant that is growing and we were able to keep people busy and introduce new projects.”   

Meryem Elalaoui Lamrani appreciates the interaction with people that her current role allows. (Picture © Hexcel.)
Meryem Elalaoui Lamrani appreciates the interaction with people that her current role allows. (Picture © Hexcel.)

Elalaoui Lamrani enjoys the challenges that operations management presents, but she is especially passionate about training the next generation.

“I feel proud that I am a source of motivation for these young people. And I think it’s a good mission of life, especially of work life, to help the younger generation to grow, to learn, and to have a great career path.”

Support for women in industry

She is often asked about the challenges she has faced as a woman in industry, but there have been none.

“I had some challenges in my career, but these were because of the nature of the job and not because I am a woman. I think that in a company that is committed to diversity, inclusion and equality, such as Hexcel, people are matched to roles because they have the right skills and not because of their gender. I think anyone has the chance to grow in such a company.”

It is true, however, that there are not many women in operations and plant management roles today. She believes that more women are interested in pursuing these types of jobs, and it is becoming easier for them, but there comes a time when some choose to step back from their careers.

“It is challenging for women in industry in general because at a certain point we have to decide if we would like to take care of our kids and family, or if we would like to continue growing our career. It’s not an easy choice. Fortunately, many companies are now recognizing the value of diversity and equality and supporting women in the workplace.”

Opportunities in composites

The composites industry offers many attractive opportunities for women today.

“There are lots of things to study, to learn, to see,” she says. “There are a lot of opportunities to grow because of the different interactions the composites world is offering, either internally with people that you are working with, or through the relationships you are building with your customer. You need to collaborate because you are all working together to accomplish something special, such as creating a new plane, and you are having great collaboration and discussions from the beginning of the project until the end. The challenge that the composites world offers makes it really nice to be part of.”

The composites industry offers many opportunities to collaborate and innovate. (Picture © Hexcel.)

Advice for life

When asked about the best career advice she has ever been given, Elalaoui Lamrani quickly replies: “Do the right thing and not the easy thing!”

“This is the advice I am often using in my career, and also in my personal life, especially with the kids! The easy way is not always the best way, and it’s not always the right way. I think that when you do the right thing people are more confident in interacting with you, working with you, and believing in you.”

More information www.hexcel.com