A woman at the top

Marie-Elisabeth d'Ornano, Chairman of IECQ

By Claire Marchand

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, careers are still very much the prerogative of men. Electrotechnical standardization and conformity assessment are no exception. In recent years however, women have made dents in this long-standing tradition. Marie-Elisabeth d’Ornano, who became Chairman of IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components, on 1 January 2014, is such a woman and a good example for others to follow.

ca-3_meo_lrg Marie-Elisabeth d'Ornano, Chairman, IECQ

The early days

Marie-Elisabeth d’Ornano has a Masters in Engineering from ENSEEIHT, the University for Electronical Engineering, Electronics, Computer Science, Hydraulics and Telecommunications in Paris, France, and a Masters in Management of Technology and Innovation from the University Dauphine, Paris, France.

After completing her studies, d’Ornano worked first for Electricité de France (EDF), the French public utility with worldwide activities, and then for the French branch of the Swiss companyASCOM, a leader in the telecommunications sector.

A world of opportunities

In 2005, she seized the opportunity to discover new areas of activities and joined LCIE Bureau Veritas France – the Bureau Veritas group is a world leader in testing, inspection and certification services. The first years at LCIE, she was responsible for the transportation, aeronautics and defense markets, working mainly in the organization’s testing laboratories.

In 2012 she moved to the Certification department, with the task of establishing and developing new activities and a year later she became Deputy Director for Certification.

First woman to head an IEC CA System

2013 was a pivotal year for d’Ornano. On the one hand, she succeeded Michel Brénon, then LCIE Director of Certification, when he retired at the end of the year. On the other, she was appointed as Chairman of IECQ.

In both cases, Brénon played a major role. A key figure of IEC standardization and conformity assessment for more than 20 years, his two hats – LCIE Director of Certification and IECQ Vice-Chairman – made him a strong supporter of d’Ornano’s candidacy for the IECQ chairmanship.

Although d’Ornano knew about the IEC Conformity Assessment (CA) Systems, in particular IECEE (IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components) – she had used the CB Scheme in her previous positions – she soon discovered the singularity of IECQ, a System that she knew little about.

Times of change

Since the 2010s, the oldest IEC CA System – established in the early 1970s – had been undergoing massive changes after years of low activity. New operational documents, a restructuring of its Schemes and the addition of new ones, a revamped website and a proactive attitude towards the markets were the first steps in a campaign aimed at raising awareness and visibility in the electronics sector.

Finding the right solution

Her background in industry, testing and certification and her fresh approach – not marred by years of service in the System – was the perfect combination that the System needed to make headway. Leaving the purely technical side to the experts, she sees her role as a kind of facilitator. New ideas, proposals and technologies are brought to the tables and they are discussed with IECQ Executive Secretary Chris Agius and his team as well as with the members of the Management Committee with a view of finding new and better solutions.

For d’Ornano, there’s seldom only one solution. Whatever the problem, it is important to see the global picture, bounce ideas off one another and figure out all the options that are available before actually making a decision that will benefit both the System and the markets. As part of her function as Chairman, she is building links between all stakeholders.

While she considers the Sydney-based IECQ Secretariat as the backbone of the System, she seizes every opportunity to make contacts within the electronics sector and to represent IECQ when she is traveling.

A strong believer in teamwork and the virtues of dialogue, she says she’s lucky to be able to participate actively in the development and the evolution of the System.

Cooperation with IEC CA Systems

D’Ornano is also an advocate of cooperation between the IEC CA Systems to meet the demands made by industry and stakeholders. Today’s world of fast-evolving technologies and complex systems often call for different and often innovative solutions.

Within the electronics sector, IECQ clearly doesn’t have all the answers. One option would be to create new Schemes, or even new Systems, another is to take a step back and examine what’s already available in all the IEC CA Systems and then select what is appropriate. This obviously requires some degree of cooperation. As she puts it: “We really have to sit down together and discuss what’s feasible, how we can collaborate on specific issues.

Future challenges

Asked what the main challenge was for IECQ in the future, d’Ornano  said: "Raising awareness and making the markets better understand what IECQ - and by extension all IEC CA Systems - is and can provide." There are still misunderstandings concerning certification vs standardization and regulations, there are misunderstandings about the different certification processes and how they can be “combined” when needed. “We sometimes have to be very innovative in terms of processes but the tools are there and we can come up with original solutions. We are the experts but we have to be good at communicating and explaining this to the markets and the stakeholders”

For more information on IECQ: www.iecq.org

ca-3_meo_lrg Marie-Elisabeth d'Ornano, Chairman, IECQ
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