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Hélène GODIN, PhD in film studies, now serving as an educational engineer

Hélène Godin holds a PhD in Performing Arts and Film Studies. Following her doctorate, she recently joined the Campus for Future Computer Science and Electronics Skills of Tomorrow in Auvergne Rhône-Alpes, as an educational engineer. In this interview, discover her journey, how the doctorate has enriched it, as well as a series of advice aimed at Ph.D. candidates (especially in the humanities and social sciences).

Hélène GODIN testimony ABG

Author: Hélène GODIN, PhD

I am Hélène Godin, a Ph.D. holder in Literature and Performing Arts with a specialization in Film Studies, awarded by the Grenoble Alpes University in November 2023. Since February 1, 2024, I have been serving as an educational engineer specializing in artificial intelligence at the Campus for Future Computer Science and Electronics Skills (CMQ IED) in Valence.



I have had a very linear trajectory, as I completed a bachelor's, a master's, and a PhD in performing arts at the University of Grenoble Alpes without interruption between 2011 and 2023.

What does your job entail in terms of missions/responsibilities?

After completing my PhD, I was eager to dive into podcasting full-time, creating specialized shows with my fellow researchers on cultural topics. However, I was pleasantly surprised to be recruited shortly after defending my thesis, so podcasting remained a hobby. Indeed, my current role is quite demanding!

This is a three-year temporary assignment as part of the France 2030 project - a label launched by Emmanuel Macron in 2021 to reindustrialize the country - focusing here on Artificial Intelligence. My goal is to develop educational frameworks for raising awareness and providing training on AI, with the aim of incorporating this topic into middle and high school curricula by 2026-2027. So, I have three main missions:

  • - Develop innovative solutions for effectively teaching AI in middle and high schools;
  • - Regularly engage in dialogue with teachers to best convey knowledge;
  • - Establish contact with companies recruiting AI operators to identify essential skills to acquire.
What do you enjoy, or not enjoy, about your job?


Leaving academia, I was sad to let go of teaching, which I loved. But now, in my current role, I'm teaching more than ever, working with students in workshops and adults in training. I enjoy everything about my job because I'm part of a great team with a supportive manager. Working together makes every task enjoyable.


What skills are necessary to excel in this job?


The role of Educational Engineer requires above all rigor and adaptability: forget everything you think you know about training, as you need to adapt to your target audience so they are receptive and engaged with what you are offering them. Rigor is crucial because we are juggling multiple responsibilities simultaneously - we're not just focused on curriculum all day - and especially because education spans various age groups. Teaching digital skills, in particular, is highly regulated. Due to considerations like personal data handling, you can't teach a two-year technical degree learner the same way you would teach a middle school student; after all, the latter is a minor! 



How does your research experience contribute to carrying out your responsibilities?


It's important to note that I'm not officially qualified in educational engineering or artificial intelligence; I haven't undergone any formal training or obtained any diplomas in these areas. During my recruitment interviews, I had to emphasize my experiences in teaching and training - I taught for seven years during my doctoral studies, accumulating several hundred hours of teaching - and my ability to stay updated and quickly synthesize new knowledge. Several hours of my week are dedicated to educational and technical monitoring: I continuously educate myself, often faster than average, because I developed a methodology during my doctoral studies that allows me to aggregate knowledge and effectively transmit it afterward.


The idea is never to consult a resource 'just to see' or 'because it was recommended by someone' without additional specifications. The risk, after reading too much, is to get lost or to remain in the comfort of consuming research without producing your own. The best advice I can give is always to approach a resource with one or more lines of thought in mind. In other words, it's about engaging in the information-gathering process with a specific question in mind; if you don't know what you're looking for, you won't find it. You quickly realize that out of this 700-page tome, you only end up reading two or three chapters, saving time. There's no need to take notes on the entire book; what's interesting at one point in the research process may no longer be relevant later on, and vice versa. It's entirely possible, and even likely, to return to a resource later and question it with a different focus of study. Narrowing down the concepts you're working on is the essential component of effective research.




PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences: Performing Arts and Film Studies

Genesis and objectives of your doctoral journey?

Since the beginning of my research master's, I aimed to become a university professor in film studies; therefore, pursuing a doctoral path seemed fitting and necessary.

I had the support of the person who supervised my master's thesis, and who offered to co-supervise my doctoral research, as they did not yet possess the HDR (Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches, essential for supervising a thesis) at the time. Consequently, the topic naturally evolved as an extension of my master's research.


You have engaged in various activities (teaching, videography, communication management, hosting...) alongside your research work... This raises several questions: those concerning funding, those regarding the complementarity (or lack thereof) with your research work, and those about the additional skills developed. Could you tell us more about these three aspects?


I chose not to seek funding in order to have as much freedom as possible in conducting my research. It was a very difficult choice, but one that I do not regret: writing a thesis in humanities and social sciences while being funded can lead to a sense of loneliness that can be quite burdensome after a while. The various roles I undertook, whether voluntary (communication manager, podcast host) or paid (videographer... and podcast host also!), allowed me to maintain contact with the outside world and to develop skills. These skills may not necessarily be different from those acquired during the doctoral program, but they were developed in a different context, with different audiences. Today, my voluntary work as a communication manager since 2019 at the Maudit Festival is recognized as a professional skill, to the extent that this role has been incorporated into my job description at the CMQ IED.



What skills have you developed in connection with your research activity?


They are numerous: project management, fundraising, networking, innovative pedagogy, effective writing techniques... If I had to choose just one, I could illustrate it with this quote from Umberto Eco: 'The way we work on what we know always depends on the way we searched at the beginning for what we did not know."' Similar to those artists on social media who start painting a canvas that looks like 'nothing' only to end up, after careful strokes of the knife, cloth, and brush, creating a masterpiece, #trusttheprocess, we have an overall vision at the beginning of the projects we undertake. Our way of searching directly impacts our results: we think about the outcomes and adapt how we produce them, whether it's reading an article, watching a video, or listening to a lecture. Trust the process.



After a PhD

Only a few months separate your thesis defense and the beginning of your current professional experience. Could you tell us about this transition?

I took a month to rest - and ended up catching COVID. I exited my thesis defense in a state of extreme exhaustion that required me to take some time off. Fortunately, even before finishing my thesis, I had initiated several job search and recruitment processes, which I simply had to follow up on. The speed of my recruitment was due to a mix of luck and necessity: one cannot decently live on unemployment benefits. So, I pursued as many opportunities as possible even before submitting my final manuscript to shorten this transition period as much as possible.

How did you market your skills/experiences outside of the academic sector?


I spent a lot of time scrolling through LinkedIn and X and reaching out to other people in similar situations to gather their experiences and advice. Eventually, I turned to English-language resources: in the United States, the community of PhDs transitioning into industry is much larger than in France! It was through their resources that I learned to 'translate' my CV into industrial language. To put it simply, while the academic sphere values sources, the industrial sphere values results.


To help you translate your academic experience and skills into language suitable for non-academic audiences, ABG and its partners France Université and Medef offer the DocPro doctoral skills reference framework.

In addition to providing a clear and structured vision of the skills derived from doctoral experiences, it is also a tool for reflection, self-assessment, and communication that can be very useful in preparing for your job interviews and in your professional mobility.

                                                                        Everything about DocPro



Were you supported during your transition to the private sector?


At the time when I started my job search(June 2023), professional insertion support for non-academic PhDs in the humanities and social sciences was very scarce. Most services provided by public entities required me to be officially graduated and actively job seeking, which was practically unfeasible. So, I began my search on my own, mainly through LinkedIn. Fortunately, these support services have since expanded. I'm thinking specifically of:

  • During the doctorate: the PhDream program by Erika Dupont and Véronique Labeille, aimed at leveraging one's skills, particularly in terms of CV enhancement, and gaining confidence in their humanities and social sciences profile even if they don't pursue a career in research.

  • After the doctorate: the R2D Booster program by the RD2 Conseil firm, specialized in recruiting young doctors, and its program for valorizing skills in recruitment, especially when transitioning out of the research world.

NOTE: Whether you are reflecting on your professional future, job searching, or facing personal, relational, or managerial difficulties, ABG offers personalized and confidential support at very competitive rates to help you develop your potential.
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Do you maintain any connections with research?


I am still an associated researcher at my laboratory, Litt&Arts, with whom I have maintained a very good relationship. But to be honest, it's difficult to remain in the academic sphere once you've entered the industrial sphere: there are only 24 hours in a day!


The logos for the podcasts La Galette and K-POTES are creations by @leaparechat, whose work you can find on Instagram!
Each podcast co-hosted by Hélène Godin is accessible by clicking on its logo.




What advice would you give:

  • to PhDs (especially those from humanities and social sciences) worried about life after a PhD?

The most important thing, in my opinion, is not to wait until after your thesis discussion to start looking for opportunities. A career transition project is like a thesis project: it needs to be prepared several months in advance, with the support of knowledgeable people. 

  • on how to navigate in the job market?

Even if it's not always intuitive, you should definitely not hesitate to reach out to others and join professional networks, whether online or in person. Listen to specialized podcasts, pay attention to the experiences of those who have gone before you, and build connections! We are always happy to share our experiences.

  • to PhDs curious about the role of a learning engineer?

Reach out to me on LinkedIn, of course ;)

  • Regarding networking (its importance/how to develop/use it)?

Networking is crucial, whether in academia or industry. If you're a bit shy or anxious about networking, as I am, the first experiences can seem daunting, but they are essential. Start small: respond to comments on LinkedIn, for example, and gradually start sharing your own experiences. The more you give, the more you receive. Over time, the exchange becomes more natural.


On recruitment: Don't hesitate to apply for all kinds of positions, even if you don't meet 100% of the criteria. I landed my current position by applying to a partner of CMQ IED, who then forwarded my CV. Networking really works; it's the most powerful tool you can have!


BONUS TRACK: For practical tips on networking, feel free to check out the ABG advice article

                                     Prepare and maintain your network (face-to-face or online)