With a background in mathematics, Zakaria particularly enjoys teamwork and the challenges of improving the energy efficiency of glassmaking.

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Interview with Zakaria, R&D project manager at the Glass Melting and Refractories Department at the AGC Technovation Centre.


What was your background before joining AGC?
I have a background in mathematics. After studying in Morocco, I did my thesis in France on mathematics applied to nuclear reactors. Then my post-doctorate focused on the storage of radioactive waste. After that I decided to change direction by joining AGC. As I was attracted by scientific calculations applicable to transport, energy and meteorology, I made a choice that was close to my heart.

What does your role as R&D project leader entail? 
I'm in charge of electrification, more specifically electro-boosting. We have various sites in Europe and around the world. My area of responsibility covers from technical and feasibility analysis to understanding how the new processes work, including the financial analysis needed to the project’s funding application. I'm also involved in supporting our engineering department in carrying out these projects. Finally, I support the production teams to start using these new processes. 

Are you working specifically on electro-boosting?
I'm doing R&D in this area. A conventional glass production furnace melts raw materials using energy derived from the combustion of hydrocarbons. The aim of electro-boosting is to replace some of this fossil fuel energy, and thus decarbonise glass production by exploiting the fact that molten glass is an electrical conductor. By injecting electrodes into the glass bath, the current flows from one electrode to the next, generating heat inside the material more efficiently than with fossil fuels. These are delicate operations that need to be mastered. Upstream, I coordinate the technical data and find ways of optimising their energy efficiency.

What do you enjoy most in your day-to-day work?
I really appreciate the cross-functional nature of my job, because it's part of AGC's strategy to reduce the carbon footprint of glass production. I consider myself lucky to be part of a team working towards sustainable development. It's a very stimulating daily drive! When we're involved in R&D, we're also called upon to help our colleagues in production. We bring expertise and a different perspective that these teams don't have the time to develop. We feel both valued and useful. 


I consider myself lucky to be part of a team working towards sustainable development. It's a very stimulating daily driving force! 



How have your skills evolved so far?
I was able to acquire my flat glass skills in teams that were very open to sharing their know-how. As well as technical knowledge, AGC has also enabled me to develop my soft skills through training in MBTI profiles and management. These courses are very rewarding, as they help you to get to know yourself better and are very helpful in managing projects with multidisciplinary teams: you understand the personality and behaviour of the people you work with. 

If you took AGC's values, which would you choose and why? 
Diversity is essential to me. I'm very proud to be involved in environmental projects but we wouldn't be making as much progress without the diversity and the awareness that all together we only have one planet. At AGC, we get to meet colleagues from a wide range of cultures, countries and religions. But we're not that different after all and we can develop things together. If we were all the same, it would be extremely boring!

What do you most look forward to in your career with AGC?
Producing carbon-free glass is just the beginning. I'm keen to follow the progress of these projects and how we can make a real impact on the global stage. I'd like to continue to follow this development through to 2030, for instance, and see how we deliver on our commitment to reduce our CO₂ footprint by 30%. On top of that, I'd like to play a mentoring role with the young - or not so young - people coming into the group to share the expertise gained so far.

What would you say to someone considering joining AGC?
Joining my department means joining very open-minded teams, with lots of scientific, technical and human challenges, to develop solutions for the future. What's more, AGC is one of the very few industries still based in Belgium, and particularly in Wallonia. It's extremely interesting to be able to work there in an international environment.


We're not that different after all and we can develop things together. If we were all the same, it would be extremely boring!


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