My first job (3/10)

Jeanne Petesch: “I knew this was the office”

Jeanne Petesch is an architect and partner at Valentiny hvp Architects. Photo: Valentiny hvp.

Jeanne Petesch is an architect and partner at Valentiny hvp Architects. Photo: Valentiny hvp.

Jeanne Petesch is an architect, partner and managing director at Valentiny hvp Architects. She spoke to us about the early stages of her career.

What was your first ever job?

My first real job after finishing my architectural studies in Brussels was indeed with Valentiny (Hermann and Valentiny at the time, now Valentiny hvp architects), where I still work today, almost 12 years later.

But of course I had various summer jobs before that. They were mainly jobs in architectural firms, but I also had the experience of working in a fast-food restaurant.

Have you gotten along with your bosses?

The first boss I had was in an architectural office where I did a summer job. At the beginning I was confronted with a lot of criticism, but I didn’t let it get to me and I learned… Indeed, I got on very well with him by the end of the job.

As for François Valentiny, working with him and being part of the office team has been challenging but enjoyable from day one. Even in intense and demanding work situations—and in architecture many days are full of these—the atmosphere is mostly pleasant and familiar.

After my job interview [for Valentiny] I knew this was the office I would like to work in, despite my initial intentions to work abroad after finishing my studies. The invigorating projects I was able to work on after arriving here, such as the international competition of the “Beethoven Festspielhaus” in Bonn, convinced me to stay in Luxembourg. It’s during such projects that important dynamics are created. So that was certainly a challenging phase, but the crazy moments together with François and the whole team also made it an unforgettable experience. It’s perhaps worth adding that the project never came to fruition despite the two times we found ourselves among the finalists (against Zaha Hadid’s office), which I mention just to say that this competition also gave me a lesson in tolerating frustration.

Would your friends have been surprised to hear that you’d end up as an architect?

Good question: I should ask them. I would say ultimately yes, since my friends have chosen to pursue other careers, quite varied, but not architecture. The person who’d definitely have preferred me to do other studies was my father, who wanted me to do “something serious for the future”—which is to say, economics. But by now I’ve convinced him of my choice.

When you got your first paycheque, what did you treat yourself to?

I’ve always enjoyed travelling. The further the better. Of course the first paycheque didn’t allow me to book a trip—far from it! But I did spend some of that money on an unforgettable trip to Asia. Together with Laurye, a colleague who became a good friend, we went to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.