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International Women’s Day

Inspirational women, Media, Partnerships

Rocket Women Celebrates International Women’s Day with Empowering Women with Tech

17 March, 2019

Speakers at the Empowering Women With Tech International Women's Day 2019 event . Pictured (L-R): Eve Roodhouse (Chief Officer Economic Development, Leeds City Council), Niamh McKenna (Managing Director Accenture Health UK), Natasha Sayce-Zelem (Founder, Empowering Women with Tech), Ana Jakimovska (Director of Product Management, The Guardian), Vinita Marwaha Madill (Founder, Rocket Women), Councillor Rebecca Charlwood (Leeds City Council) [David Lindsay/Empowering Women with Tech]

Speakers at the Empowering Women With Tech International Women’s Day 2019 event . Pictured (L-R): Eve Roodhouse (Chief Officer Economic Development, Leeds City Council), Niamh McKenna (Managing Director Accenture Health UK), Natasha Sayce-Zelem (Founder, Empowering Women with Tech), Ana Jakimovska (Director of Product Management, The Guardian), Vinita Marwaha Madill (Founder, Rocket Women), Councillor Rebecca Charlwood (Leeds City Council) [David Lindsay/Empowering Women with Tech]

Rocket Women were honoured to celebrate International Women’s Day 2019 with Empowering Women With Tech. Rocket Women Founder Vinita Marwaha Madill participated in a series of Fireside Chats with truly inspirational women in tech, including Ana Jakimovska (The Guardian’s Director of Product Management), Niamh McKenna (Managing Director, Accenture Health UK), Milena Nikolic (Director of Software Engineering, Google), Eve Roodhouse (Chief Officer Economic Development, Leeds City Council) & Councillor Rebecca Charlwood (Leeds City Council). The event was organised by the amazing Natasha Sayce-Zelem, Head of Technology for Digital Service at Sky and founder of Empowering Women with Tech and took place in the Howard Assembly Room of the Opera North Grand Theatre in Leeds, UK with an audience of around 300.

Rocket Women Founder Vinita Marwaha Madill on-stage talking with Natasha Sayce-Zelem, Founder of Empowering Women with Tech, on International Women's Day [David Lindsay/Empowering Women with Tech]

Rocket Women Founder Vinita Marwaha Madill on-stage talking with Natasha Sayce-Zelem, Founder of Empowering Women with Tech, on International Women’s Day [David Lindsay/Empowering Women with Tech]

Highlights of the Empowering Women with Tech International Women’s Day evening included The Guardian News and Media’s Director of Product, Ana Jakimovska discussing the dangers that journalism is facing at the moment and the focus of her career, “My career has been mission-driven to make a difference. I realised the impact of the output of organisations including BBC & Channel 4.” Accenture Health UK’s Managing Director Niamh McKenna emphasised the importance of saying yes to opportunities and then figuring out how to do them later. Vinita Marwaha Madill, representing Rocket Women, talked about how to empower young women to choose a career in STEM and the importance of allies believing in your abilities and supporting your goals.

Thank you to Empowering Women with Tech for inviting Rocket Women to celebrate International Women’s Day in the UK alongside some trailblazing role models!


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Thank you to @bbcradioleeds & @bbcyorkshire for having @guardian’s Ana Jakimovska (Director of Product) & myself in the studio live on the drivetime show discussing #EmpowerWithTech, #InternationalWomensDay & our advice for young #WomenInSTEM! 💪🏼 “Always believe in yourself and it’s really important to surround yourself with allies that believe in you & your goals also.” 👩🏽‍🚀 @rocketwomen Dress: Rocket Science dress by @svahausa! #Gifted (I really love it – great cut & style & it has pockets!) 🚀 #STEM #RocketWomen #Explore #SciComm #Inspo #instagood #photooftheday #instago #picoftheday #BBCTravel #ootd #Exploration #Goals #aimhigh #IWD2019 #InternationalWomensDay2019 #discoverunder10k #iamanengineer #ironringgirls #Space #Astronaut #Radio #Media #Blogger #WomenInSTEM #NatGeo #womeninscience

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Inspirational women, Meet A Rocket Woman

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2018 – Meet A Rocket Woman: Kristen Facciol, Robotics Flight Controller, Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

8 March, 2018
Kristen Facciol, Robotics Flight Controller, Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

Kristen Facciol, Robotics Flight Controller, Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

Happy International Women’s Day 2018! On International Women’s Day, Rocket Women are celebrating the achievements of trailblazing women in space!

This week we’re featuring Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Robotics Flight Controller Kristen Facciol! Growing up in Canada, Kristen was inspired by the achievements of Canadian astronauts Roberta Bondar and Julie Payette and always hoped that she could be involved with Canada’s contributions to space exploration one day.

Kristen tells Rocket Women about her path to work at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, astronaut training and why she believes it’s important that we show the next generation that it’s possible to be successful in non-traditional careers.


Tell me about your journey to the space industry and to where you are now?

My journey began when I was about 10 years old and was able to attend Space Camp in Montreal, Canada. I learned about the Canadarm, the Space Shuttle program, and the Hubble Space Telescope, and immediately became intrigued. Space exploration was a passion that fuelled my interest in science and math.

When it came time to select a university, the University of Toronto stood out because of the affiliated Aerospace Institute (UTIAS), and the ability to major in Aerospace Engineering through the Engineering Science program. It was during university that I realized my interest in robotics.

The opportunity of a lifetime came up when I joined the Mission Control Group. I am now living in Houston, Texas and training as a Robotics Flight Controller at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Following graduation, I started with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) as part of a team designing robotic systems for on-orbit satellites servicing. Upon completion of this project, I moved to Montreal to work as an embedded contractor at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) as both an Analyst and an Engineering Support Lead for robotics operations on the International Space Station (ISS). During this time, I also certified as an instructor, training astronauts and flight controllers on the Mobile Servicing System, which includes Canadarm2 (the large robotic arm on the ISS), Dextre (a robot performing maintenance work and repairs), and the Mobile Base (which allows translation along the ISS).

At the end of 2016, I joined the CSA as a Payloads Engineer, working on some of the human research projects conducted on the ISS. Soon after, the opportunity of a lifetime came up when I joined the Mission Control Group. I am now living in Houston, Texas and training as a Robotics Flight Controller at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Describe a typical day at work for you.

A typical day at work can really vary, which is one of the many reasons why I love my job!

When we are planning for robotic operations, we need to go through the Mission Design process. We look at requirements or objectives that need to be satisfied during an operation, and take into consideration the complexity of the ISS operational schedule. Using a simulator, we then develop the procedures and other associated products that allow us to control the robotic systems on the ISS from the ground.

The days that I get to train astronauts and flight controllers, are some of my favourite days!

There are also days that I sit on console, either training during real-time operations or learning as part of simulations. Sitting on console involves monitoring our systems and the timeline, as well as the status of all the other systems that comprise the ISS, to ensure the objectives of the operation are met.

Then there are the days that I get to train astronauts and flight controllers, which are some of my favourite days! It is an opportunity to ensure that I am constantly learning and understanding how our systems work, as well as pass on this knowledge to future operators of Canadarm2, Dextre, or the Mobile Base.

Kristen in NASA's ISS Mission Control Center

Kristen in NASA’s ISS Mission Control Center

Who were your role models when you were growing up? How important are role models to young girls?

Growing up, my role models were anyone that took the time and effort to teach me, or anyone I felt I could learn from. This included my parents, my coaches for various sports, my teachers, and my colleagues. I never shied away from an opportunity to learn and improve, and always had a desire to be better at whatever it was that had my attention at the time.

I always admired the achievements of Roberta Bondar and Julie Payette. I hoped that I could one day be involved with Canada’s contributions to space exploration.

I never shied away from an opportunity to learn and improve, and always had a desire to be better at whatever it was that had my attention at the time.

I think it is exceptionally important for young girls to have role models. One thing that has always stood out to me is the way females are portrayed in the media, and the stereotypes that continue to exist today from previous generations. We need to show the next generation that: it is possible to be successful in non-traditional careers; it is possible to have a career as well as a family; and it is possible to be driven and successful without that having a negative connotation.

We need to show the next generation that: it is possible to be successful in non-traditional careers; it is possible to have a career as well as a family; and it is possible to be driven and successful without that having a negative connotation.

What has been the most rewarding moment in your career so far?

There have been technical achievements that were quite exceptional, but there are also the “softer” moments that have made an impact as well.

Two of the technical achievements that stand out were the first time an astronaut I had trained was on-board the ISS and the first time a procedure I had written was executed on-orbit. It was so surreal to watch live video from the ISS of something that I had worked on from the ground. It is still difficult for me to truly express the way each of these moments felt.

 It was so surreal to watch live video from the ISS of something that I had worked on from the ground. It is still difficult for me to truly express the way each of these moments felt.

I have also received some incredibly heartwarming messages from people that I have interacted with as a mentor. To know that I have somehow influenced the career path of another person is something I am so grateful to have experienced, and there really is nothing quite like it.

What would you recommend to someone looking at a career in space robotics to focus on?

To develop a foundation for a career in space robotics (or robotics in general), it is important to focus on more than just the technical courses and training that are required. You also need to keep apprised of what is happening in your field of interest. There are advancements every day – not just in space, but also in how what we have learned in space is utilized here on Earth. Knowing where we have come from and the direction we are moving in will help you to strategically position yourself to be a part of the way forward.

Knowing where we have come from and the direction we are moving in will help you to strategically position yourself to be a part of the way forward.

For any career consideration, it is also important to keep in mind that a technical career is more than just the technical elements. Working in space robotics, as part of an interdisciplinary team, has really emphasized the importance of being able to work with others and to understand how your systems interact. You need to be able to communicate the state of your system and to adapt to changes in the surrounding environment. It also often involves working under pressure.

Kristen Facciol simulating Canadarm operations on-ground

Kristen Facciol simulating Canadarm operations on-ground

Was there anything unexpected about your career journey that you thought would be different to your initial expectations?

Looking back to when I first started, I thought that I would stay in Toronto and be a career “lifer”. I really admired my colleagues that had established a reputation for themselves to be a go-to person and become indispensable to a certain extent. I thought that was what I wanted. I took somewhat of a leap of faith when I moved to Montreal.

If it had not been for that move, some of the most important events in my life would have never occurred. My life has been ever changed because I took that leap.

Being given an opportunity to work at the CSA was a daunting decision at first, but it was definitely a clear one. This was the Canadian Space Agency that I would be working at! If it had not been for that move, some of the most important events in my life would have never occurred. My life has been ever changed because I took that leap.

If you had one piece of advice for your 10-year-old self, what would it be? Would there be any decisions that you’d have made differently?

My 10-year-old self already exhibited many of the qualities that I think are important contributors to where I have reached at this point in my life. She approached everyone in the same way, whether stranger or friend, superior or equal. She was a team player but a definite leader. And she always strived to be the best.

She also had her moments of self-doubt, and I would want to tell her to never doubt herself, her achievements, or the decisions she made. I would tell her that she was going to end up somewhere she never even dreamed was possible. I would probably also mention that being a nerd would become the new cool, but I doubt she would have believed me.

I would want to tell [my 10-year-old self] to never doubt herself, her achievements, or the decisions she made. I would tell her that she was going to end up somewhere she never even dreamed was possible. I would probably also mention that being a nerd would become the new cool, but I doubt she would have believed me.

If I went back and made any decision differently, then I don’t know that I would have ended up where I am now, which I am very proud of. I really wouldn’t want anything to be any different. So looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Inspiration

Confidence Is The Missing Key Factor

5 May, 2017
#BeBoldForChange was the theme to this year's International Women's Day. This great infographic by Trade Machines FI GmbH introduces the difficulties women have to face when deciding to enter the highly male-dominated field of engineering - an explanation for why only 13% of US engineers are female. (Copyright Trade Machines FI GmbH)

#BeBoldForChange was the theme to this year’s International Women’s Day. This great infographic by Trade Machines FI GmbH introduces the difficulties women have to face when deciding to enter the highly male-dominated field of engineering – an explanation for why only 13% of US engineers are female. (Copyright Trade Machines FI GmbH)

We may be aware of the fact that women are under-represented in STEM fields, but seeing the exact numbers of female representation is still startling: on average women comprise 19% of STEM students and 20% of engineering students in the United States. Other tech-related fields attract even fewer women. Women within electrical engineering fields represent solely 12% of the students while within computer sciences only 10%.

When it comes to engineering, not only are fewer women choosing these study fields than men, but it turns out, that even after finishing college 35% of women either choose to not enter the field or leave eventually, while this number is 10% for men. So what could be the reason behind this worldwide trend?

The American Sociological Association released a study (pdf) with the title ‘Women Aren’t Becoming Engineers Because of Confidence Issues’. The study pointed towards the lack of ‘professional role confidence’ as an issue for female engineering students. This eludes to female students not having as much confidence in their engineering competence as their male counterparts and doubting the fact that engineering is the career that fits them best.

But it’s worth looking at what could lead to such a lack of confidence. Why are women more affected by this than men?

As the study and the following infographic explains, there are several components to this complicated issue. The main reason might be, that a stereotype threat is still present according to which engineering is still assumed to be a male career. As the study said, “competence in engineering is associated in people’s minds with men and masculinity more than it is with women and femininity”.

While there is no quick-fix solution to this issue, there are actions we can take to support young women. In order to not lose those who are currently studying or who are already working in STEM (also known as the leaky pipeline syndrome), we need to make work environments more accepting and eliminate any residual “macho culture”.

It is also important that role models, successful women in STEM careers are visible and tangible to younger women considering their future career paths. It can be an excellent way for younger women to realize that engineering is just as much for women as it is for men.

We can additionally encourage girls to consider a STEM career in an even earlier phase of their life. According to Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, we need to start by raising girls differently. While boys are taught to be “brave”, women are often told to be “good” and therefore women ‘seek perfection and avoid taking risks’ with this potentially leading to missing out on great opportunities.

Female under-representation in engineering is clearly not because of a lack of capability but, as the study eludes to, because of girls not believing in themselves. In the words of Canadian-Indian poet Rupi Kaur, “What’s the greatest lesson a woman should learn? That since day one she’s already had everything she needs within herself. It’s the world that convinced her that she did not.” Not only do we need to change this in order to encourage girls to see themselves as engineers in the future, but also in order to ensure the next generation are more confident and believe in their potential. We need women supporting other women. How can you help a girl that you know to reach their potential?

(Disclaimer: This post was written in association with Trade Machines FI GmbH)

Inspiration

International Women’s Day

20 March, 2013

International Women’s Day celebrated globally (Copyright: accenture.com; npr.org; womeninaerospace.org; independent.co.uk; women2.com)

The United Nations’ International Women’s Day (IWD) took place on Friday 8th March with some great events organised around the world. In particular Women 2.0 honoured IWD with Founder Friday meetings in innovative cities globally to promote the creation of new networks among aspiring entrepreneurs, current entrepreneurs and investors. Women In Aerospace (US, Europe and Canada) celebrated women by carrying out networking events for their members internationally! Women working at Accenture collaborated to create an excellent webcast through which they shared their inspiring stories of success in the tech industry. Accenture, with more than 90,000 women employees, also released their 2013 International  Women’s Day research titled “Defining Success”. The survey of  4100 business executives from 33 countries showed that when work-life balance was concerned, more than three quarters (77 percent) agreed that technology enabled them to be more flexible with their schedules. Eighty percent reported having flexibility in their work schedule is extremely or very important to work-life balance, however 70 percent said technology brings work into their personal lives. Considering women alone, 80 percent of those surveyed worked on weekends and/or holidays (compared to 83 percent of men). Proving an equal commitment to and responsibility towards their careers. In Sheryl Sandberg‘s new book “Lean In” she advocates flexible working conditions and a higher salary for women. With the Accenture survey highlighting that almost 10 percent less women than men asked for or negotiated a pay rise,  this issue being brought to the forefront of the public’s awareness should be welcomed. (A review of Lean In will be posted soon!)

The Atlantic provided us with a striking portrayal of women around the world on International Women’s Day, emphasising this truly global event connecting women of all cultures, countries and backgrounds. Presenting an essential reminder that IWD also allows us to “focus on places and situations where women’s rights, equality, health, and safety still have a long way to go”.

How did you celebrate International Women’s Day? Leave you comments below or on Twitter @Rocket_Woman1

-Vinita