International Women’s Day: An Interview With A Female Space Engineer

Notice to all readers:

Get Connected has merged with Simple Flying.

To read the latest Get Connected content, please visit our new home by clicking here.

 

Today, on International Women’s Day, Get Connected thought it would be a perfect time to highlight one of the industry’s high flying female engineers. Eirini Dimitroula works in the UK at Inmarsat, a leading provider of inflight connectivity.

Eirini
Eirini is the first female and youngest person to run Inmarsat’s NOC. Photo: Inmarsat

In the UK only 12% of all engineers are women and this is even lower in the aviation and aerospace industry where women make up only 9% of all engineering roles. Eirini is breaking up this norm in aerospace engineering and is a real role model for aspiring female engineers.

Eirini plays a vital role at Inmarsat – not only is she the first woman but she is also the youngest person at Inmarsat to have run the company’s highly technical HQ – The Network Operations Centre (NOC). In this role, Eirini is in charge of leading a team of highly skilled engineers to manage the services run through all thirteen of Inmarsat’s satellites.

We caught up with Eirini to ask her about her role, and what drew her to aerospace engineering in the first place.

Where did it all start?

We asked Eirini what made her want to break into aerospace engineering, and what her back ground is. She told us,

“From an early age, I was more drawn to practical and experimental science classes than traditional essay-based subjects. I remember one particular lesson during high school where we learned about the science behind electromagnetic waves and I knew in that moment that this was type of work I wanted to do in the future. I was (and still am) fascinated by the fact that humans can transport messages and signals through space. For me, it was a no brainer that as soon as I’d finished my studies, I would continue my passion in the wireless telecommunications and aerospace sector.”

Inmarsat NOC
Eirini leads Inmarsat’s NOC. Photo: Inmarsat

Of course, studying and qualifying is only the first step in anyone’s career. We asked Eirini if she found it challenging to secure work initially. She said,

“Securing your first job is challenging for everyone, regardless of which industry you want to go into. After I finished my studies, I worried that I would struggle to get that first step on the ladder, particularly because I didn’t think I fitted the “typical mold” or profile for an engineer. However, I’m glad to say that I didn’t experience any gender bias during my applications and felt I was on a level playing field with the rest of the candidates.

“Once I started working, I must admit that I fell victim to “imposter syndrome” which far too many women experience on a daily basis. I worried that if I made a mistake at work, people would assume that it was because I was a woman. It wasn’t until after many years of experience, observation and a good mentor I realized that I should be more confident of how colleagues viewed and valued me.”

 Working with men

We asked Eirini what it was like working day to day in a male-dominated environment. She told us how she was, initially, concerned, but that she soon realized her concerns were unfounded.

“Before I joined Inmarsat, I was hesitant about the stereotypical culture of working in a male-dominated environment, but these concerns were blown away from one day one. I love working with people who share my passion and working as a team to reach a common goal.

“Significant progress has been made to increase the number of women in STEM roles since I first started working over twenty years ago. However, there is still an imbalance: in the UK, only 12.4% of engineers are women. This is even lower in the aviation and aerospace industry, where women make up only 9% of all engineering roles. If we are to make a real difference, we need to start at a grassroots level. More must be done to encourage girls to take an interest in science and maths subjects and to make STEM career paths accessible for everyone. I strongly believe kids should be raised as kids and not as boys or girls.”

Only 12.4% of engineers are women. Photo: Inmarsat

As previously mentioned, Eirini is the youngest person ever to run the Network Operations Center (NOC) for Inmarsat. She told us about her role, saying,

“I am the first woman to run Inmarsat’s highly technical Network Operations Centre (NOC), the heart of our global satellite network, and am the youngest person to have ever held this position. I worked my way up the ranks and had been working in the NOC for eight years before I was offered the lead role. The work can be stressful at times, but whose job isn’t? I thrive under pressure and the team I led operate with the upmost professionalism and love what they do.”

Improving the passenger experience

Taking up the challenge of improving the passenger experience, Eirini has created a dedicated team to monitor and coordinate the high speed passenger Wi-Fi delivered to planes all around the world. This allows passengers to stream Netflix, listen to Spotify and play games from the sky. She told us about this, saying,

Notice to all readers:

Get Connected has merged with Simple Flying.

To read the latest Get Connected content, please visit our new home by clicking here.

 

“In 2016, I was tasked by Inmarsat to build a new team to monitor and ensure that the inflight Wi-Fi service we deliver through our high-speed satellites is delivered 24/7 with the highest standards to our customers. This is the part of my career which I’m most proud of. Four years on, my team are now responsible for managing real time communication for hundreds of aircraft with the world’s leading airlines.

“I’ve built a small, tight knit team of 15 which is dedicated and committed to this work. We continuously monitor aircraft and as soon as we detect a service interruption, we work together to recover the service. This is what’s unique about our aviation operations team. We identify their fault and initiate recovery even before the customer is aware there was a problem.

“Additionally in other organizations, once a team has flagged a service interruption, they would then have to flag this to another team to deal with, which can create lengthy delays. It’s this level of flexibility and dedication to delivering quality services to our customers which excites me. We are all working towards the same goal of improving passenger experience.”

Eirini has worked to improve the passenger experience. Photo: Inmarsat

We asked Eirini for her vision on the future of inflight connectivity. She said,

“The need to invest in onboard connectivity is becoming more and more urgent. Within the next decade, airlines will be facing different demands from a new generation of digitally native passengers. This demographic shift will inevitably prompt many airlines to rethink key aspects of their inflight experience.

“It will become the norm for passengers to be able to choose how they spend their time online in the sky. This could be anything from ordering inflight food from an app, to live streaming live sporting events from the comfort of their seats. The sky will no longer be the limit, with people experiencing the same level of connectivity in the air as they do on the ground.

“There is a huge opportunity for airlines to monetize the new possibilities enabled by inflight Wi-Fi, too. Our Sky High Economics research series, in partnership with the London School of Economics, revealed that inflight Wi-Fi has the potential to create a $130 billion global market within the next 15 years, resulting in $30 billion of additional revenue for airlines by 2035.”

The message to girls

Despite all the efforts of companies like Inmarsat and others in the aviation and aerospace sectors, there is still a hug disparity between genders, particularly in high-level roles. We asked Eirini what she perceived as the barriers to women entering the industry. She said,

“We need to start breaking down these barriers for young girls and women at a grassroots level. The environments we grow up in and the experiences we have at a young age ultimately shape who we become as adults. It’s important that we celebrate more female role models in engineering and aviation and encourage young girls to broaden their horizons in the knowledge that the world is their oyster.”

Eirini has a wealth of knowledge and over a decade’s experience working in aerospace engineering and is now determined to encourage more girls and women to consider a role in engineering. For Eirini, moving away from gender stereotypes and building confidence among girls from a younger age is crucial if we want to encourage more diversity in the world of engineering.

Eirini is committed to encouraging more girls into STEM. Photo: Inmarsat

We asked her what the message was for young girls right now. She said,

“We live in a unique time where people can change their careers at any point in their life and train up and qualify in a completely different profession. Why limit yourself when there’s so many exciting and unique experiences out there to take advantage of?

“The next couple of years will be particularly exciting for aviation. There is no doubt that connectivity will play a critical role in the future success of the industry. As passengers, we will see a dramatic change in our travel experience and the way aircraft operate as more and more airlines come online.”

Eirini is an inspiration to us all, and a wonderful role model for women and girls alike. Thanks to her for sharing her story, and for daring to break the mold. We hope more women follow in her footsteps!

0 Shares:
You May Also Like