“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  ~  Mahatma Gandhi

I believe there needs to be a global mindset shift on all issues pertaining to women.  And as it is the change I wish to see in the world, it is what I strive to do with  The She-Ecosystem platform.

~ Iris

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Women in STEM-&-Space at 'United Launch Alliance' (ULA)

September 19, 2019


On August 12, 2018, in the wee hours of the night (3:31 am to be exact), I watched live (online) something that no Sci-Fi movie can provide: the excitement of watching a rocket being launched – with mission to "touch the Sun"!


The mission by NASA was called the 'Parker Solar Probe', and this spacecraft sat on a mighty powerful rocket: the ‘Delta IV’ by United Launch Alliance (ULA).


Following the mission was not only inspiring for what it was on its own, but interesting as well, especially with all the documentary-like interviews shared simultaneously on Twitter with some of the engineers and rocket scientists involved in making the mission a reality – and a success!


While watching these interviews, and reading live tweets, I noticed something: many of the experts were Women! Perhaps people working in the industry might think nothing of it, but I was kind of impressed and inspired by it.


I even shared the following tweet:


After the event I learned more about other missions and future projects, and “met” (online) Tory Bruno, President and CEO of ULA, and as anyone following Tory on Twitter knows not only of his passion for what he does, but his active participation and interaction on Twitter with all things pertaining to his company and their mission. (And personally, I find that quite inspiring as well – almost part of an online outreach program in itself.)


Here’s an example:

But to go back to all the women involved in these projects, I now know that there are indeed many women in the Space Industry. But just like I didn’t know about them a while back, many young girls don’t really know about these women, and "you can't be what you can't see", as Marian Wright Edelman once said.


And with an extension to the above quote by Sally Ride, an American astronaut and physicist: "Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can't be what you can't see."


I’ve recently shared an article with a series of mini-interviews with ‘Women in STEM & Space’, but I am honored by this opportunity here, to share a piece specifically about a couple of ULA employees. Hope you’re inspired – I know I was, reading from them!

Name: Amanda Sterling 

Position at ULA: Chief of Staff to the CEO/Structural Engineer


Who/what inspired you to go in your field?


As a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut – but I tempered my expectations that I could actually be one. In high school I started to consider what I wanted to get my degree in, and I still had a passion for space but had no idea how to turn that into a career. Some college students came in to one of my science classes and gave a presentation on aerospace engineering and that was the day I learned I could have a job building rockets! Shortly after, I found out that America’s best launch company—ULA—had a headquarters where I lived, and I knew that’s exactly where I wanted to work.


What's the coolest thing about your field or what you get to do?


I get to help design and launch giant 20-story rockets weighing over 1 million pounds that can travel into space at 30,000 mph and put a spacecraft exactly where it needs to be in orbit. That spacecraft could be a weather satellite that tracks hurricanes, a rover that lands on the surface of Mars, an important asset for our national security, or even astronauts that are on their way to the International Space Station. If being a part of that isn’t cool enough, I specifically get to design the structure of the rocket so that it is strong enough to do all of that. The missions we launch help save lives, explore the universe, and connect the world—and I get to be a part of that!

What got you through the hard times especially at school/in academics?


I would always remind myself that at the end of school I was going to be a rocket scientist. I was going to have a job that could make an impact on people’s lives and the world we live in. Even if I couldn’t go to space, I was going to make things that would. I did internships every summer of college at ULA, so each school year I could look forward to a little piece of the job I was working so hard to achieve. The other thing that got me through was asking for help. I went to my professors, teachers, and teaching assistants during office hours and got help with subjects I struggled on. Just like in the workplace, it takes a team to be successful. There’s no reason to think you need to get through school without any help.


What is your message/advice to school girls?


Pursue the career that you want! Work hard, ask for help when things get difficult, learn from your mistakes, and don’t underestimate yourself. Pursue opportunities that challenge you and help you develop different skills. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t meet a couple of the qualifications for a job. Make a case for why you are good for the job and how you will overcome the areas that you are weak in. Last, soft skills –like communication, teamwork, etc.– can be just as important as technical skills, so focus on developing those as well.

Name: Giavanna Piccirilli

Position at ULA: Systems Test Engineer 


Who/what inspired you to go in your field?


My favorite movie since I was a kid has always been Space Cowboys. That movie, combined with my parents taking me to the Kennedy Space Center when I was young, really instilled this love of space and rockets in me.


What's the coolest thing about your field or what you get to do?


I get to sit in the control room at my own console and help launch rockets with an incredible legacy into space. I learned quite a bit of history about these rockets growing up and to be a part of the ULA launch team is truly incredible and the best job I could have ever hoped to have. Along with testing and processing the rockets, we have the privilege of putting very important payloads into orbit, and I feel so lucky to be a part of that.

What got you through the hard times especially at school/in academics?


I always knew that this was what I wanted to do. I may not have known how I would get here, but I knew that I would. People tended not to take a kid (or even a high school-aged young woman) saying they want to launch rockets and be an astronaut seriously, but my parents supported me every step of the way and did everything they could to indulge my interests and help me find the best college for me to get into the career field I had chosen to pursue. That meant me moving 1,000 miles away from my small Pennsylvania town to Daytona Beach, FL to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and I will be forever grateful that they believed in my dream.


Another important person whose words always kept me focused was one of my heroes – Gene Kranz. Anyone who doesn’t know who he is should read his book, Failure Is Not an Option, but without listing all of his other incredible accomplishments, he was the flight director for the Apollo 13 mission. I used his book as my main source in an AP History research paper in high school, and I sent my paper to him one summer. I received a response, and one of the things he told me was to follow my dreams and aim for the stars, and I always thought about that when things got difficult. If one of my biggest inspirations was telling me to follow my dreams, how could I not?! 


What is your message/advice to school girls?


You truly can do anything you want to do. There will always be a way to make it happen. We need to be raising young women to follow their dreams, even if these dreams are in fields historically dominated by males. Times are changing, but don’t be intimidated if your classes or extracurricular activities are filled with boys. You can do anything they can do, and the harder you work, the better you will be. Believe in yourself, and don’t give up!









(The image from Giavanna's tweet is so long, as the rocket is so tall, I had to share this photo separately - caption & photo)



Previous articles with 'Women in STEM and Space':



Women in 'STEM-&-Space' Answer 4 Questions to Inspire You to Believe You Can Do Anything You Dream of













And Expert in 'Space Science' - Interview With Sara Mazrouei, PhD













A Future Doctor in Space - Interview With Shawna Pandya, MD













A Real [She]-Rocket Scientist - Interview With Kristen Facciol



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Women in STEM-&-Space at 'United Launch Alliance' (ULA)

September 19, 2019

An Expert in 'Space Science' - Interview With Sara Mazrouei, PhD

August 17, 2019

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