5 mins read 02 May 2022

Women of the Australian Space Community: Darcey Watson

Women play a huge role in the Australian space sector, and each week will be sharing the story of an inspiring woman who makes our community so special. 

Darcy Watson, works in a number of areas supporting the Space Industry, professional women and science. Credit: Supplied

Darcey Watson - Executive Officer, Andy Thomas Space Foundation

What is your role at the Andy Thomas Space Foundation?

I work closely with the company’s CEO, Nicola Sasanelli to oversee, promote and expand the three branches of the Foundation. Education (Education Fund), Outreach (various public engagement and industry initiatives) and the Australian Space Forum (biannual event facilitating B2B networking and industry development opportunities for the Australian space Industry). I engage heavily across business strategy, development and stakeholder engagement, to ensure the foundation continues on its strong trajectory, providing innovative and empowering sector-related educational opportunities.

In addition, I am the chair of the Board of Directors of Spence Club Inc - a unique networking club for high-achieving professional women in South Australia. Co-host of the CoLab Society Podcast and Co-founder of CoLab Society, a community and podcast to share the triumphs and challenges of female game-changers in the Science industry, specifically highlighting the diverse traditional and non-traditional careers available within the field. As well as the Teams Manager for the next iteration of the AYAA’s Astra Program.

What advice would you give to people looking to start their career in the Australian space industry, whether they are new graduates or those looking to move their careers over?

If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to simply make a start. Have a conversation with members of the community to see where your passions lie, attend industry-related events and workshops and keep up to date with various research and advanced technologies. Whilst they may only be small actions to start with, they can have unbelievable impacts down the road. The industry is diverse, collaborative, passion driven and highly reliant on multi/cross-disciplinary approaches, meaning that these small steps might walk you into the right spot at the right time.

I would also like to highlight that it is never too late or too early to start. The space industry in Australia is relatively new compared to our overseas counterparts. Whilst this means we are not quite as far along in terms or current marketable capabilities, it does mean that we have the unique opportunity to approach development and growth in an innovative way. This opportunity needs input and the perspectives of all diverse members of the community, with different experiences, qualifications, passions and backgrounds. Space is truly a place for all.

Carley Scott the CEO of Equatorial Launch, was the first female in the space industry that hadn’t come from a “traditional” background that Darcey met. Credit: ABC.

Which women in the history of the space industry do you look up to? What was it about their achievements that resonated with you?

The space industry is full of incredible females who have truly blazed the trail for not only up and coming leaders, but the next generation of future leaders as well. Personally, I have really looked up to the inspiring work of both Pam Melroy and Carley Scott OAM.

Pam Melroy’s wonderful career within the space industry has seen her involvement in many roles, leading her to the position of NASA Deputy Administrator. The role I particularly have found so inspirational is Pam’s service as Mission Commander on the STS-120 in 2007. One of the very few females in the world to have commanded a space shuttle and to be involved in several of the International Space Station assembly missions is such an encouraging achievement. Pam Melroy truly is a role model for all women who have at one point looked to the stars and dreamed of a career in space.

Carley Scott, the CEO of Equatorial Launch Australia, is a true pioneer in making space a cross-disciplinary, engaging industry with an innovative approach. Carley was the first female that I had ever had the opportunity to speak to that did not come from a traditional ‘space career background’. Carley came equipped with not only qualifications but a wealth of knowledge in the business sector. As a big believer in the idea that you simply cannot be what you cannot see, Carley was proof to me that I didn’t need to be an engineer or an astrophysicist to be part of the sector, that in fact I just needed to be passionate, dedicated, eager to learn and ready to prove that I can make a change. 

What are you most excited about in the coming years for the Australian Space Industry?

The space industry here in Australia, whilst young, is growing at an unbelievable rate. With a passionate, collaborative and determined group of professionals hailing from all backgrounds involved, I would say I am most excited for the scope and cross/ multi-disciplinary approach Australia will have for the sector. With the distinct privilege of being able to learn from international groups who have faced many challenges and have seen many successes in the industry throughout history, Australia has the incredible opportunity to sculpt our strategies and approach to be heavily innovative and dynamic.

With this approach comes an instinctive requirement to have expertise from all backgrounds, experiences, educations, and specialties involved. What I find most exciting about this requirement is that space will truly be accessible for all. Whether you are in marketing, finance, trades, project management or any other discipline – the industry needs you and your skills. Encouraging future generations to find inspiration in space and to feel comfort knowing that they can achieve their dreams whilst studying / specialising in what they are truly passionate about.