6 mins read 28 Jun 2022

Women of the Australian Space Community: Julie Autuly

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.

Julie Autuly is the Head of Space Tech at Cicada Innovations, she has worked at the European Space Agency, and Thales Alenia Space. She holds Masters degree in Engineering Physics/Applied Physics and an Advance Masters in Space Applications and Services. Supplied.

In March each year, we not only celebrate International Women’s Day but we also enjoy learning about all the contributions women have made to society during Women’s History Month. Originally started in the US in 1987, it has in recent times, in part due to social media, become more well known across the world.   

As a celebration of all the wonderful work, inspiration and support that women across our region do in the space sector, will be speaking to a new woman in the Australian space community weekly, to uncover their stories and find out who inspires them.

Julie Autuly, Head of Space Tech at Cicada Innovations

What is your role at Cicada Innovations?

My role at Cicada Innovations is to lead the newly created National Space Industry Hub. The Space Hub which offers physical space, resources, mentoring, and connections for emerging space startups and researchers in Australia. 

Cicada Innovations is the home of deep tech in Australia, with a twenty-year track record of developing deep tech ventures (including space) focused on the world’s most pressing problems and promising opportunities. 

Day to day I work on a broad range of activities; from attracting and supporting our space hub residents, designing and delivering commercialisation programs for early-stage startups, to collaborating with industry and corporate partners on how we can further support Australia’s growing space industry. 

I was born and raised in Toulouse, France, and spent most of my life there. I moved to Australia and originally landed in Brisbane, almost 3 years ago. 

How did you end up working in the space sector and what drew you to it?

I am not exactly sure when it started, but being from Toulouse played a big role for sure. The city and the whole region revolve around the aviation and space industries, so as a kid growing up, you hear about it all the time! 

When I started studying engineering at university, it became clear that I wanted to work in the space industry and nowhere else! So it started with an internship at Thales Alenia Space and then jumping to the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES - France), the European Space Agency (ESA), Airbus, and eventually Cicada Innovations!

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?

Dive right into it. There are so many ways you can get involved. If you don’t know where to start, looking for volunteer opportunities in different space associations or applying to mentor programs is a good place to start, which is what I did with the United Nations Space 4 Women program. Plus many of Australia’s space startups are always looking for talented and hungry people to join their teams.

Also, keep your mind open, stay curious to new things, and always remember why we do space. We don’t do space for space, we do space for the people on this planet (and the next one). 

The most successful and inspiring people I have met were always the ones having a broader vision about why they were in the space sector; and also the ones having many other interests than space! - because again we need that diversity. 

Who have you met that has had the most impact on your career journey so far?

My former ESA boss, Amanda Regan made a huge impact on my career. She guided me through one of my first jobs, gave me genuine and unfiltered insights on the space industry, and supported me in a decisive moment of my career (-moving to Australia). 

She is a strong advocate for women in STEM and space, as well as a role model for me, more than she knows. Also, a business owner, making Tequila in Mexico, talking about the diversity of interests!

What do you think are some of the issues faced by women in the space sector and how do you think they should be resolved?

Like a lot of highly technical industries, Space is very male-dominated. Historically it has been seen as a bit of an exclusive and elite club, which can seem impenetrable for people outside the bubble, especially women. 

I believe this is a missed opportunity for the sector, but we are starting to see a shift. When women have been able to rise in the industry they are trailblazing in the sector; I have huge admiration for women carving the path for others, in Australia and overseas, from Mae Jemison (engineer, physician and former NASA astronaut) to Flavia Tata Nardini (CEO, Fleet Space Technologies). 

In order to get more women into the industry, we’ll need to continue to build awareness of the opportunities, and then build skills and capacity to empower young women and girls around the world to consider the sector as a viable career pathway. 

It will take a lot of effort to see long-term change but we have to double our efforts in promoting diversity, encouraging girls into STEM education, and lowering the barrier to entry into the sector, so people know that space is an inclusive industry for all. 

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

2022 is going to be a decisive year for the Australian Space Industry. In the first quarter already so much has already happened; new public investment and policies (like the National Space Mission for Earth Observation, a real game-changer for our ecosystem), technology breakthroughs and I am very excited to look back in a few years and see how far and fast we have come. 

More specifically, I’m excited to see the startups we support through the Space Hub grow and flourish. They are all working on incredible technologies and innovations and I can’t wait for the rest of the ecosystem to truly discover their value and potential impact.