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5 mins read 15 Jun 2022

Women of the Australian Space Community: Yolanda Dimech Zieglmayr

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

Yolanda Dimech Zieglmayr - Vehicle Integration Engineer - Rocket Lab Credit: 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, SpaceAustralia.com will be speaking to a new women in the Australian space community weekly, to uncover their stories and find out who inspires them.

Yolanda Dimech Zieglmayr - Vehicle Integration Engineer - Rocket Lab

What is your role at Rocket Lab?

I am an Engineer who has worked in the aviation, electronics, manufacturing, and Space industries. I am currently employed by Rocket Lab in the vehicle integration section installing avionics, mechanical components, wiring harnesses, and high voltage batteries onto the launch vehicle. 

I also do software updates and testing procedures, which involves making sure that all the inspections and tests have been accomplished in accordance with their specifications before the vehicle heads to the launch site.

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

I always had a dream of working in space as a young child. I use to spend most of my time searching libraries and using dial-up internet computers to gather and explore as much information on the solar system, space, and the Universe. 

I have always had the urge when looking up at the sky, to want to see and explore more. Growing up I became very interested in the engineering sector as I knew I could build and advance my interest in space there. I started the journey to work within innovation technologies when I left Malta back in 2010. 

I started my journey in Germany exploring the aerospace world mechanically and electrically. (Yolanda was an avionics and instrument calibration engineer for an aircraft maintenance company) When I moved to New Zealand I was very excited to join Rocket Lab, where I have experienced amazing projects and missions. I have been able to see and be part of building, testing, and experiencing the launches in the control room. I have also met so many talented people from all over the world that share the passion of space.

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?

Become something you love and admire. Working in the space industry is unlimited and a massive selection of exciting projects awaits. 

My advice is never give up and do what you aim for! The opportunities of the universe are unlimited.

Kitty O’Brien Joyner - Hired in 1939, Joyner was Langley's first female engineer. She already had established a reputation for firsts - she sued the University of Virginia so she could enter the all-male engineering school. She eventually rose to become a branch head. Credit: NASA.

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

I was 11 years old when I read about Kitty O'Brien Joyner. Her story inspired me as she worked hard and made sure to reach her goal.   

She was the first woman to attend the University of Virginia in the engineering section and also was the first woman NASA had hired in the Research section. She became very successful in her career and her story inspired me that even a little girl could achieve her goal of working in the industry that I am very passionate about.

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?

Personally, I have never faced any issues in the space sector, but my recommendation would be to never give up and reach for the sky. 

Believe in yourself and never stop in achieving what you wish for. 

The solar system is large and big enough for everyone to enjoy working in the space sector no matter what gender you are. If I did ever encounter an issue, I would be certain to make sure to face it, understand it, learn from it and move on to bigger and better opportunities in life.

What has been your most interesting discovery or been the most interesting space-related project you have worked on or been part of?

Every launch is interesting as the excitement gets more as you become further involved in every section of the rocket projects. Being part of the build-up and seeing the launch at Mission Control is the most amazing experience. 

What has been the highlight of your career so far or what are you looking forward to most in the future?

The biggest highlight of my career was just 1 month ago when I sat down with a very excited little lady (9years old) who is a space fan like me and asked me about my career journey, where I realised working in the space industry was the biggest highlight of my career. 

Having such a passion as a child for space and the Universe to actually being an adult working in the space section, is the biggest highlight of my career.

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

Very excited to see how the Australian Space Industry has expanded and look very forward to seeing space rockets being built and launched, exploring our universe even more.