Growing Australia’s space industry and tackling gender imbalance
At 36, UTS engineering graduate Anntonette Dailey has what she considers to be one of the best jobs in the world: Executive Director at the Australian Space Agency.
As a senior leader at the recently formed Australian Space Agency, Anntonette Dailey’s job is to grow the local space industry. And they have big ambitions for the years ahead.
First up, there’s the construction of a hands-on space discovery centre in Adelaide, plus Australia’s first mission control. In time, Anntonette plans to partner with the commercial sector to get Australian rockets taking off from Australian launching pads.
But one of her chief goals is to convince the Australian public that space is worth investing in.
“People don’t realise that it affects almost every part of our lives,” she says. “I guarantee that I could tell most people how space applies to their job. It’s essential to everything from banking to monitoring water flow and helping farmers do better cropping.”
Dailey’s love of all things space-related dates back to her teen years, when she attended space camps and idolised Australian astronaut and engineer Dr Andy Thomas AO.
As a graduate, Dailey took up policy roles that utilised her environmental engineering skills, from running a wild dog abatement program to assisting with the Cyclone Yasi recovery effort.
Now that she has her dream job, Dailey wants more women to join her in the space sector. She’s proud of the fact her agency’s leadership team is 50 per cent female — a drastic change from the early days of her career.
My personal goal is to get mums and dads talking about STEM careers around the dinner table.
“I remember going to my first space industry board meeting and everyone there was a man over the age of 45,” she says.
“When I was about 30, I realised why I’d been struggling to create a career path: it was because I just couldn’t see myself reflected in the leadership at the time.”
Anntonette Dailey is the recipient of the 2019 UTS Young Alumni Award.
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Q&A: Anntonette on leading positive change
You’ve worked hard promoting STEM careers. Are you seeing changes on this front?
“Actually, I’m worried we’re going backwards. Because maths and science are no longer compulsory all the way through school, kids don’t get those skills early enough. My personal goal is to get mums and dads talking about STEM careers around the dinner table.”
What advice do you have for engineering graduates?
“Get lost of experience across the board before you specialise.”
What’s been one of the biggest challenges of your career?
“Finding that work/life balance. At the Australian Space Agency, we’re very focused on the fact that we all have cool jobs, but we have families, too. If our people aren’t seeing their loved ones, then we’re not going to get the best out of them. I actually feel like I’ve got the best of both worlds right now.