Shelli Brunswick, COO of Space Foundation, brings a broad perspective and deep vision of the global space ecosystem — from a distinguished career as a space acquisition and program management leader and congressional liaison for the U.S. Air Force to her current role overseeing Space Foundation's three primary divisions: Center for Innovation and Education, Symposium 365, and Global Alliance.
Shelli collaborates with organizations around the world to connect commercial, government, and educational sectors, advocating for space technology innovation, entrepreneurship, diversity and inclusion. Shelli was named the 2021 Global Technology Leader and the 2020 Diversity & Inclusion Officer and Role Model of the Year Award by WomenTech Network.
Shelli plays an active leadership role in several international organizations including World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF) Global Women Leaders Committee (GWLC) Co-Chair, G100 Global Chair for Space Technology and Aviation, and Space Tourism Society Africa Chair.
Especially for the WomenTech Network, Shelli agreed to give an interview, and share her story and experience.
Watch Shelli's talk "Investing in Space Innovation Will Solve Our Greatest Challenges on Earth", and other inspiring sessions on our YouTube channel.
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⚡️ Save the date: Women in Tech Global Conference 2023 will take place on May 9-12!
Tell us about your experience as a Women in Tech Global Conference 2022 speaker.
When I look back on my unforgettable experience as a speaker at the WomenTechech Global Conference 2022, I feel honored and filled with a sense of gratitude and fulfillment. It’s a rare opportunity to be surrounded by so many like-minded, forward-focused women who are so excited to spark lasting change in their communities and in the world at large. I’ve long admired WomenTech Network for being such an excellent model for organizations interested in groundbreaking global change, so getting to speak at the Global Conference was an absolute honor.
Being the Chief Operating Officer of Space Foundation, I’m always on the lookout for ways to broaden the horizons of our organization. One of the newest, most exciting divisions of Space Foundation is our Global Alliance initiative, which seeks to build partnerships across the world and welcome infinitely more eager minds into the boundless opportunities of the Global Space Ecosystem. There was just such an inspiring overlap between my vision for Global Alliance and the atmosphere at the Women in Tech Global Conference 2022. I’m left with a renewed sense of purpose and more optimism than ever before, certain that the future of our planet and the hope for humanity is safe in the hands of these bright, talented, transformational women in tech.
What is your favorite thing about working in tech?
My favorite thing about working in tech is the unlimited potential for discovery and the thrill of unlocking innovation that benefits humanity and improves the scope of our existence. Throughout history, humanity has experienced landmark discoveries that have propelled us into marked periods of prosperity and vastly improved our quality of life on Earth. My own field, the arena of space technology, offers countless contributions to human progress. Things like ATMs, Smartphones, and even the saving grace of the Covid closedown, Zoom, are great examples of how space tech can completely redefine the future.
Working in tech means standing at the forefront of discovery, where work mingles with wonder and yields the solutions to humanity’s greatest struggles. It’s also a playing field completely blind to discrimination, which I love. Scientific secrets and exciting discoveries in tech are waiting for the best and the brightest, regardless of their gender, orientation, belief system or cultural heritage. Being part of that collective human push forward is what inspires me to continue my work and to welcome others into the rewarding initiative toward human growth and progress.
What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want to start a tech career?
To all of the brilliant, daring women out there interested in pursuing a rewarding career in tech, I encourage you to move forward courageously toward your goals. Though the world is more welcoming to women in tech careers than ever before in history, a trail blazed by countless hard-working women who sacrificed bravely and rallied resourcefully for the cause, your journey won’t be without obstacles, disappointments, and times of doubt. Having surmounted a great many struggles on my own road to a successful career in tech, I have three timeless truths to stick to when hardship and trouble tempt you to quit.
First, take advantage of every opportunity. Scholarships, internships, tuition assistance, work-study programs, and grants can all be excellent stepping stones on your path to a successful career in tech. Keep your eyes open, accept outstretched hands, and make the most of every moment. Not only will this unveil opportunities you never could have imagined, it will train you to develop a resourcefulness that will guide you throughout your entire career.
Second, try anyway. When I decided to apply for the position of officer in the United States Air Force, I had a meager 12% chance of acceptance. Why? They had a very specific idea of who they wanted — a professional in one of the STEM disciplines. With a bachelor’s degree in business administration, I didn’t quite fit the bill. But I had a vision and an instinct, so I pushed against my doubts and the unlikely odds and applied anyway. After an initial rejection, I took the opportunity for a second review and was accepted! Without the determination to try anyway and persevere in the face of failure, I never would have achieved the success I’ve seen in my career. Try anyway, and you will discover a path forward, even when the doors of opportunity seem to unanimously slam shut.
Finally, don’t fear the unknown. When I was selected to become an officer, the Air Force notified me that I was to be a Space Program Management Officer. The only thing is, I had absolutely no idea what that was — and it certainly wasn’t the clear, defined position of Personnel Officer that I’d been hoping for. After a few attempts at changing my path, I decided to embrace this mysterious, unknown position, and I am beyond grateful that I did! By facing my fear of the unknown and choosing an option less clear-cut and simple than the path of least resistance, I’ve ended up in an incredibly rewarding position and enjoyed the career journey of a lifetime. Don’t fear the unknown, and you may end up enjoying the unforeseen!
Who would you recommend to join the WomenTech Network?
The simple answer? Everyone! WomenTech is such an amazing gathering of brilliant minds, and it glows with an atmosphere of ingenuity, purpose, and progress. It’s impossible to be part of this organization without being encouraged, uplifted and challenged to become a stronger woman and a better human being. Anna Radulovski, the CEO of WomenTech, has created and nourished something truly remarkable here, and anyone interested in building a solid network of capable, compassionate allies owes it to themselves to join WomenTech.
Open to anyone, but specifically tailored to the underserved, WomenTech offers second-to-none mentoring and networking opportunities for women and minorities looking to further themselves and become immersed in the tech industry. If you’re feeling lost, alone or directionless on your journey navigating a career in tech, WomenTech will be a lighthouse; a haven; a home. I strongly recommend WomenTech, and inevitably namedrop it in all of my keynote speeches.
To recognise the achievements of our community and beyond we are hosting the annual Women in Tech Global Awards 2022. Nominate yourself or someone else: