NASA’s first female African-American Deputy Director will speak at HWA’s Tech Conference.
Working at NASA is a dream for many. For Dr. Christyl Johnson, it’s been her reality for some time: starting out as an intern at the organisation, she worked her way up to one of the top roles. She’ll be speaking at this year’s Tech Conference at Hybrid World Adelaide in July.
“It’s a privilege to be invited to present at Hybrid World Adelaide,” Johnson says. “I look forward to discussing the future of space technologies and the boundless entrepreneurial opportunities to come.”
Here are the reasons you need to see her speech at the Tech Conference.
Her journey from intern to director at NASA
Johnson’s first experience at NASA was on a summer internship. Fast-forward to now, and she’s been the Deputy Director for Technology and Research Investments at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center since 2010.
Her work involves devising future technology goals, leading a program of investments and managing the centre’s research and development portfolio.
Her work at the White House Office
Before NASA Goddard, Johnson was the Executive Director of the National Science and Technology Council. She served under the US President’s science advisor in the White House Office of Science of Technology Policy.
She established national science and technology investment goals in areas including energy, environment, natural resources, technology and national security.
She’s an advocate for diversity in STEM
She’s the first female African-American Deputy Director at NASA, and has spoken about the importance of diverse teams across industries.
She encourages women to network with people who have a track record of supporting women, and notes that “high-visibility assignments” – i.e. high-profile tasks where women can display their leadership abilities – are crucial.
She gives great advice about the STEM industry
STEM fields can be tricky, but Johnson is confident that anyone who wants to participate can do so if they work hard.
“If you want to participate in the space industry, there’s room for everyone,” Johnson told the Future Self video series. But she notes: “if it’s to be, it’s up to me. I have to make it so.”
Johnson says that she struggled with mathematics and science initially, before realising that every concept – no matter how complicated – could be broken down into terms simple enough for everyone to understand. “You have to not be afraid to ask questions,” she says.
Her thoughts on the Australian space industry
Johnson visited South Australia earlier in the year, and spoke eagerly about the nation’s growing space industry. She said that communication systems are one of many technologies that could be improved by Australian space research.
“I’m really, really excited about what I’ve seen here in South Australia towards your ambition to establish a space agency,” she told the ABC.
“The best part about an agency for you is you’d have an idea or vision so great that it brings all aspects of Australia… together to work towards a common goal.”