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Flight Lieutenant Kaylee Verrier is an Aeronautical Engineer in the Royal Australian Air Force, specialising in Space Engineering. A Masters of Space Engineering graduate and current Masters of Space Operations student, FLTLT Verrier has always had a passion for space “from astrophysics and space exploration to Star Wars and science fiction”. Genuinely loving what she does, having female role models to look up to and stopping to take a deep breath are some ways FLTLT Verrier approaches leadership in her workplace and everyday life.
As an engineer in the military, I would say my sector is definitely male dominated. I have personally been blessed with excellent colleagues and supervisors so far and have not had to face many specific challenges based on my gender – other than sometimes feeling quite out of place! The best thing for me was meeting and seeing other female engineers, especially in senior positions such as AVM Cath Roberts, a fellow Aerospace Engineer, and the Commander of Defence Space Command where I work.
I remember six years ago the first time I met a female Senior Engineer (or SENGO) at a Squadron – I was so excited to see that it was something achievable.
I have found it really helps to have models or idols in the same field as yourself, to remind you that it’s been done before, and that women have been in the field for a long time! Even if there’s not many, women can and have done it all - and have done it really well!
My resilience primarily comes from the fact that I love what I do – and I focus on that. I choose to be here every day when I put on my uniform and walk into the office.
Reminding myself that this is what I want and where I want to be is the golden ticket to resilience.
Some days are hard, that’s a given in any life and any job, but reminding yourself that this is what you have worked hard for makes the bad days fewer and further between.
I also constantly bounce all my ideas, thoughts and struggles off my amazing partner. Having a strong supporter by your side makes a big difference – someone to remind you when you need it that you’ve worked hard, you know what you’re doing, and you deserve your success. It’s important to surround yourself with cheerleaders, people that love and support your endeavours - he has been priceless to me.
I’ve got three things:
Firstly, remember to think about how people see you, not how you see you. It took me too long to realise that what you show externally, the way you behave or the emotions you portray are always going to look different to an external party. They don’t hear the thoughts behind a certain mood, they don’t know you had a bad morning or that your week is horrible or you haven’t slept in a few days. All they receive is a bad mood or a bad attitude, and the personal opinions that might create can be hard to overcome.
Emotional control is so important to leadership.
I’ve watched leaders of various genders be overly emotional (angry, grumpy, strong opinionated, exasperated, short-tempered etc.) and it’s not a factor that brings respect. On that note - it is also really ok to have a bad day, and there’s nothing wrong with just needing to cry when life is hard, but be self-aware when there are people looking up to you.
Secondly, don’t doubt how much you deserve to be there! I’ve been the only woman in the room more times than I care to count. I’ve also been the youngest in the room by a fair margin. Neither of those things negates my skills, my knowledge, my passion, or how much I deserve to be where I am. Everyone is new to a job at some point, and everybody has different experience levels – we all start somewhere and it’s usually at the start!
Thirdly, take a breath – you’ve got this.
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