Gwynne Shotwell is an Engineer, President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk. She may well be, one of the best stories of success for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields over the last decade. These fields have a long history of lack of diversity and inclusion. Determined against all odds she gained the opportunity to lead in the most innovative industry that will forever change the course of humanity's future.
Shotwell earned a place in Time Magazine’s“100 Most Influential People of 2020”. She has worked at SpaceX since the early days in 2002, is responsible for day-to-day operations, and has a vital role in company growth. Under her leadership, SpaceX has grown from a rocket that almost did not make it to orbit to developing the world’s most technologically advanced orbital-class Falcon 9 rockets, that have lifted off and landed from space almost sixty times –a first in the history of space travel. This year, SpaceX returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States when it conducted the first crewed flight to the International Space Station. – “This is really just the beginning: we are starting the journey of bringing people regularly to and from low Earth orbit, on to the Moon, and then ultimately on to Mars,” she said after the astronauts returned to Earth in August.
Shotwell's leadership has also earned the company many contracts to further develop its space program. SpaceX has grown to have a valuation of $46 billion, with around 8,000 employees working collectively to take humans back to the lunar surface and colonize the Red Planet one day.
Former NASA Astronaut Kathryn Sullivan wrote her biography in the Time article published today – Shotwell “is not only a quintessential engineer with a passion to build things, but also a ‘people engineer’ who thrives on working with colleagues and customers. Gwynne Shotwell is helping to launch our future, and I can’t wait to see what she does next,” Sullivan wrote.
Most companies can get trapped in the typical hierarchical set-up, but Shotwell's passion and leadership has helped make SpaceX a company that is more about innovative ideas instead of sticking to only designations. “SpaceX is a flat organization. Anyone gets to talk to anyone, and the best idea wins –even if it comes from an intern,” she told reporters.
Despite of the high-level of success Shotwell has experienced at SpaceX, it's actually been the times she's failed that have taught her the most, “You don't learn anything from success, but you learn a lot from your failures,” she says.
SpaceX President & COO Gwynne Shotwell named to @TIME Magazine's "100 Most Influential People of 2020," with her bio written by NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan:https://t.co/42oMqMMVv5 pic.twitter.com/isOrwxiA7k— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) September 23, 2020