03.08.2019

Celebrating International Women’s Day

By: Maxar

In celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD), we’re sharing the stories of some of our fearless female leaders at Maxar. Read about what they do at Maxar, how they got here, and what this year’s IWD theme “Balance for Better” means to them.

Leslie Swartman
Dir. of Government and Public Affairs, MDA


What’s your role?
I lead MDA’s Canadian government advocacy and public affairs efforts, drawing on my unique skillset to analyze the evolving Canadian political, policy and media environment and provide strategic advice to MDA’s senior leaders. This involves relationship-building and advocacy with senior government officials, politicians and political staff on a variety of policy and business issues. The last year has been largely consumed with making the case to the Canadian government to fund the Lunar Gateway program working closely with MDA’s Group President Mike Greenley and his Business Manager Holly Johnson. I also work on raising MDA’s profile in Ottawa through advertising and sponsorships, and I work to ensure MDA supports the broader space ecosystem.

Why this career?
I have been involved in politics since I was a kid, as my parents always helped out on local election campaigns. In university, I became more involved in politics on my own, and attended a political convention in Ottawa in 1986. That is when I knew I wanted to move to the nation’s capital after university to be closer to the action. Having worked in government for various political offices for more than 10 years, much of that time doing communications and media relations, it was natural for me to pursue a government relations and public affairs role once I finally left government. The opportunity at MDA came up in late 2009, and I was intrigued about working for an iconic Canadian company. Although I hadn’t considered working in the space sector, I was quickly hooked, and was lucky to be able to attend the final launch of the Space Shuttle in 2011 along with my family.

Greatest accomplishment?
I have two accomplishments I’m quite proud of, and both are connected. When I first arrived at MDA in January 2010, the first item on my agenda was a meeting with our consultants to discuss the long-overdue “Long-Term Space Strategy,” a roadmap that the space sector had been asking the government to publish for many years. In 2012, in response to a government review of the space sector, I was proud to co-author the Space Industry Working Group report, which followed months of discussions and deliberations involving many in the sector.

With the sector still languishing without investment or a long-term policy by the time our new Group President Mike Greenley arrived in January 2018, he committed to elevating our government relations and public outreach efforts, and was instrumental in setting up the Don’t Let Go Canada campaign, which advocated for a long-term space strategy and investment in Canada’s space program. Beginning last spring, we polled Canadians’ attitudes on space, launched a robust PR campaign last September, and welcomed almost 70 partners—including space companies, associations, student groups, academia and labor—who shared a vision of a strong and vibrant Canadian space sector. With the government’s commitment to participate in the Lunar Gateway in late February and the publication of a long-term Space Strategy earlier this week, it is clear that our efforts can be credited with moving the yardstick.

What does IWD mean to you?
It’s about promoting gender equality, raising awareness of violence against women and the education of girls and young female leaders around the globe. IWD also shines a light on institutional sexism, which still happens in Canada in 2019. No matter the setting—whether in schools, universities, sports fields, workplaces or in Parliament—it is important to root out biases or prejudices against the full participation of women. A society cannot prosper if half of its citizens are seen as less capable or less worthy than the other half. Leaders across all domains need to take a stand and make it a priority to increase the representation of women, to value the contribution of women, and to develop today’s female leaders to serve as role models for the next generation.

Megan Fitzgerald
Space Solutions Lead


What’s your role?
At Maxar’s Space Solutions, I lead a talented team that has decades of experience designing and manufacturing satellites and systems for commercial satellite operators and the U.S. government. We work with customers from the start of mission requirements through launch base operations and in-orbit testing. Our work concludes at handover of the satellite to the customer for operations. We’re currently working on two groundbreaking U.S. government programs—Restore-L with NASA Goddard for in-orbit servicing in low Earth orbit (LEO), and Psyche—the JPL mission to the asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter.

I’m excited to be leading Space Solutions at what is a transformational time for our business. While we continue to serve customers with our highly modular 1300 platform, we are expanding our product line with the Legion spacecraft bus, developed for the WorldView Legion constellation.

Why this career?
In college, I thought I wanted to be an architect. I took the requisite art classes and realized I was more an engineer that an artist. My degree is in civil engineering with a master’s in structural dynamics. When I graduated in 1983, it was a poor job market for civil engineers, and some prior co-workers were with Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale. I applied, got a job and have been in aerospace ever since. I started here in 1994, and it’s been a fun and rewarding 35 years.

Greatest accomplishment?
I‘ve worked diligently to overcome my strong introvert personality, and I’ve been able to have a tremendously rewarding career managing diverse teams and incredibly talented people.

What does IWD mean to you?
I’m a strong advocate of balance of opportunity, but from experience I know that it doesn’t always lead to balance of outcome. Teams perform best with diverse representation—of skills, experience, perspective and mindset. As a leader, I try to create the right balance of team members to drive creativity and performance, and provide each person with career opportunities to grow their skillset.

Kimberly Southern
Dir. Learning and Organizational Development


What’s your role?
I create opportunities for professional development for our employees, facilitate programs for our teams, lead change management initiatives, and work with leaders and team members to understand the people development needs of the organization.

Why this career?
I was a consultant working as a business analyst for a finance and accounting shared service center in Juarez, Mexico—a project that failed because the leadership did not get the buy-in of employees or think through the impact it would have on the team. That was an “aha” for me—just how much people matter. After that, I switched to a communication and change management role with a new client, and I’ve never looked back.

Greatest accomplishment?
Bringing the art and science of change management and leadership development—“soft skills”—to the people of Maxar. I’ve always been drawn to space. I was an Air Force brat and one of my first memories was being on the beach at Cape Canaveral for the first shuttle launch in 1981. As a little girl, I dreamed of being astronaut more than anything else. So, while I’ve yet to go on a spacewalk, working with the women and men of this company, helping people through change, helping people understand their strengths and build upon them, helping leaders become more self-aware, and being part of a space company, in its own way is a dream come true.

What does IWD mean to you?
First, women have been working since the beginning of time. Our work doesn’t stop when we go home, regardless of whether we have families, fur babies and otherwise busy lives. I love that International Women’s Day celebrates women in all walks and stages of life. Second, as a mom of two young girls, I hope they see me as a positive model of what it takes to thrive professionally and personally—and how I rely on my partnership with my husband AND my work team. Without my personal and professional networks, I would not be successful, period. We need the right balance to be successful as parents and in our careers.

Sook Yee Loh
Senior Manager, Technical Account & Services, APAC


What’s your role?
I manage a team of 15 people from Sales Engineering, Customer Care and Account Services Management who support the global Asia-Pacific (APAC) sales team. We provide technical input for business opportunities, deliver complex projects, process customer orders, conducting training and handle customer interactions as part of our daily work.

Why this career?
I was trained as a civil engineer in university, but I found my passion in geospatial technologies when I studied Geographic Information Systems (GIS). I worked for the national mapping agency in Singapore, earned my master’s degree at University College London, worked for DigitalGlobe for three years, and then returned in 2016. Throughout my career, I’ve been fascinated with geospatial information and technologies. But, it’s the company, people and friends I have met, and challenges that kept me in this industry.

Greatest accomplishment?
I set up the first operational GPS reference network in Singapore called SiReNT in 2006. As project manager, I came up with the name, wrote tender specifications, ran vendor field tests, designed charging model to market and promoted of the service. I learned so much in the span of 1.5 years. More than 10 years later, I was shocked when my name was mentioned at a geospatial conference as the project lead for this infrastructure.

What does IWD mean to you?
It’s a day to celebrate the economic, social and political achievements of women who have been at the forefront of fighting for gender equality. As a sibling to two sisters, a daughter and a mother of a daughter, I see how different our stories are. I am grateful for the work done to level the playing field, but progress is uneven and more needs to be done.

Recently, businessman Anand Mahindra tweeted, “I’ve been helping to babysit my year-old grandson this past week…I salute every working woman & acknowledge that their successes have required a much greater amount of effort than their male counterparts.” Such an acknowledgement is wonderful, and I hope with it comes policies and programs that recognize and help women in their careers, hobbies and passions. I am optimistic one day gender balance will be ubiquitous in governments, media, households and boardrooms. Perhaps in the future there will no longer be a need for an International Women’s Day, because every day simply is.

Janel Timoney Brown
Dir. Special Ops and International Defense Solutions


What’s your role?
I work with customers to understand their toughest challenges and collaborate with our technical staff to develop creative solutions. I support U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) clients, the Special Operations Forces Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Center, as well as Theater Special Operations Commands, Combatant Commands and International Defense clients with a wide range of services and solutions including data, analytics, training, AI/machine learning technology and engineering.

Why this career?
One of my favorite quotes is from the Special Operations Truths: “Humans are more important than hardware.” I’ve taken these words to heart. After earning my undergraduate degree at the United States Naval Academy, I joined the Navy and became a surface warfare officer. I worked at U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific and then the SOCOM headquarters before entering consulting. With consulting, I’ve found the absolute perfect career. I serve the same customer base, the elite forces of our nation and our allies, and help them solve problems with real mission impact.

Greatest accomplishment?
That our work is key to our clients’ missions and successes. It could be for Special Operations Forces where we help identify warning signs of illicit activity and focus scarce intelligence resources, or for humanitarian and disaster response situations where we help identify people with the greatest needs and least access to aid, or for the international clients where we deliver analytic products that help enhance their government services to vulnerable and remote citizens. That’s exciting.

What does IWD mean to you?
It’s an opportunity for me to reflect on how I can help empower women and girls, both locally and globally, to make the world a better place. One of my greatest moments was when I became a mother. I felt united with mothers everywhere in a desire to make a world worthy of our children and grandchildren. I’ve worked create a vibrant Women in Defense Chapter, providing opportunities for professional education and networking for women in the defense and national security industry. We also started STEM scholarship for middle school girls to attend STEM summer camps. To support women and children globally, at Maxar, this involves support to our allies. Many of our projects deliver enhanced access to information, health services and education, helping to create an environment with an open playing field that empowers women to succeed.