Spotlight Series:
Callie Lissinna

What do you do?

Callie Lissinna is an Engineering undergraduate student with a minor in Math studying at the University of Alberta. However, her accomplishments lie in leading orbital operations for the Ex-Alta1 satellite and becoming the project manager for the Ex-Alta2 satellite due to launch in 2022. These two satellites are the brain children of the Alberta Sat team based out of the University of Alberta that aim to encourage the dreams of young Albertans in aerospace engineering. Callie also takes pride in co-initiating Wivern, a start-up satellite technology company based in Edmonton.

What inspired you to do what you do now?

“Seeing the first satellite unfold as the first made-in-Alberta was really powerful and that's why I've continued working on satellite technology since then"

She was first introduced to mechanical engineering in 11th grade where she applied for a six-week summer research program hosted by WISEST. Callie felt like the program was great introduction to engineering and allowed her to open herself up to something she previously had no knowledge of. Describing her experience, she mentioned "the program also groups very similar people together in terms of their interests and often their personalities, so I felt like this is a place where I belonged". After that, she was hooked. In 2015, during her first year in undergraduate Engineering, Callie joined the Alberta Sat and "quickly felt like a valuable part of the team". Seeing the transition from a few idea to launching full blown satellite is something she also sees as part of her and her team's success.

What does diversity in STEM mean to you?

"I think that is what we're striving for and if we can achieve that we can unlock good governance because we we have so many more people making decisions and being leaders"

Callie sees a lot of benefit to diversity because there is less burnout in a team and more talent to feed off of especially when working on challenging tasks. Simply put, "everybody feels like they are accepted and people have positive interpersonal experience on a daily basis", which helps everyone grow. However, Callie also realizes that immediate change be difficult "because it needs to be a cultural level change which is so slow and rooted in a lot of our subconscious". She mentions that it needs to be looked at a microaggression level because it is not always blatant, making the matter much more effective.

What are some challenges you have faced linked to EDI (Equality, Diversity, Inclusion) in your experiences/work?

On a personal level, Callie felt challenges when she became the project manager of the Ex-Alta2 satellite. Previously, the team only had male project managers and since she looked up to them, she thought using their leadership tactics would be worthwhile. However, she quickly realized that it wasn't exactly the case. After some thought, she decided she needed to lead with "a more communal style and to be perceived as thoughtful, kind, and empathic, and honestly less decisive so that [she could] maintain respect", rather than with assertiveness. She mentions that it was a learning curve and that she is still trying to find a balance in her leadership role.

What are some ways individuals like yourself can help increase EDI in STEM?

"It's important to build into [younger audiences] the concept of engineering that you can help people a lot"

Callie highlighted the importance of speaking to the younger generations, especially younger women, about getting into engineering. She has felt that many young women are "socialized to go into more caring professions", not releasing that one can use engineering to help others too. In the profession, she thinks this needs to be a bigger part of the message. Callie also mentioned that the idea of finding the motivation to join the engineering field, let alone a STEM field, can be challenging. What she wants others to know is that "skill is more important than talent". This means that if someone is willing to follow their passion and put in the hard-work, "it could be the largest determinant of [their] success". So try and try again!

Interviewers: Abhiroop Saha, Amirah Nazir (2020)Author: Amirah Nazir (2021)