A Talk With Natalie Panek 🤖

https://unsplash.com/photos/OLlj17tUZnU

If you got to meet someone who basically has the career path you WANT and was working to achieve the very thing you’ve trained for since you were 5, how would you react?

Me? It would be an understatement to say that I was nervous. 😬

This year, I’m an Innovator at The Knowledge Society (TKS) and in TKS, I’m part of an inside program called Boss Ladies. Boss Ladies is all about empowering girls in their work and developing mindsets that will help us in the workforce, especially when the majority of us are planning on pursuing careers in male-dominant industries.

This month, the Boss Ladies group was given a very big surprise. Thanks to our Global Partnerships team at TKS, we were able to have a global session with award-winning aerospace engineer, Natalie Panek. The talk was amazing and Natalie gave us inspiring advice and shared her experiences working in such a male-dominant industry.

I was able to condense my notes to some of my favorite parts of the talk and also why this talk resonated with me so much.

https://www.nsb.com/speakers/natalie-panek/

Personal Connections Much?

So let’s start with that: why the heck did this talk stick with me? Natalie Panek is an aerospace engineer at MDA, a Canadian aerospace company, and worked on the team that developed the Canadarm 1 and 2. That itself is mind-blowing if you ask me. 🤯 On top of that, she was once top 100 of the 4,000 astronaut candidates at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Although she unfortunately got disqualified (for something she couldn’t control and didn’t even affect her performance in any way!), she kept working in the space industry and is now helping develop the ExoMars 2022 rover for the European Space Agency (ESA). This woman is phenomenal! 🚀

Since I was 5, I always told my parents that I wanted to be an astronaut. 12 years later, absolutely nothing has changed and having the opportunity to meet Natalie just pushed me harder to keep training and keep going for that crazy goal. Natalie’s accomplishments in the space industry are what 5-year old me grew up wanting to do.

My careers goals may not be centered around aerospace engineering but her drive really stuck with me. Her resilience throughout her career inspires me and her advice is just as insightful. (FYI: she’s also just a great and bubbly person to talk to!)

This leads us to the bulk of this article: her advice.

Imposter Syndrome😟

A lot of women in the workforce, especially with roles higher up on the corporate ladder deal with imposter syndrome and Natalie gave us some advice on how to cope with it.

If you’re confused as to what exactly imposter syndrome is, totally understandable, I was too when I first heard of it, so I got you.

Imposter syndrome is when a person has this internalized fear of being a “fraud” which stems a lot from internal self-doubt. People who suffer from imposter syndrome usually attribute a lot of their success and achievements to “luck” and feel as though they don’t deserve their achievements at all.

Okay, that kind of helps to know what we’re talking about right? Let’s head on to the advice. Here are some of my main takeaways…

  1. Change your perspective👀 — Every time you take on a new project, look at it as a new opportunity that will push you to grow and learn. Having a different perspective changes your mindset on the situation you might be put into, and mindset is legit EVERYTHING. Having a perspective that tells you that you’ll grow through this opportunity, it will push you to believe that your achievements were a way for you to grow. You deserved those accomplishments because you’re growing.
  2. It’s okay to stop🛑 — A common misconception is that once you start something, you HAVE to finish it or if you have a certain plan, you have to go through with, no matter how it’s making you feel. Once we start believing in that, it’s hard to stop ourselves, because it’s what we grew up with, right? But if something is truly making you miserable or is completely toxic to your mental and emotional well-being, it’s okay to withdraw from that environment. If it’s not working out and just wearing you down, it’s okay to just stop.

Peak Moments

Natalie defined peak moments as moments where you are truly happy with yourself. The moments that you work toward, where all your hard work pays off. Natalie said to always look for peak moments and to look forward to them.

If you feel like you’re having the opposite of a peak moment, reflect and see what you’re doing that’s stopping you from reaching your peak moments. When you’re reflecting, make sure that you figure WHY you’re doing what you’re doing.

Is it for yourself?

For someone else? If you’re living your life for someone else, why is that? Could that be why you’re not happy?💭

Photo by Thomas Schütze on Unsplash

While I definitely do agree with this, I don’t want you to think I’m saying to always take the easy route in every situation because “it’ll get you to your peak moment faster”.

While that’s true, I don’t think you’ll be satisfied with that, so in the end, is it really a peak moment? I didn’t think so either. Be intentional with the peak moments you’re chasing.

So TL;DR for this: be intentional about what you put your time into because in the end, you’ll hit a peak moment and all the hard work will pay off😤

Perseverance

This was one of the most admirable traits about Natalie Panek. I’ve accepted since I was little that life is constantly going to be an uphill battle.

Natalie has gone through a lot and STILL managed to become an absolute boss through it… come on, you got to admit that’s pretty phenomenal🤩. So it’s my absolute pleasure to share her advice for perseverance with you.

  • Mindset: you don’t wanna live with regrets — It sounds pretty self-explanatory right? Try new opportunities because the worst thing is asking all the “what if’s” in the future. The more you try, the more you know about yourself as well.
  • Chase a life where you want to make a difference in the world🌎 GUYS: wanting to change the world is one of the biggest motivations there is. It’s not just you benefitting from your success but thousands, millions, maybe even billions of people that are benefitting.
  • Sometimes it’s actually just luck🍀(not the good kind) — Sometimes you really did try the best you could have done in that situation and anything that happened was completely out of your hands. We can’t control 100% of the things that happen to us and we have to understand that and come to terms with it.

A Little More

Natalie also touched on a couple other topics and gave some advice briefly but I still think these points are pretty important.

  • Healthy and diverse environments are a MUST — This was a personal favorite of mine. Natalie gave us this analogy: if you walk into a room and everyone looks the exact same, there’s a problem. Diverse environments make for diverse perspectives and overall, a healthier environment where everyone feels more welcome.
  • Communication is 🔑 — Always make sure to ask questions, no matter how dumb you think you sound. The more you understand, the more help you will be on the team, and this way the team will perform better too! Sounds like win-win situation, honestly.
  • Optimism = necessity — Having a bad mindset can lead to you having bad performance on projects and it also ruins team dynamics. The brighter or more optimistic (but still realistic!) outlook you have on the world, the better you perform on projects and basically in life.
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

A Different View

My biggest takeaway from the talk and all of this is that mindset and perspective are everything. The way we view the world determines how we reflect on the world and how others view us. The way I see it, changing your mindset is is like shifting your entire being and energy.

Natalie really did drop those knowledge bombs, huh?💣 Her advice is so insightful and meaningful because she has her own experiences behind each of them. I really hope you found these pieces of advice as helpful as I did and I hope I encouraged you to see the world a little differently after reading this.😉

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

TL;DR📝

  • When dealing with imposter syndrome, change your perspective on the projects you take on, they’re literally opportunities for you to expand your experiences. And if you’re not happy with the situation, it’s okay to stop and leave the environment.
  • Peak moments are times when you’re so utterly happy with your successes and looking for them makes it easier to get through tough situations. But don’t take the easy routes for peak moments, be intentional about it.
  • To be able to persevere, make sure you take new opportunities so you don’t live with easily avoidable regrets. On top of that, wanting to change the world is the biggest motivation to keep going in your aspirations. And sometimes it’s out of your hands and there’s nothing you can do about it.
  • Healthy and diverse environments make everyone feel more welcome and the overall performance is much better since everyone is comfortable.
  • Communication is crucial to understanding the situation and the more you understand, the better you perform.
  • Having a bad mindset in a team or towards a situation can bring down your performance and overall ruin your chances of succeeding. Being optimistic and realistic is crucial for team dynamic and personal success.

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you found this eye-opening😁

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A 17-year-old girl trying to change how we explore the universe.

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Krupal Patel

A 17-year-old girl trying to change how we explore the universe.