Gwynne Shotwell, 1963

  • Gwynne-Shotwell-WWP

Woman Category: Business & Entrepreneurship and Science & TechnologyWoman Tags: Businesswoman and Engineer

  • HerStory

    Businesswoman and engineer, the President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX.

    Born in Evanston, Illinois, and grew up in Libertyville, Illinois. From an early age, Shotwell was interested in machines and vehicles, fixing things around the house and repairing her bike. Space was never her passion, but when she was thinking about what she will be as a grown-up, her mother took her to a Society of Women Engineer’s event, which inspired her to study mechanical engineering. After high school, she attended Northwestern University, from which she received a bachelor’s degree with honors and continued studying for a master’s degree in applied mathematics.
    Shotwell wanted to pursue a career in the automotive industry and worked for a while at Chrysler Corporation. A few years later, she decided to focus on spacecraft engineering and started working at the Aerospace Corporation research center. For ten years, she worked on thermal analysis, space shuttle integration, spacecraft design, and infrared signature target modeling. At 35, she joined Microcosm Inc, where she was the director of the space systems division. Four years later, a former colleague introduced her to Elon Mask and his new startup – SpaceX, aiming to sell reusable rockets to commercial satellite companies at the lowest possible cost. She became the vice president of business development at SpaceX, and within six years, she promoted to be the President and Chief Operating Officer. In this position, she is responsible for the company’s operations and managing customer and strategic relations, turning Musk’s visions into a viable business. Under her leadership, the company signed on a multibillion-dollar contract with NASA, and its net worth grew over $7 billion.
    In addition to her work at SpaceX, Shotwell is devoted to promoting STEM education programs. She also serves at the Advisory Committee of the United States Export-Import Bank as well as at the Federal Aviation Administration. She is an advisory council for Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and a fellow member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. She gives speeches at various business forums and authored dozens of papers on space-related subjects.

    “To me, work-life balance means stable, not necessarily 50-50.”

    “To me, work-life balance means stable, not necessarily 50-50.”

    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was one of three women in a class of 36 students at Northwestern University.
    • After college, she was recruited by an HVAC company but got rejected when they realized she is a woman.
    • She was the seventh employee to join SpaceX.
    • She has two children from her first marriage, a son and a daughter.
    • She met her second husband while volunteering at the University of Southern California; they both helped students with their satellite projects.
    • She watched the launch of Falcon 1 (the first successful launch of Space X rocket) on her laptop in a hotel bathroom, she did not want the noise to disturb her sleeping husband.


  • More About Her Legacy

    * The World Technology Award for Individual Achievement in Space (2011)
    * Inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame (2012)
    * Satellite Executive of the Year (2017)
    * Forbes' America's Top 50 Women in Tech (2018)
    * Via Satellite Executive of the Year Award (2018)
    * One of Forbes’ 55th most powerful woman in the world (2020)

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Woman Tags: Businesswoman, Engineer

    Engineering America: Gwynne Shotwell at TEDxChapmanU

    As president and COO of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell is responsible for the company's day-to-day operations, as well as managing all customer and strategic relations needed to support company growth. She joined SpaceX in 2002 as vice president of business development and built the Falcon vehicle family manifest to more than 50 launches, representing over $5 billion in revenue. Previously, she worked at the Aerospace Corporation and at Microcosm's Space Systems Division.

    Shotwell has authored dozens of papers on a variety of subjects, including standardizing spacecraft/payload interfaces, conceptual small spacecraft design, infrared signature target modeling, space shuttle integration, and reentry vehicle operational risks. In recognition of her work, she received the 2011 World Technology Award for Individual Achievement in Space and was inducted into Women In Technology International Hall of Fame in 2012. Earlier this year, she was elected as a Fellow to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

    In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

  • Shotwell in 2018. Photo credit - Wikipedia