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Chiara Conti

Systems engineering leader, Thales Australia

 

Keep going. You will feel empowered and capable of anything.

What do you do?

I’m an aeronautical engineer, working as leader of systems engineering team responsible for the analysis of customer needs and design of the next Australian air traffic control system.

 

I’m responsible for analysing and clarifying air traffic controllers' needs for the correct development of the system. This means - how the flight track from the radar will be displayed on  screen, how the trajectory of the flight is computed, how the alerts and warnings are detected and so on.

 

The success of Project OneSKY will provide reduced workload to controllers, additional safety and benefits related to the rapid increase in air travel over the next 20 years. For air travellers and the airlines it will mean reduced travel times and fewer delayed flights!

Why did you choose this field?

"My mum also always pushed me to follow what I wanted to be."

I grew up in Italy, Roma, with the passion for Formula 1 as my dad used to watch the races every Sunday, of course Ferrari was our team! So I started to love the idea of being an aerodynamic engineer and for this reason I did a Bachelor in Aerospace Engineering and then in Aeronautical Engineering with a specialization in Aerodynamics.

 

My older brother was definitely a role model for me as he always loved aircrafts and helicopters - he is an aeronautical engineer as well. During my aeronautical studies I started to be interested by the word of air traffic management and airports, I like the idea of travelling and just feel at home when in an airport. 

 

I still remember when I told my mum I’d move to Australia she said ‘I’m really sad as your mum but I’m so proud as woman’, those words mean everything to me.

Also I think there is a kind of romance in knowing you that person working behind the scenes to enable that guy or girl to go back home to his/her family in time for Christmas thanks to a performing air traffic management system taking care of the sky's traffic jam!

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

In the past I worked for the new airport in Doha, Qatar - it's the airport where I use to stop when I was going back to Italy from Australia to visit my family. 

 

I remember how much time I spent on maps of the airport, testing the radars and the flights trajectory planning. Younger me would never think I would be able to collaborate on something so big and used today by so many people in the world.

Why do you love working in STEM?

"You feel like you are producing something useful to the community  and the results are tnagible."

I love working in STEM because you never get bored, there are so many challenges and your mind is constantly stimulated. When we are stuck on something we just start to draw our problems on the board and you definitely see the power of peoples' minds. 

Best advice for the next generation

Believe in yourself and keep going - if you love it just keep going, there will be hard times as anywhere else but the rewards are worth it. You’ll feel empowered and capable of anything.

Role model 

My biggest hero in STEM is an Italian astrophysicist and scientific disseminator Margherita Hack. I remember listening hypnotized to her explanation of the solar system, stars and space when I was a kid, and I still sometimes search for videos of her as they are really fascinating.

I’m also a big fan of another Italian lady, Samanta Cristoforetti. She is an Italian European Space Agency astronaut, Italian Air Force pilot and engineer. She holds the record for the longest uninterrupted spaceflight of a European astronaut (199 days, 16 hours) and she is the first Italian woman in space. She was also the first person who brewed an espresso in space  (and you know an Italian girl needs espresso every morning to make the brain work!).