Motto: Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do… Competent means we will never take anything for granted
Pastimes: Playing / listening to music
Education: BASc – Engineering Science, Major in Aerospace Engineering
Job Title: Operations Engineer – Robotics Flight Controller
Organization: Canadian Space Agency
Kristen is currently working as a Flight Controller for the Canadian robotic systems on the International Space Station (ISS). She is one of only 14 Canadians to have ever received this certification. During Canadarm2 and Dextre operations, she works as part of the Mission Control team to execute a variety of tasks on the ISS, including spacewalks and capturing free-flyers. Kristen also trains astronauts and other Flight Controllers about these robots and how to operate them.
Q & A
Q & A
How did you come to your present job?
10 years ago, upon graduating from the University of Toronto, I was hired by MDA (now Maxar) to help design next-generation robotics that would be used to service satellites on-orbit. From there, I went on to perform real-time support of ISS robotics as part of the engineering team before being hired by the Canadian Space Agency and eventually moving on to train at NASA in order to become a Flight Controller.
What do you love most about your job?
The best part of my job is that I am constantly learning. No matter how much you know or how well prepared you think you are, there is always room to grow. Then there are of course all the cool aspects of the job like sending commands to space, training astronauts, and watching live video feeds from the ISS.
What has been your biggest challenge in your career and how did you overcome it?
My career has evolved through 5 different roles and 3 different cities, which in itself was challenging enough! Unfortunately, with each of these stages, I felt that I was starting back at square one and needing to prove my capabilities all over again. In some cases, being one of the only women in the group made that even more difficult, in addition to being one of the younger members of the team. I kept reminding myself that I deserved to be exactly where I was, and that my contributions were just as valuable as those around me.
Who or what has helped you the most throughout your career?
My family has been incredibly supportive of my goals and aspirations, and always pushed me to reach for each next step I’ve taken on. I have also maintained the “tough and competent” mentality as well as a willingness to accept and implement feedback and advice from my colleagues.
Do you have any Canadian “superheroes” in the space field?
Absolutely! I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by my superheroes every day! As someone who joined the space industry only 10 years ago, I admire everyone that helped get us here.
What advice would you offer to our youth?
There are so many things that I still try to keep in mind to this day, and important messages to share with those looking towards their future: do what makes you happy, seek out opportunities that scare you because they will help you grow, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.