Ellen Salpietro

Ellen Salpietro is a Strategy Analyst at the Global Accelerators and Innovation Programs (GAIP) team at Boeing.

She has an Engineering background with Boeing Defence Australia (BDA) and was part of the MIT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Bootcamp 2019. Ellen has been engaging the startup ecosystem and getting innovative companies involved with the GAIP team.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My name is Ellen Salpietro and I’m a Strategy Analyst at Global Accelerators and Innovation Programs (GAIP) at Boeing. I’m an extroverted, motivated and hard-working Electrical Engineer, always seeking challenging and rewarding experiences with the goal of extending my skills. I am passionate about learning and am continually looking for ways to improve my technical skills and apply my acquired knowledge.

I am really interested in innovation, whether that be working with startups, corporates or internally to Boeing, where I have been for almost 7 years now, starting casually as an intern while I was at university.

As part of my rotation programme at Boeing, I’m currently working in business strategy because I saw this as an opportunity to try something new and different from engineering. I’ve learned so much during the past six months, one of them being how important it is to build a network you can really rely on.

I’ve had a variety of roles until my current one now which is with our Aerospace Xelerated team where we are organising out 4th global accelerator cohort! I’ve worked as an electrical, software and communications engineer and love getting diverse teams together to solve complex problems.

Outside of work, I love to be active, visit new brunch spots and try lots of new hobbies – now I’m learning to powerlift.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have had some mentors who have helped me shape and plan my career, but I’m still in a discovery phase. Some really useful advice a mentor gave me is to plan my decision points. At the time I was trying to figure out if I wanted to go down a more hardware or software engineering path. To do this, we planned by what time I would like to have made that decision, and what experiences I thought I needed to have to make that decision. It was such a helpful way for me to have the freedom to play and explore all while moving forward with my career!

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I have overcome many challenges so far in my career, ranging from hard technical problems to working with a variety of different people. So far, the biggest challenge has been battling with imposter syndrome – which is an ongoing thing! How I make these feelings more manageable is surrounding myself with a supportive network of mentors and continuously reflecting on my achievements and efforts.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

As I reflect back on my career so far, I realised that the things I am most proud of are the things I have done for my community. I have been part of some amazing programs working in my role for Aerospace Xelerated and Boeing Defence Australia. However, the things I think are my biggest achievements are things like running Boeing Defense Australia’s (BDA) first internal Hackathon to encourage intrapreneurship and innovation within the company. This was particularly special because the winners got to work on internal Proof of Concepts (POCs), which was a really cool thing to do. Another action I’m really proud of is running a virtual event at a school in India called Shishu Mandir where we encouraged students to pursue a career in STEM. This has now become a regular part of our rotation programme. Lastly, helping organise a fireside chat for First Nation founders in Australia was another highlight of my career so far. It was great because I got to meet a bunch of interesting companies and discuss how we, as a corporate, can work to close the innovation gap in the industry.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

I have had the privilege of working with some wonderful women and champions of women in technology and it is the support of these people that I think is the major contributor to my success.

The women leaders I’ve had the pleasure of working with helped me with building my confidence, validating my technical work and were just there to talk to when I was struggling. Their leadership served as an example and set the bar for what I expect managers to act like and also the way I do my work every day.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Find and cultivate a strong support system. This can involve peers, leaders, mentors and friends. Surround yourself with positive, ambitious and inclusive people. There will be hard times and there will be great times so having people there to help you through the challenges and celebrate the wins is really important.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There are definitely still barriers for women working in tech. One of the barriers I experience is that I don’t look or act like a “typical” engineer – I am enthusiastic, extroverted and love working in teams and with people. If you were to ask someone what they picture an engineer to be, I highly doubt they would describe someone like me. I think we need to champion how important it is to have diverse people working to solve the complex problems we have in the industry.

In essence, engineering is technical problem solving and we need people with a whole range of different skills to be able to give the solutions longevity. Next time you are hiring someone in your team, I ask you to challenge your idea of what an engineer is.

I would also encourage you to put more women on career paths for leadership. This means putting them forward for jobs they want to do, courses they want to take and putting them in front of executives in your company where they are set up for success. Having more women in positions of power would help challenge the barrier of stereotypes.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Companies have to affect cultural change through engagement and for the community, governance and policy, leadership and peers. This means that companies must help the pipeline of talent for women in technology, not just focussing on schooling and university but also upskilling women at different stages in their career, especially facilitating re-entry to the workforce after parental leave.

We need practises in place to actively seek out women for technical roles, leadership roles, pay equity, extensive parental leave and challenging work opportunities.

Companies have to actively put women on career development paths to prepare them for leadership roles and provide sufficient mentorship and training. Furthermore, there must be actions taken at a peer to peer level, in a culture in which anyone can speak up to prejudice and support each other.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

If I had a magic wand I think the biggest thing that would change the pace for women in the industry is flexible working policy and equitable expectations for this between men, women and non-binary folk. The most recent Australian census showed that, “On average, females spent 4 hours and 31 minutes a day doing unpaid work activities. Males spent over an hour less on these activities, averaging 3 hours and 12 minutes a day. Less than half of males (42 per cent) spent time on housework, compared to 70 per cent of females”. Better parental leave policies, flexible working availability and pay practises would help close this gap. Society removing the need for traditional gender roles and allowing people to take actions according to their goals while also being supported would speed up the change for women in the industry.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

In Australia I am a huge fan of Women Who Code, SheCodes Australia and Women in Aviation and Aerospace Australia. I follow a few Instagram pages that make me feel a part of the community and these include: @technicallyatech, @katvoltage, @careers.with.stem. My incredible manager recently gave me a book called, “The Women’s History of the Modern World: How radicals, rebels and everywomen revolutionized the last 200 years”. Knowing who came before us in the fight for equality is important to decide our next steps to move forward!