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SKYTRAC’s #WomenInAviation Series: Rhiannon Tully-Barr, Software Engineer (EIT) at SKYTRAC

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Women of Aviation Worldwide Week (WOAW) is a global aviation awareness week for females across the globe. Originally marking the anniversary of the world’s first female pilot license on March 8, 1910, the week is a call to address the gender imbalance in the air and space industries.

This week we will be featuring remarkable aviation professionals from across the ACR Group of companies that make us succeed daily. We would like to thank every woman in the ACR Group for their ongoing support, and #ChooseToChallenge the status quo.

Here is a highlight of one of our talented team members.

What is your current role at SKYTRAC?

I am a Software Engineer (EIT) working from SKYTRAC’s Victoria office. 

What brought you to work in aviation?

I did my Software Engineering degree at UVic, which has a lot of interesting and exciting engineering clubs. There were quite a few I wanted to join, but one, in particular, I stuck with throughout most of my undergrad was UVic AERO, the aeronautical engineering club. We attended a competition called Unmanned Systems Canada every year and designed custom Unmanned Aerial Systems to complete. That club experience probably didn’t hurt my application for a co-op with Latitude Technologies! I ended up taking a full-time position here after graduation in large part because I got to experience project ownership early on, implementing a custom tool for loading firmware and performing diagnostic tasks on some of our embedded tracking devices. That was something I didn’t get to experience at my first co-op position, and it was very fulfilling and helped me learn a lot very quickly

How long have you been part of the SKYTRAC team?

Just about 3 and a half years full-time; I had my first co-op position with Latitude in 2016, and I continued doing part-time work with Latitude as my Undergrad schedule allowed before taking a full-time position when I graduated in 2018.

What do you find rewarding about your work?

The thing I find most rewarding is getting to work with a bunch of fantastic people! The team I work with are great, very supportive of each other, and keep a positive mindset towards helping each other learn and grow. I also enjoy the times when our work is supporting critical and meaningful operations, like aerial firefighting or air ambulance flights.

What do you enjoy and find challenging about working in aviation?

Something I enjoy about working in aviation is solving unusual problems. The types of problems I’ve grappled with during my time at Latitude have mostly been around how to communicate key information about the position, state, etc. of an aircraft in the smallest possible space, given the limitations of the satellite network. One of the challenges of working in aviation is that it’s a highly regulated industry (as it should be!), which can sometimes feel at odds with working in an agile way, continuous integration and deployment, and so on. That being said, there are ways to include some of these industry best practices while still meeting the need for comprehensive documentation.

What has been the most challenging obstacle in your career journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?

So far, the most challenging obstacle I’ve faced has been finding a work-life balance that works for me and creating healthy boundaries around work. Overcoming this is a continuous process, but one thing that helped me was taking a step back from work for a time, and coming back to it with a refreshed mindset and the knowledge that in order to contribute my best work over the long term, it’s important to put my mental health first.

What advice would you give to your 15-year old self?

You’re doing great, keep it up kiddo! Really though, I would probably say to keep working hard at school because it’s going to pay off, and also not to be afraid to reach out to people to form more, and closer friendships – that’s an important part of life too!

Why is gender diversity within the industry important to you?

There are a couple of reasons that I consider it to be highly important. The first is simply a matter of equity or fairness; because women and other gender minorities have been discouraged from participating in highly technical fields in the past, there’s an opportunity to bring highly talented people into this industry and access their untapped potential! Besides that, it has been shown that having voices from a variety of different backgrounds and life experiences can lead to better decision-making.

What would you tell young females interested in joining the industry?

I would say go for it! There’s a lot of exciting and interesting work to be done, you’ll be challenged, and you’ll get the chance to grow technically as an engineer and as a person!

Do you have a mentor or idol in aviation?

Yes – I owe a lot to David Martin, my first manager at Latitude. I was fortunate to get a good amount of individual training and mentorship from him on my co-op work term and since, I learned a lot of what I consider to be ‘good code’ from him. I also got to learn a lot about how and when to be pragmatic and get things done, without losing sight of the overall goal and bigger picture. He’s still an important mentor to me to this day.

What are some valuable life lessons you have learned while working in aviation?

I’ve learned a lot about listening, learning, and asking good questions while working in this industry. It might be surprising since I don’t have much direct contact with clients as a Software Engineer, but even with multiple layers of separation I’ve learned how important it is to deeply understand what people need, and then articulate it and seek feedback, before writing any code. I think this is the lesson I’ve learned that’s the most widely applicable to life in general – seek to understand first, before acting.

 

To learn more about Women of Aviation Week, please visit https://womenofaviationweek.iwoaw.org/

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