Today is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and Wing wants to shout out to all the women and girls who ask questions, drive changes and lead new innovations in the fields of science and engineering with their intellect and imagination.
We want to take a minute to celebrate the women of Wing by profiling three of our talented engineers, to learn what inspired them to pursue engineering, and how they channel that inspiration for Wing.
For Giulia, it’s the unknown path from question to answer. For Jessica, art informs her perspective on technology. For Tara, it’s about taking on challenges that are at first intimidating. These women are a vital part of a team that is fueled by a diversity of backgrounds, skills and interests. The things that make us different are the things that allow us to fly to new heights.
For Wing Aerodynamics Engineer Giulia Pantalone, engineering is about the often surprising journey from question to answer.
“I always thought that the quintessential engineer was someone that was always making stuff, code or physical gizmos, but I was never that type,” she said. “For me, it’s about problem solving. I love tackling a problem where I don’t always see a clear path to the answer — synthesizing from the knowledge I have, learning from what others have done, figuring out what hasn’t been done before, and coming up with a solution that works.”
Growing up in New Jersey, Giulia’s journey to Wing started early.
“I’ve known I’ve wanted to be an aerospace engineer since I was 12, when I saw a Discovery Channel special on the Skunk Works, which is what they called the Advanced Development Programs at Lockheed Martin. In the 50’s and 60’s they gave rise to all these really incredible aircraft — really high-altitude, really fast. The idea of being on the cutting edge, and making things that have never been made before, really sparked my imagination.”
This revelation took place in a home with parents who encouraged Giulia’s ambitions. “My parents always took my interests seriously and would answer my questions about the world as technically as they could — never simplifying things just because I was a kid. My mom worked in public health and my dad was always building stuff — parts of our house, woodworking, et cetera — so science and engineering were a big influence from early on.”
Since she joined Wing in 2015, Giulia continues to work on improving the aerodynamic performance of the aircraft. With strong engineers like Giulia, Wing is poised to meet every challenge.
Jessica Palmer is an engineer who draws equal inspiration from aesthetics, practicality, and the possibility of enchantment.
“I grew up near Disneyland. I have been to Disneyland so many times,” she said. “I really liked that it was art, but on a much bigger scale.”
“Art has always been something I enjoyed,” continues Jessica, who invariably has a creative project going in her spare time, whether painting, glasswork, or fabric dying. “A turning point for me, when I realized ‘engineering is what I want to do,’ is when I discovered wearable electronics. Part fashion, part art, and part helpful technology.”
It’s not surprising that the first drones that caught her attention were themselves an artistic spectacle: Intel’s 2015 worldwide drone light displays, in which drones performed dazzling choreographed shows in locations around the world.
At Wing, Jessica is part of the team putting Wing aircraft through extensive testing. “When a new build comes in, we test each individual part, pushing all components to their limits. We catch failures before they begin field testing.”
Jessica, as usual, sees the large-scale potential in drones. “I can imagine fleets of drones all over the world delivering things to people who need them.”
For Tara Rezvani, fear has always been a part of any worthwhile challenge. “As a kid, I really wanted to become an astronaut. The idea of going to space scared me — terrified me — but I felt that it was really cool, too.”
It’s a dichotomy that’s taken Tara to the top of Half Dome, to sessions on public speaking at the premier conference for women in computing, and to Wing, where she serves as a technical lead for OpenSky, the family of software products that helps drone users plan flights safely, effectively, and in compliance with local rules and regulations.
“My mom always says she knew I was gonna be an engineer,” says Tara, who grew up in the Bay Area. “When something broke, instead of asking for a new one, I would say ‘This thing broke, let me try to fix it.’”
Tara studied Computer Science & Cognitive Science at UC Berkeley, and in March 2019 she joined Wing. Asked about seeing Wing drones in action for the first time, Tara said “I watched a test flight, and it was just as exciting as I thought it would be. I said to myself, ‘Alright, stop fan-girling.’ Then the next time, I was giddy again. Can you believe the world we get to live in, and the world we get to build?”
Tara is a three-time attendee of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and she plans to be there again this year. “The sessions are geared to everyone from students to executives. My favorite session was on learning how to feel more empowered when speaking in front of large groups, something that I’m working on.”
Last year’s hike up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park was another challenge to overcome — and an opportunity to share Wing pride. “I wore my Wing shirt. I went with former colleagues and I talked about how much I love Wing the whole way up.
“The hike is pretty long, and then the last bit, the cables are what I wanted to check out. When you’re on them, you feel like you’re parallel to the floor. That was really scary. I like to try things that are a little outside of my comfort zone. This year I’m going to try to do Mt. Whitney.”