Meet Natalie; Student Leader at Sacred Heart Girls College



Natalie Georgalas is a trailblazer. Natalie is a student at Sacred Hearts Girl’s College with a passion for STEM and an ‘engineering mindset’. From soldering iron and closing circuits during lockdown, to helping others engage with aerospace and epilepsy research – we spoke with Natalie about the opportunities for future generations, support networks, and transferrable skills.

A/AA: What are the challenges and opportunities young professionals have solutions for that the current generation would benefit from? How can the industry better work with their lived experience and the new ideas coming into the industry?

Natalie Georgalas: Some of the challenges faced include technology’s rapid advancements. The speed at which these improvements and new ideas are breeched can be dangerous causing cyber security and data privacy problems from small servers to government protocol. This has caused major issues already with safety and risk of hacking in networks, and therefore is something young professionals are continuing to find solutions for.

I believe that we can find solutions to these problems and improve the dangers surrounding IT by advancing our knowledge and learning new skills and ways of combating challenges. Improving our society and finding solutions to current challenges is crucial for our generation and for those to come. Another social challenge surrounding STEM industries is of course climate change and its effect on engineers as well as industries and social development due to lack of resources. It continues to impact the effectiveness of structures and facilities which are impacted directly or indirectly, by weather which includes water supply systems, wastewater treatment plants, hydropower, and many others.

As a generation that have caused many of the damages that are destroying our world, it is our obligation to try and repair it. While we make advancements and achieve the unthinkable, more often than not, it backfires on nature. We are constantly making the journey of more renewable and sustainable energy and I think we need to draw our focus to keeping this planet healthy by investing in new ways of creating resources that work the way we need them to by not killing our planet. Like everything it will take time, but if we can make it to the Moon, we can certainly protect Earth so engineers can still have the resources they need whilst working more efficiently and reliably.

Although we face many challenges, the opportunities given to this generation are endless. Many suspect the catastrophe of robots taking over jobs, but I believe that instead they should be integrated in way that would assist in the industries where safe and efficient work is needed and therefore robotic aid will succeed (it already has in many) and lower the hazards of numerous jobs. Robots working in large factories and shipping companies have already made such a huge impact in the efficiency of supply chain, showing that even more improvements and advancements in robotics can help supply our world. Other industries where robotic opportunities are assisting in is the medical field.

I hope in my career that I can make improvements with engineering around the medical field with surgical assistant appliances to ensure accuracy, improvements in bionic limbs to give a more realistic functioning limb and help create things like exoskeletons to help people with injuries or poor performing limbs move effectively thus improving their quality of life and so on.

With technological advancements, our generation is given a chance to help our societies wellbeing and improve safe work practices in the medical fields. As well as safety, scientific and mathematical progression has increased allowing our world to reach new heights. With the Artemis missions emerging, we will be able to observe space safer, clearer, and acquire more knowledge due to STEM advancing. Our generation is so fortunate to have these opportunities to help our world and take care of its nature, safety as well as using its evolution to observe the never-ending cosmos.

Other ways we can help and advance our generation’s knowledge, many new jobs have and will arise to continue this worldwide development. Around the IT fields, jobs in cyber security, ethical hacking and all kinds of computer analysts are increasing and beneficial for the safety of our government cloud and management of software. Product development, business and design continues to showcase many engineering and programming jobs, data analysts and statisticians as well as digital marketers and web developers. Jobs surrounding STEM continue to be highly relevant and important to our future as well as showing the opportunities these careers offer to our generation. The work in these field provides nations with all kinds of solutions from problems surrounding cyber security to creating drones to assist the army. The opportunities are really endless and having different insight from people in the industry is what allows us to progress.

A/AA: What experience did you have coming through the pipeline to get into your current role today? How did you start in the industry?

Natalie Georgalas: Although I am still in high school, I have been given many opportunities to observe what the STEM industry looks like. I was selected out of 30 Girls in Victoria to be involved in the first Girls in Aerospace program where I was lucky enough to visit many companies including Swoop Aero and Boeing. I have been fortunate enough to also be able to help out Dr Jo Zimpel (Innovation Curator, Sir Lawrence Wackett Defence & Aerospace Centre), with the new group of girls for the extension of the program due to high volume of interest from applicants. I’ve been to RAAF base in Point Cook and other defence bases around the city, many other companies like Thales, Sypaq and Moog, and have gained so much insight from seeing people working, their journeys and advice for a career in STEM.

As well as being involved with RMIT, I have been part of an Epilepsy Research Program that includes four Year 10 students and myself at SHGC. I was in the STEM group for Tournament of The Minds this year with my school where we created an ornithopter (mechanical bird) and enjoyed the experience immensely. I’ve been to various exhibitions, like the Big Day In and many Monash Engineering Showcases. By being involved in these programs and visiting these places, I have gained greater knowledge, understanding and passion for wanting to be an engineer. It really has made me look even more forward to achieving my dream.

A/AA: When did you first realise you wanted to work in STEM/Aviation? What were the influences that helped you realise?

Natalie Georgalas: As a young girl, my mum bought many building and strategic educational games that inspired and made my mind think mathematically and scientifically. I was introduced to Lego at a young age which further broadened my brain and allowed me to be creative and imaginative. When I was 7 years old, I watched the movie Big Hero. It was about a boy building a robot and working like an engineer. Seeing a younger character portray these qualities made it relatable. It has inspired me to pursue a STEM career and build an engineering mindset too.

All of these factors greatly impacted on my desire of being and engineer and due to them, I was constantly called the “little engineer” from family members. The STEM subjects have always been my favourite and I have achieved high results from a young age showing my passion for the content and fascination for the way the world is written and how it works. As I got older, I started creating robots and began learning basic coding enhancing my mind into a much bigger world of technology and robotics. By the time I finished year 6, I had researched what an engineer really does and was certain it was what I wanted to be in the future. Over the years in secondary school, I have continued to train and strengthen my mind to becoming my best self and reach my goals. Movies like Hidden Figures and The Theory of Everything has also contributed to the driven force for me to succeed in this career.

During lockdown, I began and finished many projects including Star Wars Mandalorian Helmets and other replicas from the movie. I also took Robotics and Electronics in Year 9, which taught me how to use a soldering iron and create circuits. Knowing that this electrical, mechanical, and even coding work was what I had a passion for, made me realise that the engineering field I want to pursue is Mechatronic Engineering. Other than industry robotics, I have a large interest in the medical fields and its technological advancements, and hope that in my career I can help create bionic limbs, exoskeletons, surgical robots, and many other creations to help the lives of others, which might lead me to possibly doing a double degree with Biomedical Engineering. Next year I will be in Year 11, and I hope to be taking the subjects Physics, Math Methods, Specialist Maths, VET Engineering and a few others. I really love investing my mind in this type of work and hope that my studies will allow me to reach my goal and dream of becoming a Mechatronics Engineer.

A/AA: What support networks have enabled you to continue working towards your goals and how can the industry better support this?

Natalie Georgalas: This is an industry predominantly full of men, as a young woman I strongly feel I can make positive contributions to the future and therefore I believe it’s imperative the government needs to provide more STEM subjects in schools, especially in girls schools. Having participated as a student in the Girls in Aerospace program and helping assist other programs at RMIT, it has shown me how important it is for more women to reach their dreams and be involved in STEM.

From this program, I have formed a network of friendships and mentorships including with Dr Jo Zimpel, the creator of the program and another from the Airforce. Building these networks has allowed me to contact various people in the industry who are encouraging of my endeavours. Having contacts with companies due to my participation on programs like the one listed above, creates an industry network for me to learn from and observe the lives of people in STEM. My family and friends have always admired my determination and desire for success. My mum especially is my biggest support, from investing into various STEM educational games from a young age so I can broaden my mind, to her buying robots for me to build and program, only shows a part of her loving heart. She has encouraged me to achieve my dreams no matter what it is, to always try my best and that it is okay to make mistakes too.

Life skills is about learning and improving to be successful. The support networks I am surrounded by continue to help and assist me throughout my life journey. Moving forward, gaining support is extremely important in the industry and across all industries. Understanding people’s feelings, thoughts and opinions is vital for wellbeing and health. Support networks especially for women in the STEM industry are especially vital due to the percentage of men over women and the treatment in workplaces. While we are evolving from past challenges, women in STEM need to be more encouraged to gain a better network of minds in the industry. Working together is vital to move forward and teaching kids from a young age, especially girls that they can also be astronauts or engineers, expands the creativity and minds of young dreamers. I am one of these people who has had this engineering dream from a young age and was encouraged by the support of those around me, including teachers, friends, and family…especially mum. Striving for what you desire is all that matters, and surrounding yourself with people who make you feel positive helps you reach your dreams.

A/AA: What do you think is the single most important transferrable skill that you have developed, whether at work or in your personal life, that you know you can bring into any role you step into?

Natalie Georgalas: Communication is the single most important transferrable skill I have developed. From talking to the people you work with, industry partners, or people you are close with, communication is key. Being able to collaborate, speak your mind to others and state what your mind sees shows your headstrong and passionate about what you do. Communication skills allow you to become approachable by others as they can see you are knowledgeable, full of ideas, inspiring and logical. This can then form a relatable bond with others, as you can begin to see the ways all people are thinking. All these ideas coming together, show your leadership and effort in what you are doing. Being able to understand people and think of greater ways to tackle situations is a skill that is difficult to achieve but is so beneficial. Without communication no one would be able to share views and no progress in developments across the world would be made. We are humans after all, and speaking to those we love, seek help for, or work with is what makes us move forward.