To celebrate this year’s Space Week, which celebrates Women in Space, Plymouth Science Park is shining a light on “women who are out of this world”, by talking to inspirational women working in the sector across the South West.

In the second interview of the series, Fay Davies, Business Development Manager at Plymouth Science Park sat down with Dr Heidi Thiemann, Space Project Manager at Truro & Penwith College, and Director of the Space Skills Alliance. Here’s what she had to say:


Can you tell us a bit about who you are and your role?
My name is Heidi Thiemann, and my main role is as a project manager at Truro & Penwith College, a higher and further education college in Cornwall. My role centres around setting up space apprenticeships and short courses for businesses in and around Cornwall. I work with exciting space organisations, from environmental intelligence to rocket-launching companies, to find out what skills they need in the future and how we can help provide the necessary talent from the next generation.


How did you get into this line of work?
I’ve always really loved space; it’s something I’ve wanted to be involved with since I was small. I vividly remember watching the Beagle Mars lander and it sparked an interest in me.

I studied a degree in physics at the University of Leicester, then a PhD in astrophysics with the Open University. Alongside my studies I also set up a business tackling the skills shortage in the space sector – who doesn’t love a bit more data in their spare time!


What impact is your work at Truro & Penwith College having?
Through our apprenticeships we’re hoping to have a positive impact on Cornwall’s job opportunities and education. The county has high levels of deprivation and lower levels of higher and further education uptake. By providing the opportunity to study interesting, novel courses in an exciting area, we hope to encourage more people into the space sector.


How can we encourage more women to work in space?
We know women don’t typically feel very welcome in STEMM in general, and it comes down to making the environment more welcoming. Businesses need to include more diverse activities and careers, to appeal to a more diverse workforce. For women who want to join the sector, it’s worth bearing in mind how many amazing jobs there are that you could potentially work in – you don’t have to be a rocket scientist or astronaut!


What words of advice would you give to women interested in working in the space sector?
Look around and see what there is that works for you – whatever your skill set and specialisms, there’s bound to be a role that fits. I would also encourage women to find a mentor; someone who knows about the space sector, or the wider STEMM sector. Switching or launching a new career, particularly one in tech, can be daunting. My own mentor works in rail and cyber security, and really helped me get to grips with my role.


Head over to our YouTube to watch our video interview with Heidi: