June Focus on Women Engineers: Meet Maria Papaioannou
Meet Maria Papaioannou, Director of Lens Antenna Engineering
22 June, 2023
ALL.SPACE’s month-long celebration of female engineers leading up to International Women in Engineering Day on June 23rd concludes with today’s spotlight on Maria Papaioannou, Director of Lens Antenna Engineering. The Greece native was one of our first 10 employees when she joined in 2018 and has played a pivotal role on the lens design of our breakthrough SMART range of multi-orbit, multi-link terminals launching this year. Below, she shares her journey and offers advice to the next generation of women engineers.
Other women engineer features:
- Meet Marina Marinova, Antenna Test and Calibration Engineer
- Meet Aishwarya Srikanthan, Electrical Engineer
- Meet Yamini Harikrishnan, Lead Requirements and CONOPS Manager
Role: I’ve been the Director of the Lens team for the last four years. I am leading a multidisciplinary team of highly skilled individuals working on the design, manufacturing and testing of the ALL.SPACE lenses, the core of our IP. We have designed these industry-leading components that achieve optimum efficiency across an extended field of view (not previously achieved in conventional lens designs), thus unlocking unique capabilities for our terminals. We have developed bespoke tools and processes for designing these unique components and state-of-the art in-house facilities for our testing and quality control plans. The team is also focusing on the scale-up and optimiszation of the bespoke manufacturing technology that has been specifically developed for the needs of our lenses.
Time with ALL.SPACE: 5 Years
Favourite Thing about ALL.SPACE
The most exciting part of ALL.SPACE is its people. The Engineering team shares an immense wealth of knowledge and experience combined with innovative thinking and passion for what we do. It is truly astonishing. We are proud to be working alongside a number of the best experts in the industry as well as young, extremely talented and motivated engineers. The quality of our team, the work ethic and the work culture that fosters creativity have brought us to where we are today.
Biggest Challenge and How it was Overcome
One of the most significant challenges our Lens team has faced to date was when we embarked on the adventure of designing the latest generation of lenses that are now in production ready to be integrated in our upcoming terminals. The design cycle was essentially a competition of the Lens team with itself as we had already achieved unique performance and design traits that were already state-of-the-art and superior to known industry standards of lens design efficiency and scan roll-off.
Throughout the design cycle, the lens team worked tirelessly, fuelling our creativity with lots of innovative ideas. It is worth mentioning that this was all happening during the first few months of the pandemic and all the challenges that this entails. The result was an excellent piece of engineering, achieving not only substantial improvements in scanning capabilities but a remarkable 30% reduction in the lens mass at the same time. These accomplishments secure significant advantages for our terminals. When we started the design cycle the targets we set seemed nearly impossible, but we surpassed our own expectations – a record we plan to break again in upcoming design cycles for future products.
Path to Engineering
I fell in love with mathematics and physics from an early age and naturally landed in electrical engineering following a telecommunications specialty. I always flirted both with the art of engineering as well as the physics behind how everything works, so I continued into a PhD and research on engineering applications of novelty materials like metamaterials and lensing applications applied to free space or optic telecoms. I was then approached by ALL.SPACE in 2017 and offered to work on innovative RF lens designs for next-generation satellite applications in a role that combined my background, experience and appetite for innovation.
Advice to the Next Generation of Women Engineers
- Believe in yourself: Know that you have the skills, intelligence, and determination to succeed in engineering. Trust your instincts and have confidence in your abilities. Surround yourself with a supportive network of mentors, peers, and role models who can help you stay motivated and overcome any obstacles you may encounter.
- Embrace your uniqueness: Being a woman in a predominantly male-dominated field can sometimes feel intimidating. However, recognise that your unique perspective and diverse experiences bring value to engineering teams. Embrace your individuality and use it as a strength. Your diverse viewpoints can lead to innovative solutions and drive positive change within the industry.
- Pay it Forward: As you progress in your engineering career, remember to lift others as you climb. Support and mentor the next generation of women engineers. Advocate for diversity and inclusion in the industry, and actively work towards creating a more equitable and welcoming environment for all.
I love traveling so it’s rare for me to spend holidays at home. Staycations during the pandemic were a huge pain. One of the most memorable trips I took was to Vietnam – I went all around the country, and it was very exciting. I enjoy music and used to play the cello for many years. I also love theatre – going to a great play after work on a weeknight always boosts my energy for the rest of the week.