There are inspirational women all around the world, but one special woman from the Syracuse community and the LaunchPad has made her mark. Kayla Simon ‘19, has taken her engineering skills and entrepreneurial passion to be an outstanding role model for women in STEM.
Kayla had a great love for space and knew she wanted to pursue her degree in Aerospace Engineering. Being a woman in STEM is not easy, but with her large ambitions and drive to accomplish some of the greatest tasks; Kayla was extremely successful. Right out of college, she was offered a position at NASA as well as Virgin Orbit and had to make one of the hardest decisions of her career. Although Kayla was very grateful for the opportunity provided by NASA, she knew in her heart that Virgin Orbit would be the best option for her. Kayla said she learned many skills as an employee at Virgin Orbit; however, through new self discoveries she realized she wanted to focus her career on a slightly different path. As a result of her hard work, she landed a phenomenal job at Relativity where she is still learning and growing her skill set as an Integration Engineer. In the future, she is interested in advanced technology and getting her master’s in Artificial Intelligence and Policy.
Talking to Kayla, you can hear the love she has for creating, building, inventing, and manufacturing the newest technology used in space. Her current role involves using 3D printers to design, manufacture, and create products, including rockets, to advance quick innovation and iteration. Her qualities including problem-solving skills and thirst for success, makes her a great engineer.
Kayla’s experience at Syracuse and LaunchPad played a significant role in shaping her into the person she is today. When talking to her, she stated that LaunchPad was a great part in her success as an undergrad in aerospace engineering. For her major, she created a wearable asthma inhaler that led her to a national competition. Her journey with the LaunchPad also launched a lasting mentorship and friendship with its director, Linda Hartsock. Linda swept her under her wings, encouraged her with the development of the inhaler that eventually led her to win some amazing competitions. Kayla said, “She helped me not only with my business idea but also school and building new connections.” Some awards include the Panasci Business Plan Competition, and the ACC InVenture Prize, where she had the chance to pitch at Georgia Tech, along with numerous other campus competitions..
Her junior year of college she was honored to become a LaunchPad Global Fellow and Hunter Brooks Watson Scholar. She used her talent and knowledge to help others define their products as well as assist students in competitions. An admirable trait of Kayla’s was her ambition to help others succeed even with her busy schedule. Balancing school, being a writer, a residential advisor, and an entrepreneur demonstrates there is nothing she can’t do.
Kayla is very grateful for all that the LaunchPad had to offer and how it contributed to the fierce woman she is today. She loved the environment, walking into a space with brilliant minds, new inventions and ideas and a space where everyone was your friend. Talking about ideas, watching pitches, and developing herself were all essential experiences. She reflects, “I would not be where I am today without the LaunchPad.” Before she wasn’t as confident and shy but with no time she increased her leadership and people skills. Today, she applies all that knowledge and skill and believes that she is presenting herself every day as a woman in STEM and that is the most important aspect to remember.
As a member of the LaunchPad, she also created and hosted a video series called 50/50, featuring other female founders at Syracuse – which has a 50/50 ratio of women who are C-Suite leaders at student startups.
Listening to Kayla and the inspiration she receives from other women in her career is heart-warming. She loves watching women pivot, make an impact, and discover “your mission”. “A mission doesn’t have to be a job, but it’s working hard, presenting and amplifying your power, strength and leadership to the world and those around you.” She says to know your worth and make sure your efforts and value are compensated for as a woman. One of the most powerful and touching quotes by Kayla is, “Being a woman, you are representing more than yourself. You are representing the history of women and the women who helped create tools for today.”
In her ongoing love for the LaunchPad and supporting the Syracuse community, Kayla now pays it forward by mentoring other students and volunteers as a judge for LaunchPad competitions as well as mentoring. Furthermore, when she can, she collaborates with the Syracuse University LA Regional Council. Even though she lives 3,000 miles away, she always finds her way back home.
Story by LaunchPad Fellow Sydney Grosso