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Natalie Panek

Rocket Scientist & Advocate for Women in Tech

Natalie is a rocket scientist, adventurer, and advocate for women in technology. As a Member of Technical Staff at MDA’s Robotics and Automation division, Natalie works on the next generation of Canadian space robotics and space exploration programs. She seeks to pursue the road less travelled while working towards her dream of becoming an astronaut.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Natalie customizes talks based on the nature of the event she is speaking at.

Learning Should Know No Boundaries
Sometimes, the best way to learn is by doing. Learning is an opportunity to demand the most of you, to commit to a goal, and develop intellectual fortitude. Natalie is passionate about lifelong learning through experiences removed from your comfort zones. Working with tech, she understands that learning simply requires trying, whether successful or not. Even if you fail on your first, second, or even third attempts. Developing skills, talents, and competence is a lifelong process. We should constantly look for opportunities to learn something new and push our limits, whether personally or professionally. Through her stories, Natalie illustrates how the on-going pursuit of knowledge should take place throughout life and across an array of experiences. Regardless of your interests, learning and the goals we choose to pursue should know no boundaries. This talk encourages others to be drawn to the rewards of challenge and learning, because the incentive is the fulfilment of our dreams. Our dreams are what will transform the world.

Innovating Success
As a child, Natalie dreamed of traveling to space. She avidly followed her heroes, astronauts, as they explored and pushed boundaries. With this long term goal in mind, Natalie has taken the road less travelled in the hope that others will follow. She has recognized the importance of being constantly challenged while always learning. Natalie lives each day embracing every moment while tackling audacious goals. Through her experiences and lessons learned, Natalie’s established some key foundations for success: perseverance, living a life of peak moments, perspective, harnessing unfamiliarity, life-long learning, and mentorship. Her story is one of a woman following a dream and the steps she’s taken to make it a reality. Drawing from personal experiences, Natalie promotes the value of embracing experiences outside of your comfort zone.

Revolutionizing Women in Technology
Natalie’s experience as a women working in a non-traditional field and a male-dominated industry offers a unique perspective on revolutionizing women in technology. Degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering, a career in the aerospace industry, and working at NASA provided Natalie with an opportunity to change the perception of women in STEM and encourage the next generation of women to embrace challenging and innovating careers that can positively shape our future. She works passionately for a different future and forges ahead to blaze a new trail and empower women in the fields of science, technology engineering, and technology. In this talk, Natalie shares her experiences and what is possible for women in STEM fields and how we can motivate young women to embrace technology.

‘Why We Explore’
Since the beginning of time, humans have been drawn to exploration; it is the quest for knowledge that is at the forefront of exploration and drives what is possible. This talk covers how the desire for knowledge and exploring beyond our planet will require technology for extreme environments, and that because of exploration, technology can also help advance complex projects to be sustainable here on Earth in an era of extreme change. Natalie shares her stories working on Next Generation Robotics for sustainable exploration and how the most innovative companies will dream of the impossible and find the resources to make those dreams possible.

Platform Plus

Panelist/ In Conversation

Natalie brings inspiring & insightful discussion to panels on topics such as STEM, career development, innovation, motivation, education & more.

Celebrity Partnerships

An acclaimed voice in the realm of STEM, Natalie is on a mission to inspire the next generation of female game-changers to dive head-on into challenge and pursue careers in engineering and technology. She’s worked with brands such as Samsung & Activia to engage audiences around the topics of innovation, exploration, curiosity & more.


University of Calgary | Schulich Engineering Diversity and Equity Alumni Award

Canadian Geographic | Canada's Greatest Women Explorers

30 Under 30 | Flare
30 Under 30 | Forbes

Top 100 Most Powerful Women Canada | Women’s Executive Network

Graduate of the Last Decade Award | University of Calgary
Rising Star in Aerospace | Northern Lights Award Foundation

  • Natalie was a huge success. Delegates appreciated her fresh presentation that did not look like it was a "canned" presentation that she dragged out of a PowerPoint collection. She was very genuine and connected well with the audience. She had a message that was very powerful as she concluded her remarks. Natalie timed her remarks perfectly (as per our request) and she delivered a message that was ideally suited to the audience. All in all a huge success from my perspective...I would be happy to endorse Natalie to future prospective clients if that would be of any use.

    - Executive Director, Canadian Assn of School System Administrators
  • When we booked Natalie for the Walrus Talks, we knew we'd be getting an intelligent, insightful, energetic speaker. When she appeared on our stage, though, she brought all of that and so much more. Her passion for ideas and ability to connect with the audience is truly incredible. We liked her so much, we immediately booked her again.

    - Director of Events and Special Projects, The Walrus Foundation
  • The girls who are applying to engineering programs next year were truly inspired and felt very encouraged to continue with their chosen academic pathways. We were so impressed with your message to the girls - your stories, experience and vision really do epitomize what we aspire to.

    - Science Department Head The Bishop Strachan School
  • I thought that Natalie's speech was incredible. These types of talks often miss the mark when it comes to learnings and key takeaways, but I really appreciate that Natalie found a way to tell her story and give the audience a sense of her key lessons at the same time.

    - WXN Attendee
  • Really enjoyed your talk this evening. ‪‎STEM opportunities and ‪‎diversity need more advocates. Thanks for sharing!

    - Corporate Commodity Management Consultant. Celestica
  • Natalie Panek's talk is inspiring. The power of perseverance in accomplishing your dreams.

    - Manager, Course Development and e-learning Initiatives, The G.Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, Ryerson University
  • The calibre of speaker - did a great job storytelling her experiences and learnings in a compelling way - one of the best talks I've ever seen (in person or TED talks!)

    - WXN Attendee
  • Natalie was awesome - that is the word that trustees, students, parents and educators use when describing her presentation. She was very inspiring and yet down to earth. I so appreciated how she took the time to respond to the children's questions.

    - Director of Education, Rainy River District School Board
  • People were blown away by her accomplishments and really appreciate the fact that she talked about not being afraid to fail which may lead to success. We were extremely happy with Natalie as a speaker and the audience thoroughly enjoyed her.

    - Events Coordinator, Insurance Institute
  • Natalie is lovely. She did a fantastic job at our client event. She also did two presentations at two different schools and the kids were captivated by her presentations. She was very approachable. Overall, a fantastic day. I know three appearances on the same day is a lot for any speaker but she did it with such enthusiasm and style.

    - Director of Individual Client Management, Mawer Investment Management Ltd

Summary Profile

Natalie is an intelligent, insightful, energetic speaker who infuses powerful storytelling with a down-to-earth personality. She brings an unrivaled passion for ideas that inspires audiences to embrace the learning process: demand the most of themselves, commit to a goal, and develop intellectual fortitude. Natalie is on a mission to inspire the next generation of female game-changers to dive head-on into challenge and pursue careers in engineering and technology.

She shares a powerful narrative infused with valuable takeaways. Natalie has had some extraordinary experiences that have shaped her dreams of becoming an astronaut, including her grit and perseverance at applying and being rejected not once, not twice but 4 times by NASA…before she earned her internship at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center and Ames Research Center, where she worked on a mission to Mars.

At age 20, she was the first female driver of the University of Calgary’s inaugural solar-powered vehicle which raced up from Texas to Calgary. With degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Natalie has also co-authored papers on Microgravity Combustion and On-orbit Satellite Servicing. Her love of space and aviation led her to obtain a private pilot’s license to fly a single-engine aircraft. The Financial Post described Natalie as “a vocal advocate for women in technology”.

She is a technology contributor for The Next Women Business Magazine and was featured on the editorial site Women You Should Know as a STEM Rock Star who is revolutionizing how we think about women in tech. Natalie is also both a mentor and program adviser for Cybermentor, through the University of Calgary.

RT @nmpanek: @AstroKatie @ziyatong Another concern is the growing congestion of the orbital environment and space debris. Even though these… (2019-05-26 03:50:56)
RT @nmpanek: @mikamckinnon @AstroKatie @ziyatong We need to re-frame the conversation around how to balance what we gain from this hardware… (2019-05-26 03:50:43)
Fun fact: Norman Powell was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2015 NBA draft and subsequently traded to the To… https://t.co/qSk8yI4blm (2019-05-26 03:47:14)