Far Out Farah
Aerospace Engineer Farah Alibay is One Out-of-this-World Woman!
This Canadian-based NASA badass gives new meaning to “spacing out.” And, it’s not rocket science, ladies.
Farah Alibay has been obsessed with the elusiveness and timelessness of space since she first watched the award-winning, legendary film Apollo 13 when she was just an impressionable eight years old. “What fascinated me was not only the vast expanse and dangers of space but also that teams of engineers rallied together to solve what seemed to be insurmountable problems,” she tells InStyle Magazine. Born to parents who emigrated to North America from Madagascar, Alibay grew up in the quaint and quiet Canadian town of Joliette where she dreamed of shooting for the stars – literally. Now 31, the accomplished NASA engineer recalls never quite having a female role model – let alone one of color – to emulate while growing up. She hopes to dutifully fill that void for future generations of badass-to-be female engineers.
As the tactical shift lead for the team responsible for landing the InSight Spacecraft on Mars last November, Alibay helped make space history. Her critical role in the mission was to build the commands that would allow complete communication between the spacecraft and the NASA headquarters on Earth. “As a young woman of color, it was hard to feel like I deserved a seat at the table, but I learned to trust my judgement and to find allies who gave me a voice…Now, I literally get to talk to a robot on another planet!”
A voracious over-achiever, Alibay attributes much of her on-going successes to the fearless, unstoppable women who preceded her. One in particular who comes to mind is French-Canadian astronaut and current Governor-General of Canada, Julie Payette. This former Chief Astronaut at the Canadian Space Agency pioneered for future otherworldly women by flying on the space shuttle not once, but twice, including excelling and exceeding the highest of societal expectations in roles traditionally driven by men.
Alibay attests her steadfast, studious disposition and “self-professed” NASA nerdiness, including persevering a bullied childhood, are what led to her notable achievements. Gaining coveted admission to England’s prestigious Cambridge University, Alibay earned a degree in Aerospace Engineering, a somewhat formidable feat for someone who routinely struggled with attaining self-confidence. Through intense counseling and mentoring, Alibay was finally able to conquer her demons and overcome sometimes debilitating and self-limiting intimidation issues. Eventually, she went on to graduate with the highest of honors and earned her Ph.D. “A badass woman smashes stereotypes and believes in herself…And, when she has setbacks, she reaches out to her mentors and peers for help. When things are going well, she reaches out to her community to inspire and help elevate others.” Spoken like a true GoGirl, as this very statement is a testament to the GoGirl manifesto of cultivating and enriching empowerment, unity, and leadership amongst young girls and women everywhere.
A Perennial Badass Gives Back BIG
Although incredibly immersed in her career, Alibay still finds time in her busy work schedule to mentor young girls and women as part of the Big Brother, Big Sister program. She also continually supports and works with CASA (The Court Appointed Special Advocates of Los Angeles) where she mentors and life-coaches disenfranchised children, specifically those in foster care.
Looking to take away some tips from a real-life rocket scientist?
Alibay shares some tried-and-true tidbits to getting ahead and manifesting your lifelong dreams, goals, and desires:
Pick something you’re greatly impassioned by and irrepressibly curious with and go for it.
Never let anyone tell you that you cannot achieve your goals, nor let anything hold you back from attaining them. Stay true to who you are and what you wish to become and don’t derail from your trajectory.
If you fail, pick yourself back up, brush yourself off, and try, try, try again. And, again.
“The sky is the limit, but for those of us who work in aerospace, the sky is just the beginning.” –Farah Alibay.
We’re over the moon for this GoGirl!