Mani Thiru, Aerospace and Satellite (A&S) Solutions lead for AWS Asia Pacific and Japan, works with customers and partners in space industry to further the region’s economic development by unlocking the next generation of space innovation. As part of the recently established A&S solutions team, she works with a global team of interdisciplinary experts to re-imagine space system architectures, transform space enterprises, launch new services that process space data on earth and in orbit, and use secure, flexible, scalable, and cost-efficient cloud solutions to support government missions and companies advancing space around the world.
As a reflection of Mani’s industry expertise in space and her unique contributions to the fast-growing sector, she was recently recognised as an “Emerging Leader in the Private Sector” by the Women’s Agenda Leadership Award in Sydney. She was one of 34 finalists across nine categories recognised for leading with impact, compassion, courage, and collaboration.
“Mani has established international connections across private and public organisations of all sizes to deliver outcomes that range from space enabled agriculture and emergency and disaster management, to impact on education and earth observation research,” said Clint Crosier, Director, A&S Solutions, AWS. “I am proud that she is being recognised for her customer obsession and big ideas, and how her leadership contributes to customer success.”
Mani shares her AWS journey, including what makes her tick, what she is proud of, and what advice she has for women who are interested to join the technology industry.
What does the Women’s Agenda Leadership Award mean to you?
The award was a complete surprise!
It means that the space industry is no longer a niche business. They acknowledge its significance in their everyday lives, and can relate it to economic prosperity, as well as future national growth.
I am humbled and honored to be named among the women that are reshaping Australia, its companies, and society to be more diverse and more inclusive.
Tell us more about AWS Aerospace and Satellite Solutions. How does cloud help the space industry?
The world is entering an exciting and daring new space age. Companies are expected to launch thousands of new satellites over the next five years, and this has created a need for new innovations.
A&S was formed in 2020 in response to the potential for cloud computing to support the growing space industry. AWS has a long history of supporting our customers in space, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory --- one of the first AWS Public Sector customers 10 years ago.
I am part of a global team of experts with more than 500 years of combined industry. The head of our unit is Retired Air Force Major General Clint Crosier who retired from the US Air Force and US Space Force after 33 years of service. Before joining AWS, he spent 18 months leading the stand up and implementation of the US Space Force. Clint has been referred to as “the architect” of the U.S. Space Force and there is no better person to help AWS transform the industry and propel the space enterprise forward. This deep knowledge, coupled with best practices and an unmatched portfolio of cloud services, makes our team highly qualified to provide customers a comprehensive set of mission solutions - from satellite design and launch through on-orbit operations and everything in between.
What is your proudest moment at AWS?
I feel proud when people stop me mid-way in conversation or reach out after an event to ask if I can speak to their daughter, sister, or niece because they would find me “inspiring.”
I also love being an advocate for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). I believe the next generation of talent will contribute to the grand challenges of our time, including climate change and sustainability. We have several programs we are working on to engage kids and especially girls in STEM (with space as a theme.) Stay tuned!
What motivates you?
I love the great Australian outdoors, which is home to some of the planet’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders. I have recently relocated to Singapore, so I am now immersing myself in the garden city’s green spaces and rainforests.
Protecting these precious ecosystems is where the nexus of space and earth observation comes in. Remote sensing satellites can now help us track deforestation, illegal mining, ocean health, ice loss, climate change, and help policy and decision makers make smarter decisions to safeguard our natural world. I often tell the kids we engage through STEM programs that we are all astronauts on a spaceship called earth – as its crew we must do our part to take care of the vessel that houses us.
Space sounds exciting! Is it challenging? How do you keep up with what you have to learn?
I learn something new almost every day. There is a technical component to most missions – from digital engineering with customers tinkering with cube satellites carrying space sensors that collect data, to using High Performance Computing (HPC) for flight trajectory modelling, and using Machine Learning to generate intelligence for agriculture, defense, and conservation efforts. As Space becomes more commercial, we need to work through where the economic opportunity is and how we turn it into a viable business. We work with our customers and partners on all aspects from design of a product through to go to market strategies and sales.
I am driven by the “Learn and be Curious” Leadership Principle. They say at AWS, leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves – that’s me in a nutshell! The thrill of discovery and the joy of exploration fuels my existence. I am always reading; I need to understand business trends, technology shifts and I am also fascinated by what is going on in the world, politically, socially, economically. It is the confluence of these events that generate opportunities for disruption. I’m lucky i that my work allows me to interact with brilliant people. I have some amazing colleagues – and within my customer community, I have access to VCs, scientists, engineers, astronauts, policy makers, who are all generous with their time and knowledge.
Women in tech is close to your heart. Any tips and advice you can offer women who aspire to join the industry?
Technology is transforming economies, industries, societies, and lives. We know the future is digital, and that diverse backgrounds, perspectives, skills and experiences—especially those of women and minorities—must be part of the design, creation and management of technology to shape a shared digital future that works for and benefits everyone. Women at AWS and several other affinity groups do some wonderful work on this.
For aspiring women, I have three pieces of advice to share:
- Do not be afraid to use your voice. When you have something of value to say, say it. Push your own limits and it will push others.
- Spend time investing in new relationships – different people with different backgrounds and experiences almost always have something to teach you.
- There is no failure, there are only “learning experiences.” Embrace pivoting fast!