Gwynne Shotwell is the COO and President of SpaceX since 2008
Who Is Gwynne Shotwell, Musk's Right-hand Woman at SpaceX?
Gwynne Shotwell is an American business executive and mechanical engineer. She is currently the Chief Operations Officer and President of SpaceX, roles that she has held for the past 11 years. She is responsible for the day to day operations of the company and growth. She is effectively Elon Musk’s right-hand woman at the company. But who is Gwynne Shotwell, exactly?
Gwynne Shotwell was born on November 23rd in 1963 to a neurosurgeon (father) and an artist(mother) in Evanston, Illinois. She is the middle of three daughters and was raised in Libertyville, Illinois.
Growing up, Shotwell was a bright, pretty girl who got straight A’s in school and was in the cheerleading squad. She was not interested in sciences that much at first, and thought that an engineer was someone who drives a train. However, Shotwell showed signs that she was wired differently. She was the kind of girl that mowed the lawn and put the basketball hoop back together.
While a teen, Shotwell’s mum forced her to attend a lecture on a Saturday afternoon at the Illinois Institue of Technology and Shotwell fell in love with a mechanical engineer speaking at the event. In an interview with Ashlee Vance for Elon Musk’s Autobiography, she said about the engineer,” She had these beautiful clothes, this suit and shoes that I loved. She was very tall and carried off the heels really well.” Sotwell chatted with the engineer afterward and admitted, ”That was the day I decided to become a mechanical engineer,”
She attended Northwestern University graduating with honors in Bachelor of Science and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics. Shotwell enrolled at the Chrysler Corporation's management training program straight out of school before leaving for the El Segundo Research Centre of Aerospace Cor[oration in 1988 and working there for 10 years in thermal analysis. Shotwell wanted to build and put spacecraft together thus joined the main Aeroscope office in 1998.
In 2002, a coworker of hers, Hans Koenigsmann, left for SpaceX and Shotwell offered to take him for a going-away lunch before dropping him off to SpaceX. Hans suggested that she goes in and meets Musk, which Shotwell agreed to. Shotwell then suggested to Musk that SpaceX would need a good business person.
The next day, Musk’s assistant Mary Beth Brown called her and told her that Musk wanted to interview her for the position of Vice President of Business Development. She ended up being SpaceX’s 7th employee. Shotwell said she remodeled her bathroom because “I knew that I would not have alife after taking the job.”
She pulled off incredible feats of getting SpaceX contracts before they even had a Falcon in orbit from government and commercial customers. These contracts kept SpaceX going through its leanest years including a $278m contract in August 2006. Shotwell grew to become Musk’s trusted confidante and became President and Chief Operations Officer in 2008.
Shotwell has been awarded various awards like the 2012 Women In Technology International Hall of Fame, 2017 Satellite Executive of the Year and 2018 Forbes America’s Top 50 Women in Tech. She is a regular speaker at events targeting business audiences. She has spoken at TEDx twice, on June 2013 at TEDx ChapmanU on the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and at the TED Conference in 2018 where she was interviewed by Chris Anderson about the future plans of SpaceX. She is also a board member of Polaris Industries.