Asian Heritage Month: A conversation with Anna Jee

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Ingenium - Canada's Museums of Science and Innovation
A young woman smiles as she sits at a desk with a laptop open in front of her. The logo for the Canadian Space Agency is visible on her laptop screen.

Through its Women in STEM initiative, Ingenium is telling the stories of those who dared to think differently — in an effort to foster conversations around gender equity and promote careers for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). 

In celebration of Asian Heritage Month, the Ingenium Channel connected with Anna Jee — an ambitious, young women who has her sights set on a career in the space industry. In today’s profile, we share her aspirations, challenges, and personal reflections as a Canadian of Asian descent.

A young women with long, black hair and glasses smiles as she looks directly at the camera; green foliage is visible in the background.

Ingenium Channel (IC): Tell me about your area of expertise. Where are you working, and what is one of your current projects?

Anna Jee (AJ): I’m a third year Electrical Engineering student at the University of New Brunswick. In September, I got the opportunity of a lifetime to work at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) as a Project Management Intern in Space Utilization. I worked on the project management element of a handful of satellite missions. One project that I worked on is the A-CCP (Aerosol – Clouds, Convection, and Precipitation) Mission, a potential NASA mission to observe the effects of aerosols and clouds in ways that improve upon past missions. This mission will provide vital data to monitor air pollution and improve our predictions of near-term weather and long-term climatic conditions. NASA has invited Canada to develop three cutting-edge instruments for this mission. While working on this mission, I was involved with the three potential Canadian instruments called ALI, SHOW, and TICFIRE. 

IC: Is there a person who inspired or encouraged you to choose your educational path and career?

AJ: My incredible parents and sister! Although they did not study engineering nor do they work in the space sector, they always encouraged me to dream big and pursue my passion — even if I felt it was impossible for a young girl from a small city in Atlantic Canada. Working at the CSA has been my dream ever since I watched a James Webb Space Telescope documentary years ago. When I first got the offer letter for my internship at the CSA, I was hesitant to accept it because I wasn’t confident in my abilities and I didn’t think I deserved it. But my family’s support and encouragement gave me the courage to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — and I am SO glad I did! 

IC: Is there anyone in Ingenium’s Women in STEM poster series that you find inspirational? 

AJ: One woman that is an inspiration to me is Natalie Panek. She is just the coolest; I hope to live my life with the same amount of zest as her. Her TEDxToronto talk, “Let’s clean up the space junk orbiting Earth” was eye-opening; the wheels in my head started turning about the topic of space sustainability. Seeing the things that she is achieving and the projects she is working on in her career is so inspiring for young women. I only hope my career has somewhat of the same trajectory as Natalie’s career. 

IC: Describe one of the challenges or biases you had to overcome on your professional journey.

AJ: I’ve always had a lot of self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy, which led to imposter syndrome throughout my professional journey. Being surrounded by brilliant classmates and colleagues always led me to the hypothesis that every success in my life was due to luck — rather than my talent and qualifications. 

This is a challenge I still struggle with from time to time, but speaking about these feelings with close friends — and my internship at the CSA — has helped me overcome this. I have an amazing supervisor at the CSA who always values my opinions and encourages me to step out of my comfort zone. This gave me the confidence to start putting myself out there, and made me realize that I do deserve the things I work hard for. It was never just luck that got me to the places I am right now!

IC: Where do you hope to go from here?

AJ: First, I want to graduate (fingers crossed for May 2023). After that, the sky’s the limit! My idea of success is happiness and contributing to making the world a better place. So if my future ticks those two boxes, I’ll be very happy. My experience at the CSA was such a positive one. As a result, I have my sights set on working in the space industry — whether at the CSA or a space technology company — but it’s still early days so I’m taking it one day at a time for now!

IC: It’s Asian Heritage Month, which is a time of celebration. What does that mean to you? 

For me, it means learning more about my Korean heritage and improving the language. I was born and raised in Canada, so I missed out on the Korean traditions, values, and culture that my parents experienced growing up. Because of this, I have always felt that a part of me was missing. During Asian Heritage Month, I’m hoping I can make up for lost time and explore the Korean heritage and history I never learned!

IC: Recently, there has been a disturbing amount of racism towards Asians in the news cycle. Do you have any comments or personal experiences that you want to share? 

AJ: I am heartbroken about it. It’s very unsettling as there’s a constant worry about my family, friends, and colleagues simply going out in public. When I go out, I definitely take more precautions and I’m more aware of everything going on around me. But I’m very hopeful! People have been taking time to raise awareness, educate themselves on language that was previously normalized, and continue conversations on what we can all do to support the minority communities. 

Connect with Anna

If you want to reach out to discuss any of the topics mentioned in this profile, you can connect with Anna via LinkedIn.

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Sonia Mendes

Sonia Mendes is the English Writer/Editor for Ingenium. She loves digging behind the scenes to tell the quirky, colourful stories of museum life and all things related to science and innovation.