Krystina Emmanouilides is an Australian who is making her way through the male-dominated world of motorsport.
From Melbourne to Oxford and now Zurich, she made it to Alfa Romeo’s ORLEN Formula 1 team.
Emmanouilides, 30, is a development engineer for Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). That is, she develops software that aids in her team’s aerodynamic tests.
âWe use data from the track and the wind tunnel and constantly carry out a lot of checks and improvements in order to increase the quality [of simulations],” She says.
Emmanouilides grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne and lived near the Albert Park Circuit, so the engine noise echoed her childhood.
When Emmanouilides attended secondary school, the gap between her and the world of motorsport narrowed. When visiting Mac.Robertson’s Girls High School, classes were canceled in the days leading up to the Melbourne Grand Prix due to its location within the track fence.
When it came time to choose a career, the answer from Emmanouilides’ logical brain and passion was obvious: mechanical engineering.
Find a way
The next challenge was to find a way.
However, the information she found seemed to point to a point. In interviews with employees of renowned Formula 1 teams, they named all motorsport universities in England as a starting point, so she applied.
She came to Oxford Brookes University. For many, this leap would have been daunting; As a teenager who had only lived with her parents, she traveled halfway around the world to study a heavily male-dominated subject.
“I was never afraid,” says Emmanouilides, attributing her high school experience to her willingness – almost blindly – to realize her dream.
“[Mac.Robertson] is a very empowering space. This is a group of really intelligent, motivated women, and they all just say, ‘I’ll do this’. There was never any doubt and I thought to myself, ‘Yes, I’m only going to England to study’. “
Moving to Oxford at the age of 18, about 90 minutes northwest of London, forced Emmanouilides to mature quickly.
Culturally very different from Melbourne, most students attending a university in the UK move away from home to study.
That being said, “most of them come from England so they know how the country works,” says Emmanouilides.
Solving problems has always been in Emmanouilides’ nature, even when she discovered in the middle of her sophomore year that she was actually enrolled in the wrong course.
Emmanouilides stumbled upon these hurdles, settled down, focused on her classes, and even joined a local soccer team. She made a life for herself and founded a community. However, this community was largely male dominated.
Emmanouilides recalls that there were five women in engineering – herself included – out of about 300 students.
Nevertheless, she found her circle of reliable fellow students whom she could rely on when the course became particularly demanding and competitive. Others often commented on the ease with which Emmanouilides fitted into it.
“I can only guess that I was so open about my being gay, to the guys it was like ‘OK, well, there’s no chance, she’s just one of us,'” she says.
“But I don’t think it was just about that. I remember this quote from BrenÃ© Brown about the difference between conforming and belonging and I never tried to fit in, I never tried to be one of the guys.
BrenÃ© Brown’s quote is: âAdapting means assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be accepted. “
The sense of belonging allowed Emmanouilides to concentrate fully on her studies, to stand out through her studies and finally to discover the specific area of ââmotorsport that interested her most: aerodynamics.
Emmanouilides presented her masterâs project and received two supervisors with a strong aerodynamics background, who carefully pushed their project towards aerodynamics and computational fluid dynamics – exactly the area of ââmotorsport technology in which she works today.
Paving the way for future women
Aware that the proportion of women in their workplace – and in the industry as a whole – reflects their university experience, Emmanouilides is focused on being successful and creating change not only for themselves, but also for the women and the LGBTQI + community who follow you get through.
As an ambassador for Racing Pride and firmly believing that visibility is important to women and the queer community, Emmanouilides is a vocal member of the Formula 1 industry.
“There are still many steps in my career. And as I said, I’m here to stay, but at the same time I don’t want to take my position for granted. F1 is such a small pool for engineers.” says Emmanouilides.
“When I climb the ladder, and I have a little more control over it, I’m very interested in making sure that I can be able to offer more opportunities to students from different backgrounds.”
According to Emmanouilides, it’s not just about women getting into motorsport, it’s about staying there. Whether women leave motorsport, technology or other STEM careers because of “unpleasant experiences” or have stunted career opportunities due to pregnancy and maternity leave, it is a real problem in the industry.
âI am in a very fortunate position that I have no children. And I can stay, there is no reason for me to go So for me it is really important to stay and do as much as possible for women or for gay women in the industry is just to be here and do something about it while I can still be here. “
ABC Sport is partnering with Siren Sport to improve coverage of Australian women in sports.
Gemma Bastiani is an AFLW analyst, lecturer in the music industry and co-founder of Siren: A Women in Sport Collective.