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Defying Gravity

Nic 'Rosie' Steevenson's Trailblazing Journey
through Aviation & Human Performance


In the vast and tumultuous skies of military aviation, where the roar of jet engines echoes the unyielding spirit of those who dare to conquer them, Rosie emerges as a woman of resilience, innovation, and groundbreaking achievement. Her story, marked by both the thrill of defying gravity and the weight of tremendous responsibility, unfolds with audacity, intelligence, and the relentless pursuit of excellence.


Rosie’s journey into a male-dominated domain began not with a thunderous take-off, but with the steady and determined steps of someone who knew her destination from the start. 


Raised in an environment that valued perseverance and ingenuity, she found her calling in the world of aerospace engineering at the University of Manchester. It was here, amid the technical intricacies of aircraft and the principles of flight, that Rosie’s passion took flight. "I realized that I didn’t want to just study aircraft, I wanted to fly them!" Rosie reflects, "the University Air Squadron opened a world to me that enabled me to study alongside the adrenaline of flying.”


This blend of passion and discipline moved Rosie into a career with the Royal Air Force. As one of the few women navigating the challenging skies of military aviation, she flew as a navigator in the Tornado F3 mastering the art of air combat and quick reaction alert missions. But her journey was not just about the mastery of a machine or the tactics of air warfare. It was about shattering the glass ceilings and paving the path for others. 


"I remember the weight of responsibility I felt on my first mission” Rosie recounts, her voice tinged with the gravity of the roles she undertook. "We trained knowing that each mission and decision carried monumental consequences."  Yet, in this high-stakes world, Rosie found her true strength, not just in her skill as a navigator but in her ability to remain composed under pressure and make the right decisions, at the right moment.


It was in this crucible of high pressure that Rosie honed her philosophy of 'failing safely.' "The concept of failing safely became a cornerstone of my approach," she explains. "It's about embracing failure as a stepping stone to success, but doing so in a way that minimises risk and harm to people and to business. In aviation, this could mean the difference between life and death. In business, it’s about creating an environment where people feel safe to innovate, to take calculated risks, but also to empower them to speak up when things aren’t right without the fear of catastrophic consequences." This principle, born from the unforgiving nature of her aerial encounters, became a guiding light in Rosie’s career, shaping her approach to challenges and decision-making.


Rosie’s career evolution saw her transitioning from the adrenaline-fueled world of flying to the nuanced realm of human factors and optimising organisational performance where she applies her firsthand experience to enhance the integration of human elements in complex systems. "It’s about understanding how humans fit into the design of systems," Rosie explains. "Whether it’s in aviation, healthcare, or any field, optimising performance is about considering all aspects – the environment, the culture, the technology, and most importantly, the people involved.”


The core of Rosie’s message, both in her professional work and as a speaker, revolves around resilience, leadership, learning, and development. She speaks not just from a place of expertise but from a well of personal experiences that resonate with authenticity. "In every story of a quick reaction alert or navigating through a storm, there’s a lesson about adaptability, about the resilience of the human spirit," she says, her eyes reflecting the intensity of her experiences.


Rosie, alongside Helen Seymour, the first female Typhoon pilot, forms a duo that brings a dynamic perspective to their audiences. Their narratives, interwoven with professional acumen and personal anecdotes, highlight themes of leadership in high-pressure scenarios, the importance of diversity in team dynamics, and the transformative power of embracing challenges.


As Rosie looks towards the future, she envisions a landscape where barriers are continually broken, where design and systems are inclusive, and where the lessons learned in the skies can be applied to elevate performance across sectors. Her journey is a testament to the power of determination, the importance of breaking new ground, and the impact of leading by example.


Nicola ‘Rosie’ Steevenson's story is a narrative of breaking barriers, of mastering the skies, and of harnessing the lessons learned therein to inspire, to educate, and to lead. Her journey, marked by challenges, triumphs, and relentless pursuit of growth, serves as a beacon, guiding and inspiring those who dare to dream and those who strive to soar beyond their limits.

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