Redwire Recognizes Asian American and Pacific Islander Employees to Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, celebrated during the month of May, Redwire Chairman and CEO Peter Cannito challenged Redwire employees to lead in a way that demonstrates a workplace of respect and diversity, believing that this is crucial to our collective growth and echoes the message embedded in Redwire’s Core Value of Inclusion. AAPI Month is a time when we celebrate the contributions of our AAPI employees to the fabric of our company and our nation. 

We spent time with a few Redwire AAPI team members to get their take on what this heritage month means to them and how their heritage has shaped the person they are today. 

Preeti Kannapan, Robotics Engineer 

Preeti Kannapan is a Robotics Engineer for the OSAM-2, or Archinaut One, mission at Redwire. She enables the spacecraft’s robotic arm to see and move intelligently. She implements algorithms that automate these processes by interfacing with sensors, actuators and communication lines.  

Robotics Engineer Preeti Kannapan

What is your favorite thing about working in aerospace? 

My favorite thing about aerospace is that it’s always at the forefront of technology development, forcing us to get inventive and find cutting-edge solutions to hard problems. I also really enjoy the space exploration aspect of it – learning more about the nature of the universe we live in and extending ourselves beyond our current reach.  

How has your heritage shaped the person you are today? 

India is well-known for yoga, and I grew up closely in touch with it. I believe my heritage has instilled in me a deep sense of respect and gratitude towards all life and that which enriches it – from plants and animals to water and soil. That, and a very high spice tolerance of course. 

How do you feel your heritage has played a role in your career choice and/or career path?  

Having been immersed in nature and yoga, I feel strongly about protecting and preserving the environment. With my academic interests leaning towards engineering, I became passionate about the role robots could play in large-scale material recovery and recycling. I continue to enjoy working on meaningful applications of robotics and am excited by the prospect of tackling environment sustainability problems from space! 

Vineel Rao-Aourpally, Lead Program Manager 

One of Vineel Rao-Aourally’s main functions is to lead the Payloads Project Management team and varies from managing programs to working on proposals to administering projects. 

Lead Program Manager Vineel Rao-Aourpally

How has your culture shaped the person you are today? 

Like many immigrant families, my parents thought it was very important to learn, understand and incorporate our Indian culture with North American culture. It defined who they are and through their teachings it plays a role in defining who I am. Growing up it was a challenge to try to blend two different cultures and three different languages, but that challenge helped in learning how to manage and integrate two ways of life and taking the best of both worlds. My parents as well as my family in India played a big role in my development, philosophies, and joie de vivre. The result is that I am Canadian with strong Indian roots, settled in the US who can speak fluent French (dare I say living the North American dream!). 

Has your culture played a role in your career choice and/or career path?  

Yes, most definitely. Like many Indians coming to North America for their advanced degrees, my parents believed school was the way to success in North America. That is how they were raised and that is how they raised my brother and me. When career paths were talked about there were only two careers that were ever mentioned: being a doctor or being an engineer (I am only kidding…but not really)! Luckily for me, my interest did lie in engineering. However, as I progressed in my career, my thirst for knowledge in other aspects of the business led to my eventual interest in wanting to take on more of a leadership role. I have been fortunate enough to find these positions in aviation and now in the space sector. My responsibilities at Redwire mix all my interests into one great role with one great company!  

What does inclusivity mean to you? 

To me, inclusivity means many things. I believe it starts with the ability to share with one another the differences in cultures or languages or practices and then each taking that newfound knowledge and allowing yourself to include at least a small part of that into who you are. It won’t change the world, but it will, hopefully, change a little bit of your understanding of the world. Of course, it is also a way of coming together. Additionally, people come from many different places, cultures, socioeconomic situations and experiences and thus can see problems and solutions in many different ways. The more we include different people and different perspectives, the better we can solve problems that can benefit everybody.

Steve Lim, Spacecraft Manager 

As the Spacecraft Manager for Archinaut One, Steve Lim’s primary responsibility is to lead Redwire’s In-Space Manufacturing and Operations Archinaut team in assembly, integration and testing of flight hardware to meet NASA’s standards and requirements to achieve mission success.  

Spacecraft Manager Steve Lim

How has your heritage shaped the person you are today? 

My Chinese upbringing and culture have taught me that perseverance and hard work are essential to meet the challenges put in front of me. My parents have instilled in me that education is key to my success.  As the Chinese culture is diverse, unique and harmoniously blended with more than 3600 years of history, it has influenced me to be open-minded and learn about the American culture. As an American citizen, I am so proud to have two countries I call home – USA & Singapore. Never forget your heritage! 

How do you feel your heritage has played a role in your career choice and/or career path?   

My parents taught me that education is key to success, and they supported and guided me in achieving my endeavors from the Far East. Coming from the little island nation of Singapore, I was alone in a strange country, lost in the hills of Tennessee. Thanks to the University of Tennessee’s International Office, I quickly assimilated into college life pursuing a degree in Aerospace Engineering and fulfilling my childhood dream. I came to find out that Americans wanted to learn about me as much as I wanted to learn about them. With a background in aerospace propulsion, I started my space career on the Space Shuttle External Tank Program continuing with Orion and still going today with OSAM-2. 

What is your favorite thing about working in aerospace?  

There are so many favorite things I like about working in aerospace. There is not a favorite. So, in no order or preference: space offers new and exciting technologies; [the opportunity] to test and handle critical flight hardware; [getting to] crawl in the space shuttle engine aft bay and confined entry in the external tank; supporting shuttle launches; and most of all, rubbing shoulders with down-to-earth astronauts.  

At Redwire, we celebrate heritage months to recognize the diverse voices and cultural backgrounds that represent the company’s employees and the accomplishments of a diverse team doing amazing work in the aerospace community. Without the influential contributions of AAPI employees, we would not be on the cusp of a new age of aerospace as we move forward in our mission to ensure humanity’s expanded presence in space.  

Read more about Redwire’s support of diversity and inclusion in the Arab American Heritage Month, Women’s History Month and Black History Month blogs. 

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