Silicon Valley Alumna presents at Grace Hopper Celebration

Kat Quelle

Oct 15, 2018

For many people, space operations still seem like something out of the future, but Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley alumna Işil Demir works with spacecraft software every day. Demir graduated with an M.S. in software engineering and now leads the Missions Software team at Planet, an Earth imaging company based in San Francisco, CA. On Friday, September 28, Demir presented at the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration, an annual conference for female technologists. Along with two colleagues from Planet, she helped lead a workshop called “Not Your Mom’s Mission Control: Satellite Automation at Scale.”

At Planet, Demir designs ground software and mission control systems for the company’s satellites in order to fully automate their operations. She says it is “quite different from a traditional Mission Control” because Planet only has a handful of satellite operators, who cannot control the company’s hundreds of satellites without automating their processes. Demir’s Grace Hopper presentation was based on her untraditional approach to building a mission control environment. She helped create a game in which the workshop attendees had to figure out how to invent agile interspace–an information infrastructure–and automate hundreds of satellites, just like Demir and her colleagues had to do in real life.


This was Demir’s second time at the Grace Hopper Celebration, but it was her first time presenting. Of the conference, Demir says, “It is an amazingly empowering event,” and that it is refreshing to attend a conference in technology not dominated by men. Demir also commented on the conference’s diversity and how it has connected her with women from all over the world. She thinks the event is especially empowering and encouraging for young women in technology and she was honored to present alongside so many other accomplished women. 

Currently, Demir is working to improve satellite automation at Planet, which includes integrating its recently acquired new brand of spacecraft. She enjoys the challenge of designing a completely automated system that can handle the scheduling, tasking, and operation of many different types of satellites, something that no other company has done before.


Those are the skills that CMU taught me that now enable me to be where I am today.

Işil Demir, Alumna , Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley

Demir noted how instrumental her Carnegie Mellon education has been to her success. Before studying in Silicon Valley, Demir worked for a software engineering start-up in her home country, Turkey, and she says that CMU helped prepare her to interview for and take jobs in the United States. Demir also says her education gave her a strong background in agile software, software craftsmanship, and various other fundamental principles that drive industry in Silicon Valley. According to Demir, “Those are the skills that CMU taught me that now enable me to be where I am today.”