Squadron Leader Nikki Olsen was attracted to a military aviation career from an early age.
She was an exchange student in Thailand with a military family, lived near a base and went to a military school, which helped inspire her interest in joining Air Force.
After graduating, she was posted to RAAF Base Williamtown, followed by Darwin and East Sale, before taking up an instructor position at the School of Air Traffic Control.
She was later promoted to Squadron Leader and carried out the role of chief instructor.
“Being an instructor was a very rewarding experience,” Squadron Leader Olsen said.
“It was a real pleasure to watch students, who were initially having difficulty, grasp something for the first time and eventually succeed.”
In 2016, she was awarded the Chief of Air Force Instructor of the Year Award for innovative approaches to training and education.
Squadron Leader Olsen currently works for the Defence Aviation Safety Authority where she is executive officer in the Defence Flight Safety Bureau.
She has acquired the skills, experience and qualifications that auger well for a safety focus, including a PhD in Aviation Safety.
Squadron Leader Olsen is also a strong advocate for combining parenting and a military career, and in particular, breastfeeding and building a supportive environment for mothers in the Air Force.
Air Force is accredited as a breastfeeding friendly workplace – the first military organisation in the world to be achieve this.
“There have been a lot of great initiatives to make it better for women working in military aviation, including more targeted recruitment, support structures, policies that support mothers, and more recently, advances in flight and combat clothing,” she said.
“While there are still fewer women at the top-end than men, this is improving all the time.
“This has had a flow on effect to women-friendly policies and opportunities, as well as to women’s beliefs about where their career can go.
“It will be inspiring to one day be able to look at senior women aviators in our organisation and think ‘wow she has done some great things in her career and life – maybe one day that could be me’.”