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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Zyola is Shooting for the Stars!

 Friday's Fabulous Flyer 

Zyola T. Mix

Zyola is a single mother, divorced, and recovered from being on public assistance and poverty. She is now working successfully as an engineer in her dream field of Aerospace. If you recognize Zyola, that might be because she was a Friday Flyer in June, 2010. At the time she was living so many struggles, and six years later... just look at her soar! 

She was recently invited to be a part of the Global Minded Education conference in June, which focuses on increasing the diversity in education by taking into account the social and economic barriers that play a role in access and equity. She was recommended for the conference because a woman attended a keynote speech that Zyola gave to economically disadvantaged families and learned what an amazing woman she is.

Imagine, a single mom attending school full time, pursuing a demanding engineering degree, while working, and she graduated with honors, while simultaneously giving back to the community, and without the benefit of family to help!  Zyola now holds a coveted engineering job, recently applied to be a NASA astronaut and still is managing to give back to the community, while pursuing a master's degree.

Zyola is such an amazing woman! Enjoy her share her story...

"Since graduation in December 2013, I have been volunteering at events designed to inspire kids and families to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics as hobbies and careers. I've also been sharing my story which has resonated further than I expected. I have given keynote addresses at two high school events, and once at conference for social workers focused on helping women and children recover from domestic violence. 

In February of 2014, CBS broadcast  
an interview of me just after I graduated. 

I was being noted as a "Game Changer," and someone who had overcome challenges and was making a true difference. Of note was a senior project I did where I developed an economical Solar Furnace, installed it in low income housing and showed the community how to make more for under $20 each. This would allow the community to also build their own income by constructing and selling the furnace. 

In 2015, I was named by the League of Women Voters as a "2015 Woman to Watch" based on nominations from Metropolitan State University of Denver, and a couple assistance programs within the city and County I live. Things they felt were worth recognizing is my personal drive to break down barriers, work hard, stay positive and succeed in the face of what some would feel are extreme circumstances

My story of success from domestic violence, through public assistance and school and eventually to a dream job are used often when these organizations talk with politicians at legislative sessions. As such, I have drawn the positive nods of several local politicians as well.

In April of 2014, I started working as a Mechanical Design Engineer at aerospace company SEAKR Engineering, Inc. I have designed systems that fly on satellites and on the International Space Station now. I can honestly say that something that once existed only in my imagination is now functioning IN SPACE.  That's exciting!

Twice, I have been asked to lead a group of women to share and introduce families to aerospace at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science event "Girls and Science." This event brings women working in STEM fields into direct contact with families to not only only show that women exist in these jobs, but also that we are still human. Parents and community members are invited to ask us questions about the challenges if any we faced and how we handled them. The first year, nearly 7000 people attended the event, and this past March 5th, over 11,500 people attended, with the aerospace clubhouse being the most successful.

I have also been active in my daughter's school in advocating for our culture to be recognized as a real culture and not just a decoration. This has gained me the attention and respect of school district personnel.

Through this all, I returned to school to pursue a masters degree and remained an advocate for disadvantaged and under-valued women and children.

When asked how I fared after the divorce: I have been honest. It was hard. Harder than I told anyone. There were more days than I can count that I didn't eat so that my daughter could. There were more days I cried than anyone will ever know. There were more days I fought the lull of becoming bitter, angry and destitute. Those were the easy choices. The hard choice was to be positive, get up every morning, get dressed and keep moving toward a future that was uncertain and often times looked worse.

When asked how I handled working with mostly men, and mostly white men: I had to accept it. It was a reality and I couldn't change it. They weren't going to change for me. Not immediately anyway. But at the same time, most of the men I worked with were like anyone else. Some immature, some enlightened and some just rude.


Culture was something I temporarily lost as I worked to figure out how to navigate the field, but I never forgot it. I kept friends outside of work and school. I shared my feelings with close family and friends who could just let me vent. But honestly, some days I hated it. Not because everyone was male or white, but because I was also still recovering emotionally from a horribly failed marriage. My frustration with men was often seen as racial and sexual when in fact it was baggage due to a lack of trust and extreme distaste for being "ordered' or "subjugated." That was just more on top of just working in a white male dominated field.

When asked what advice I would give others: It's hard, but not impossible. It will feel that way, and that's okay. But it will pass. It may take years. I cried. I wailed. I was alone with only my daughter and my shattered dreams. I believed the universe conspired against me, but somehow I never gave up all hope. If you feel hope is gone, take a step back, call a true friend. 

One of my favorite sayings is ....

"Never destroy someone's hope.
It may be all they have."


I truly believe that. People and circumstances have worked hard to destroy my hope and dreams. There are still many who pray for my downfall or refuse to acknowledge my successes. They'll never go away. All I can do is keep trying and that's really all anyone else in my situation can do. Keep trying, keep learning and keep trying again.

Honestly, I don't know why my story appeals to so many. I had a rough life and I have fought through many challenges, but there are others who have done just as much or have had other struggles that I would never wish on anyone.

The Huffington Post felt my story of survival, struggle and success in a STEM field was inspiring. I just feel I'm doing what I need to do to keep moving forward. I have dreams and only I can do them. "

Zyola T. Mix
Aerospace Systems Engineer
"Giving lift to the wings of dreamers and explorers."

Take a moment and read the Huffington Post article on Zyola! She is one of the most amazing women I know, and I am so proud of how far she has come with her life. She is the essence of what happens when you don't give up. I know one day she will be in space, and she promised to bring me a moon rock!

Keep flying strong! 
 There is nothing that can stop you...
Not even gravity!
Enjoy the Journey!!
XOX Karlene 


  1. Ofcourse I remember Zyola, she is some fighter!
    She is the person that proved that if you want something bad enough and fight for it, you can reach that goal.
    She's a great example for us all!

    1. Yes, she is so awesome. We all connected at the same time, and it's been so much fun watching her success. She is amazing. Thank you for your comment!

  2. Just when you thought Karlene couldn't surprise you with another inspiring out!! Wow, what a lady. What an inspiration! Thank you for sharing!

  3. What an absolute inspiration! So proud of you Ms. Mix!


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