Meet Gwynne Shotwell, the woman who really runs SpaceX for Elon Musk

  • Gwynne Shotwell seems to run the show at Elon Musk's SpaceX.

  • She oversees most of the rocket company's central business, per an org chart from The Information.

  • Here's everything we know about the SpaceX president and COO.

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell appears to be calling the shots at Elon Musk's company.

While Musk is the CEO and public face of the aerospace company, Shotwell handles nearly every team internally, according to an org chart reviewed by The Information.

Shotwell has 21 direct reports to Musk's four and oversees most of SpaceX's central business, including the teams working on Starlink, Falcon, and Starship.

One former SpaceX employee, Vincent Peters, told Business Insider that Shotwell "is the singular most important person within SpaceX outside of Elon."

"She moves the needle for employee morale and customer confidence in SpaceX and serves as an azimuth within the company as priorities evolve," he added.

Shotwell was one of SpaceX's earliest employees. Here's everything we know about the powerful SpaceX president.

Early life

Shotwell was born in 1963 and raised in Illinois. She is the daughter of a brain surgeon and an artist and has two sisters, according to an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

An A-student in high school, she later gained an MSc in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics from Northwestern University.

She told the LA Times she developed an early interest in machines. This evolved into a career in the automotive field before moving into the aerospace industry.

One of the first SpaceX employees

Shotwell was the 11th person hired by SpaceX.

She joined the company in 2002 as vice president of business development following a stint at spacecraft developer Microcosm.

Shotwell told the LA Times in 2013: "I knew early on if these guys [at SpaceX] couldn't make it in the space industry, nobody will. If we hadn't achieved success, I was willing to leave the aerospace industry altogether and go sell real estate or something. Fortunately, that didn't happen."

Over her 22 years at SpaceX, Shotwell has risen through the ranks to become COO and president, making her one of the most important figures.

SpaceX building in Florida
A SpaceX facility in Florida.Eva Marie Uzcategui

Secret to SpaceX's success

Shotwell has long been rumored to pull the strings at SpaceX.

For much of her time at the company, she has overseen its operations and sales while Musk has focused on developing the technology. Investors have praised the pair's partnership and credit it with much of SpaceX's success.

Peters, founder of Inheritance AI, told BI that Shotwell was the "cornerstone of consistency and continuity at SpaceX" amid "Elon's involvement in his entities outside of SpaceX."

He said Shotwell's leadership style was "between transformational leadership and democratic leadership," adding she was extremely approachable to all employees.

SpaceX has about 13,000 employees in California, Texas, and Florida.

The COO has 21 direct reports, while Musk has only four. Shotwell also oversees most of SpaceX's central business, including the teams working on Starlink, Falcon, and Starship.

According to Forbes, Shotwell has an estimated stake in SpaceX of less than 1%.

It seems she enjoys getting hands-on at times:

Relationship with Elon Musk

Shotwell has said she enjoys working for Musk and previously praised the billionaire's management style.

"I love working for Elon," she said in a 2018 TED Talk.

"He's funny, and fundamentally, without him saying anything, he drives you to do your best work. He doesn't have to say a word. You just want to do great work," she told the audience.

Elon Musk SpaceX
Elon Musk near a Falcon 9 rocket at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California in 2018.David McNew/Getty Images

Shotwell has come to Musk's defense on numerous occasions, most recently over claims about his conduct with female SpaceX workers.

In response to some of the claims in a Wall Street Journal report, she said: "I continue to be amazed by what this extraordinary group of people are achieving every day, even amidst all the forces acting against us. And Elon is one of the best humans I know."

Shotwell was also mentioned in the Journal report after one employee claimed the COO had accused her of having an affair with her husband.

Representatives for SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BI.

Read the original article on Business Insider