From taking to the skies to shooting for the stars

After starting out as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Australian Air Force, Dr Jordan Plotnek took advantage of South Australia’s booming space industry, and sky-rocketed toward a career in space cyber security.

Jordan’s days are now spent democratising their knowledge and expertise as a Senior Lecturer and Researcher at UniSA, and as Critical Infrastructure Lead and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for veteran-owned professional services firm, Anchoram Consulting.

Growing up, Jordan’s curiosity for wireless communications piqued at the drive-in theatre.

“I was amazed that our car radio delivered the sound to match the screen. I’d ask my parents to test how far we could drive away from the screen before the sound cut out. The fact that it was completely wireless and just travelling over the air felt like some sort of magic.” said Dr Plotnek.

With that fascination for telecommunications firmly in place, Jordan later embarked on a Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering degree with a major in IT Security. Part way through, Jordan also earned a Defence University Scholarship seeing them move to Adelaide to become an officer in the Royal Australian Air Force.

“I was posted to 462 Squadron which allowed me to do some amazing work. As part of a relatively new Information Assurance team, we were responsible for helping to build out the cyber capability of the Air Force.” Plotnek recalls. “While we could do some of the work remotely, we visited every unit in Australia including those deployed in the Middle East and Malaysia. When it comes to cyber, vulnerability often starts in the people and processes rather than the technology.”

After an eight-year career in the Defence Force that saw them lead the first ever Royal Australian Air Force Cyber Deployment into the Middle East, Jordan turned sights toward South Australia’s space industry. With more than 100 space-related organisations already calling Adelaide home, South Australia is fast cementing a position as a hub for space industry development.

“The Australian Space Agency launched in South Australia, and so many opportunities to work in the space industry opened up,” Jordan reflected. “The military ingrained in me a strong work ethic that I felt I could now deploy into one of the most exciting industries out there.”

Jordan’s career sees two domains – space and cyber – collide together. Both are not only critically important on a global level but can also be exploited by actors across the world.

Any given week may see Dr Plotnek writing a paper on the latest space security threats, developing new UniSA master’s degree curriculums, or consulting to space and critical infrastructure companies to help build their cyber resilience.

While working in two roles certainly keeps Jordan busy, after a military life where travel and deployments saw them spend a lot of time away, there is a sense of balance that can be applied in Jordan’s new place in the world. Strict time set aside for family and the lifestyle that comes with Adelaide living providing opportunities that had previously not been accessible.

Yet working in South Australia’s space industry remains as exciting as it sounds.

Jordan explained, “Space isn’t just about the stars and satellites. The learnings and technology born in the space industry are found in our everyday. Infrastructure such as banking, our trains, electricity – they all rely on space systems. Space and cyber security are not just interesting, they are both absolutely critical.”

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