Women And Drones: An Interview with Sharon Rossmark
BY Zacc Dukowitz17 July 2017
Recently we had the opportunity to interview Sharon Rossmark, the founder and CEO of Women And Drones. If you haven’t heard of W&D, they’re doing some really inspiring work in the industry to support women who are leading the charge forward, providing networking opportunities and a platform for women to tell their stories.
About Women And Drones
Women And Drones was created to help raise the profile of women in the UAS industry.
“We come from different backgrounds. Our common bond is that we all have a thing for drones. We knew there were more of you out there so we set up this meeting place. We feature stories about women from around the world who are doing exciting things in the UAS Industry.”
Check out the stories section of their website to read inspiring accounts of women who are working to transform the drone industry.
About Sharon Rossmark
Sharon Rossmark is an FAA certified drone pilot and the founder and CEO of Women And Drones.
In addition to her work with W&D, for the last few years Sharon has served as the COO for Aerovista Innovations, a UAV firm that provides aerial mapping and imagery solutions (and a UAV Coach partner for our Intro to Aerial Thermography course).
Prior to her work in the UAS industry Sharon had an extensive and successful career in other business sectors, primarily in insurance and financial services.
UAV Coach: Please describe what Women And Drones does in one short sentence.
Sharon Rossmark: The primary mission of Women And Drones (W&D) is to share positive images of women in the industry, inspiring others, and highlighting those already making major contributions to the emerging drone economy around the world.
UAV Coach: Fill us in on the history of W&D. What first led to its creation, and how has it changed since then?
Sharon Rossmark: The idea for W&D came to me in July of 2016.
I was completing forms for an upcoming industry panel and realized I did not know any of the other women on the panel. As I searched online for information about the other panelists, little to no information was available about their experience in the UAS industry. I thought it would be great to have a community for women to connect, inspire, and encourage one another. Thus the launch of Women And Drones.
Our multimedia platform features online and audio podcast interviews and will soon feature videocasts. Shortly after our launch, the audience and interview subjects expanded beyond women in the United States to women around the globe. We have featured women in the industry who live in Australia, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Poland.
We recently launched a partnership with Women in Aviation International (WAI.org). The Women And Drones network can join WAI at a discounted rate, receive full membership benefits, and become part of the WAI sisterhood.
WAI and W&D are both global organizations, and the opportunity to participate in local and regional WAI events exposes the W&D community to the broader aviation arena.
UAV Coach: It seems like your work with W&D touches almost all aspects of the drone industry. What are your favorite parts of the work you do, and why?
Sharon Rossmark: What I enjoy about working in an emerging industry are that the challenges and the unknowns combine to make each day interesting.
I would categorize my favorite parts into several areas. I love the strategic and creative development process of taking an idea from concept to the marketplace. And, I love the connectivity with the aviation and robotics communities. My passion is driven by working as a change agent to educate the public about the capabilities of drones and being an ambassador encouraging more women to join us in this evolving industry.
UAV Coach: You’ve been active in the business world for quite a while. What drew you to working with drones specifically?
Sharon Rossmark: Having worked the majority of my career in insurance and financial services, the opportunity to apply my executive and business experience in a completely “blue sky” arena was intriguing.
I am fascinated by the potential of the “flying robot” technology and the possible applications for so many industries. I’ve always loved aviation, but education and life took me in a different direction for the first part of my career. Now, in the second act of my life, it’s great to take on the challenge of a new journey.
UAV Coach: What drone(s) do you fly and what camera(s) do you use?
Sharon Rossmark: Right now my drone of choice is the DJI Mavic Pro. I love the compact design with the collapsible rotor arms, which makes portability easy. I carry the DJI Mavic Pro just about everywhere I go, just in case there’s an opportunity to fly.
UAV Coach: We love that the W&D website has a STEM/STEAM section section [STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics; STEAM adds Art to the other four disciplines]. Can you tell us more about the work you do to support young women in learning these skills, and why you think it’s important?
Sharon Rossmark: While the primary focus of the site promotes success stories and images of women in our industry, it is also about putting an emphasis on STEM and digital literacy in education.
The STEM/STEAM initiative came about at the request of the Women And Drones community. We started receiving inquiries to feature STEM/STEAM programs for girls. Our partnership with Women In Aviation International will help further our efforts through their Girls In Aviation programming.
Many in the Women And Drones community will participate in the various Girls In Aviation activities being held around the globe on September 23, 2017. Our work in this arena is growing as we continue to receive requests to participate in drone educational events.
We know that the career pipeline starts as early as elementary school, therefore, collectively, we must focus on encouraging our youth, especially young girls to develop an interest in STEM. Our efforts at W&D are aligned to support the pipeline to develop and encourage young women to pursue STEM/STEAM fields.
UAV Coach: You must have heard some inspiring stories through your work at W&D. Can you share one of your favorites?
Sharon Rossmark: Picking one would be like picking which child is your favorite.
What resonates with our audience are the incredible insights shared within each woman’s journey. My favorite part of sharing each story is the feedback we receive about how a story has encouraged someone to stay the course or broaden their efforts.
The global aspect of our reach has become a conduit for women to connect with others in a different part of the world who they would not have otherwise met. We also hear from men who are thrilled to have positive role models of women within the industry to share with their daughters.
UAV Coach: What excites you most about the potential for women in the industry? This year you launched the “Women To Watch In UAS” initiative. What was the impetus for the initiative and when will the winners be announced?
Sharon Rossmark: Shortly after launching Women And Drones we started receiving feedback about how reading another woman’s story was inspiring others to find their own way.
The more emails we received the more we knew the site was striking all the right chords with our audience. The “Women To Watch” global initiative came about as a way to further our mission of identifying women in the industry who are making an impact.
The recognition is designed to acknowledge and motivate women who are driving change. The selection committee is wrapping up their votes and finalists in each category will be announced in September. The 2017 “Women to Watch” list will be featured on WomenAndDrones.com and Drone360mag.com and in the September/October print issue of Drone 360 Magazine.
UAV Coach: What are your predictions for the drone industry? Please feel free to answer at length (what you see way down the road, what you see for next year, where you see regulations headed in the U.S. and/or elsewhere, new applications, etc.).
Sharon Rossmark: I’ll offer three that may not be on the usual list of industry predictions:
- To further develop the UAS industry: Women will become a major part of the UAS ecosystem, changing the paradigm about women in pilot and leadership roles!
- In the near future: As the drone market matures, for companies with drone operations, risk management practices will take on a more prominent role within their organizations. Demonstration of an investment in safety management procedures will be critical to the financial well-being of a company
- Down the road: Flying to work in an autonomous passenger drone will become a reality by 2030.
Want to learn more about women working with drones? Check out this video W&D created, showcasing nine women who are making a big impact in the drone industry: