Women in SaaS August Feature: Melissa Drake
Our “Women in SaaS” series is well underway. We’ve been extremely excited to meet with so many smart, accomplished women in SaaS, STEM and tech!
Earlier this week, we had a wonderful time speaking with Melissa Drake, Co-managing Director of the Phoenix Girls in Tech chapter and Career & Technical Educator for the Dysart School District. Melissa, whose background includes NASA, ON Semiconductor and Motorola, shared some wonderful insight into STEM, education and the what’s next for Girls in Tech.
Want to hear more about our “Women in SaaS” discussion? Take a look at an excerpt and the full video below:
Bolste: What woman inspires you and why?
MD: “My mom. I’d have to say my mom because she got her college degree when she was in her 60s, so I tell my students it’s never too late. If you really want to do something, just do it regardless of how old you are. So, I think she keeps me going. She’s still working until this day.”
Bolste: Here in the Phoenix Chapter of Girls in Tech, what are you doing specifically to help women succeed in STEM careers?
MD: So, various things. First of all, with middle school and high school, we’re trying to set up different workshops and the Microsoft Store is trying to help us with that. We’re setting up a different activity every month at the store that’s tech related, so I’m really excited about that. And then on the professional side, we’re also doing a speaker series. We just had one last month and it was four women from our board and one new member, so we all spoke during that event… It was more personal development. It wasn’t so much tech. The point being that they could do whatever they wanted in their life… don’t let anyone inhibit you. That was the biggest message. So again, we’re going to do that every month… we also have boot camps that provide specific training for specific needs.”
Bolste: What would you say the biggest challenge is for the generation of women left behind you?
MD: We still have a long way to go, as we’ve learned. And actually, that was an eye opener for me at the Catalyst Conference, that still only about 30% of us occupy tech jobs. That’s way too low. That’s another incentive that inspired Rebecca [Clyde] and I to get this chapter going, because it’s way too low. So, we need to do more… Many girls, when they’re in grade school or middle school, unless they have a class like mine or… a math teacher or science teacher that exposes them to different careers in technology, they don’t really know. And I tell all my students, “Look, you use technology every day— your phone, your computer— it’s all around us. You should have a career in that.” Why not? So, we definitely have more work to promote careers in tech.
Bolste: What advice would you give to someone trying to get into STEM, tech or software?
MD: Definitely if you’ve never tried to do anything in technology, try it, because you just never know. You may discover you like it, and that’s what I noticed when I started teaching engineering. I would get girls to come in and [I’d tell them to] “try it.” If you don’t like it, then you can change to something next year, but you have to try it. And honestly, the majority of the girls went on and pursued engineering degrees which makes me so happy. So, sometimes it just takes that— having them take a chance, and maybe they’ll discover they like it. So, doing more of that kind of thing. Exposing them to it.
VIEW THE FULL “WOMEN IN SAAS” LIVESTREAM DISCUSSION HERE: