Why A Self-Made Woman In Silicon Valley Goes To Work In A Hard Hat

Amira Polack Kespry Drones

This post originally appeared on http://www.forbes.com/sites/deniserestauri/2016/07/19/why-a-self-made-woman-in-silicon-valley-goes-to-work-in-a-hard-hat/.

[Editor’s Note: Amira Polack is the Director of Customer Service at Kespry. Kespry provides Automated Drone Systems for Aggregates, Construction, Insurance and Mining.]

This is Mentoring Moments (#35), a series of WOW-you-need-to-know-these stories from successful women of multiple generations. Mentoring Moments is now a podcast.

How does a 26-year-old Princeton grad who majored in Public and International Affairs, working at SAP in Global Corporate Affairs and headed to Harvard Business School end up in Silicon Valley wearing a hard hat and steel-toed boots, surrounded by drones and engineers? That’s what I asked Amira Polack, who is the Director of Customer Service at Kespry, a drone startup in Silicon Valley. This is Amira’s Mentoring Moment, in her words.

“Assignment No. 1: Buy a pair of steel-toed boots. Here, we have a hard hat for you,” my new manager Jeff instructs me, handing over the helmet, a twinkle in his eye.

It’s Day 1 at Kespry, a drone startup in the Bay Area. I know: so Silicon Valley, right? So, why is my initiation swag a hard hat and not a hoodie?

I have been tasked to build Kespry’s Customer Success team. This means on-boarding, training, supporting, and retaining clients. It means helping time-old industries like construction and mining adopt drones for capturing essential business data.
The juxtaposition strikes me: delivering a cutting-edge automated drone technology, but for very traditional needs like measuring rock piles and construction progress. For someone perfectly comfortable with experiencing the “real world” through a smartphone, it’s a new life perspective. I work with the builders of our roads, and the structures we live in. Engineers to my left, engineers to my right — of all types. My team is the glue in the middle.

This is what the hard hat is really for: keeping my head intact.

I find a mirror to make some adjustments — it seems a bit… oversized. I try it on, the lid looming large over my small face. I’ve never worn one of these things before, but in the moment I feel that actually, it’s a great look. My reflection has never been clearer: I’m here to build! It’s a watershed moment.

Am I an engineer? Nope. And as a 20-something millennial, a member of what most media calls the lazy, entitled, selfie, and “me me me” generation, why would I want to build anything, for anyone?

I believe in some way, we are all here to build something: to make, create, and bring things into the universe from nothing. You don’t have to be a founder, or a funder. You can be anyone. Write. Cook. Prototype. Sing. Craft. Invent. For people figuring out their path in life or looking to get to their “next level,” remember – put on your hard hat. Build something. You will feel great, and can do tremendous good.

Fear not if the hat seems too big. Just try it on. You may grow into it. Or if it truly doesn’t fit, there’s more where that came from. Take it from me: had a little bird told me a month before I started at Kespry I would be:

1. Building a team from scratch within a drone company

2. Training quadcopter operators at construction sites

3. Sporting a work uniform this hot (or not)

I never would have believed it. Few would. It’s a new role, new technology, and new application. But set the bells and whistles aside, and boil it down to: building, teaching, and getting my hands dirty? I say: Hell yeah. Helmet hair, here I come!

For more Mentoring Mentoring Moments – brutally honest stories about what women are dreaming about and what’s keeping them up at night — grab your earbuds and take a listen to my podcast.  

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