Jillian Switzer says her work for AirMap helps drone businesses get off the ground
Tell us about your background:
I was born and raised in Dallas, TX, to parents from Dayton, OH. Looking back, it seems natural that I would end up in the aviation industry. Dallas is home to American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, and I spent many holidays at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base visiting the National Museum of the USAF. Suffice it to say, I was exposed to aviation early and often, benefiting from aviation as a service.
After attending college in New York City, I started my career in the technology sector, selling geo-location services at Google. Google Maps was just taking off as an enterprise product, and I developed the inside sales strategy for the U.S. While at Google, I also worked as an account manager for Google’s advertising products.
My work at AirMap blends my experience in mapping technology and marketing strategy.
How did you get started in the drone industry?
After 5 years at Google, I felt pulled towards something more social and I saw drones as an exciting and disruptive technology that would touch many lives. It’s easy to imagine a world in which my children grow up interacting with drones. They may not pilot the drones, but they’ll certainly be beneficiaries of services that drones can provide. Through my work at AirMap, I know that I am playing a part in building the infrastructure to support that ecosystem.
Tell us about your organization and your role there.
AirMap is an integrated airspace services platform for drones. Operators, manufacturers, developers, and airspace managers worldwide rely on AirMap’s airspace intelligence to fly safely and communicate with others in low-altitude airspace. As Director of Marketing, I work on brand development and go-to-market strategy to make AirMap the most accurate, reliable, and trusted provider of Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) by our customers worldwide.
What do you like most about being in the UAV industry?
My favorite part about being in the UAV industry is how fast it’s growing and evolving. Low-altitude airspace has very little existing infrastructure, so AirMap is in a truly greenfield space. That makes every day an opportunity to imagine and build the future.
What’s your favorite type of project and why?
My favorite projects are those in which I get to work with AirMappers across all departments – product, business development, policy, and communications. Launching automated airspace authorization on the AirMap mobile apps through LAANC earlier this fall was a great example of a multi-year project that involved deep collaboration with every member of the AirMap team.
Do you have a success story you would like to share?
While LAANC is only in its prototype phase, it’s a huge success story for U.S. airspace. By developing a technology solution that makes authorization in controlled airspace easy, efficient, and secure, AirMap is helping more commercial operators get their drone businesses off the ground.
What excites you most about the potential for women in the industry?
I’m excited to see what new and amazing applications for drones emerge in the years to come. As in any industry, when people of different backgrounds work together on a challenge, the result is the innovative, empathetic, and smart solutions.
What’s your current favorite drone to fly?
I’m faithful to my very first drone, a Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K. It’s how I learned to fly!
What You’ve Learned:
What has been your most significant “lightbulb” moment since you entered the industry?
Coming from the corporate tech world, I expected joining a start-up would bring with it a lot of the same cultural norms that I experienced at Google. But the drone world is part tech, part aviation, part robotics, part defense, part consumer electronics, part sport, part government, and more. The breadth and depth of expertise across industries has enabled a level of collaboration that I didn’t expect, but have really enjoyed being a part of.
What have you learned you wish you had known when you got started?
Because I came from the software world, I found the “UAV industry” a little intimidating early on. Of course, as I got more comfortable in my role at AirMap and in the industry, I realized that there are many beginners in this field. In a way, it is kind of the norm.
Is there a tip you learned you would like to share with other women in the industry?
Share what’s working with others. Because the UAV industry is still quite young and evolving quickly, there’s a huge opportunity to glean on-the-job insights from other drone professionals in a way that drives the whole industry forward.
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