Katie Flash is a pro at connecting people in the drone industry
Tell us about yourself and your background.
I am a born and raised Long Islander. I went to a local state college called Stony Brook University with an interest in history and the thought of maybe going into teaching. In my sophomore year, I took Journalism 101 and really enjoyed it. Later that year, it became a major, so I switched from history to journalism. I ended up being part of the first class to graduate with a bachelor’s in journalism and was only one of seven people to do so.
How did you get started in the drone industry?
About a year and a half after graduating college, I started at BZ Media, a Long Island-based media company that had an online and print publication called SD Times. I began writing about software development and covered topics from security to agile development and application development. After a year of that, I was looking for something a bit more exciting and fortunately BZ Media was two-pronged in the sense they also had an event production side. A month later an opportunity opened on the events team and I became the conference coordinator. Over the course of 6 years, I moved up from coordinator to conference manager and conference program director. During that time, I spearheaded content creation for shows on SharePoint, Android development, wearables, big data, and finally drones in 2015 when InterDrone was launched.
Tell us about your organization and your role there.
Late last year, BZ Media sold InterDrone to Emerald Expositions, the largest tradeshow producer in North America. I came over to the company to continue my work on the program and its content with 4 days of sessions (a preconference day with full-day workshops and 3 days of panels, sessions and keynotes), there is a lot of work to be done! Last year, we had over 120 sessions taught by 220 speakers, but we can proudly say we offer the most comprehensive training program in the commercial drone industry.
What do you like most about being in the UAS industry?
Staying on top of the always-changing market and successful use cases. InterDrone started in 2015 when the industry almost felt like the wild west. It’s been exciting to watch it mature over the last few years and learn what works, what doesn’t and what are future opportunities.
What’s your favorite type of project and why?
I thrive under deadline, which I think is one reason why I liked journalism so much, so when I am tasked with something that needs to be done within a tight time limit, those are the moments I feel I do my best work. I am also a big cause and effect person, in that I feel really accomplished when something that was my idea, like a panel topic, packs out a room and I managed to successfully fill the panel with industry-leading experts.
Do you have a success story you would like to share?
The biggest feather in my cap was landing Michael Huerta, then admin of the FAA, as the Grand Opening Keynote at InterDrone 2016. I will never forget that day. I missed the call from someone at his office so I replayed the voicemail repeatedly because I couldn’t believe my ears. It took months of nurturing to get to that point, so I was over the moon when he accepted. He went on to keynote to a room with standing room only. It was definitely a prideful moment!
What excites you most about the potential for women in the industry?
The fact that we seem to be growing in numbers year over year. At the first InterDrone, we pioneered a special event called the Women in Drones Luncheon. We had a nice turnout of about 80 women, the next year that number doubled and last year there were even more. I can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring for the luncheon!
I also spend a lot of time rolling up my sleeves and seeking out panelists and speakers for the program, and I have definitely seen more women in higher level roles in the commercial drone industry, so it’s really amazing to see women securing these positions and succeeding in them.
What You’ve Learned:
What has been your most significant “lightbulb” moment since you entered the industry?
That drones are here to stay. I’ve been doing shows about technology for years now, many of which were just a passing fad (think Google Glass and wearables). When the idea of a drone show was first presented to me, I was a bit skeptical, but the applications for UAVs are so obvious and strong that there is nowhere for the technology to go, but up (no pun intended).
Is there a tip you learned you would like to share with other women in the industry?
Connect with groups that will raise you up. There are so many women in technology groups out there that are really good at empowering you and also offer a wealth of resources for continued networking beyond a conference.
What’s the best way for W&D readers to connect with you?
The Final Word:
Is there anything else you would like to share with the Women and Drones Community?
I would like to formally invite anyone reading this to attend InterDrone 2018, Sept. 5 – 7, at the Rio in Las Vegas, and more specifically to the Women in Drones Luncheon. It will take place for the fourth year in a row on Thursday, Sept. 6, from 12:15 pm – 1:30 pm. This special networking event is designed to encourage women at the show to connect with their peers as well as share their experiences and successes in the commercial drone industry. It’s truly a wonderful opportunity to meet others. I am also happy to offer an exclusive WOMENANDDRONES discount code for $100 off either a 3-Day PLUS Preconference Pass or a 3-Day Pass.
Have a class idea? The call for speakers is also open! Information on submitting a proposal can be found here: https://www.interdrone.com/conference/speaker-resources/.