ABOVE PHOTO: Shari Williams (Photo: Shari Williams)
I had the pleasure to sit down with a phenomenal woman who is blowing my mind with the newest passion in her life — flying drones. Shari Williams — also known as the “Goddess of Drones” — shared how this technology will change our future, including right here in the city of Philadelphia.
SUN: What got you involved in drones?
SW: A girlfriend came to me, and she asked me to meet for lunch at Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting and while we were there, she wanted to talk to me about something that advocates for STEM. I was simply interested in eating and then shoe shopping at Macy’s next door. After a while, my friend began asking me questions about what drones are and what they can be used for and finally she got my attention. We relocated back to my home and went down in a field area, and she pulled out a box. As she put the box down in the grass, I began watching her pull out this thing and I asked, ‘What is that?’ and she said, ‘It’s a drone.’ Then she pulled out the controller and she cranked it up and it went up in the sky. She reminded me that I was a professional model and asked, ‘Wouldn’t you like a camera in the sky?’ I said, ‘Absolutely! You mean I can take pictures from the sky of me?’. …I felt that this was the coolest thing ever. She [then]started snapping pictures of me.
SUN: What did you learn in that experience that day with your friend?
SW: In learning how to handle the drone, she put my hands gently on the sticks and showed me how to maneuver the sticks as you have to be really gentle with this. And so that very first day, I got a feel of the joy sticks and I am like ‘Oh my God, this is so cool!’ Then she directed me the whole time and showed me how to fly the drone up, spin it around, and she showed me the button to snap the picture. So, I was like, ‘this is a game changer.’ We went back to my house and downloaded the pictures we took earlier. After conversations, I then committed to take a Saturday class for eight weeks. I got my license and became a pilot.
SUN: How has that experience allowed you to move into your new life as the “Goddess of Drones”?
SW: After becoming a pilot, I was asked to answer questions during a class and that afforded me the opportunity to become an instructor. My friend wanted to work with me, because she knew I was the type of person she felt warm around. She felt love, she felt excited, and I was always encouraging other people to do their best. She was supportive of my events, and due to that and my warm spirit, she wanted to open an opportunity up for me and that is how it all evolved. I worked for her company for a while and was hired as her main instructor and [for] my first teaching gig. Out of that contract, we [taught] six cohorts of students with 10 students per class along. … then I realized that I have my own company, Shari Williams Enterprises, LLC. I started promoting it and saying that I am an instructor and that this is the new cutting-edge tool that everyone will need.
SUN: How have you been able to give back since you began this new venture in your life?
SW: So now I have private students that come to me and I teach them. We do it either virtually or in-person. I hire pilots that I [have] previously taught on that very first contract and I work with some of those pilots right now. So, I am able to reach back and grab some of those folks and say, ‘Hey, come on, I have an opportunity for you…’ which makes me feel so good.
SUN: How have you been able to expose the new cutting-edge tool drones to the youth?
SW: For my very first summer camp, which was [held] last summer, I did a project with an organization right here in Cobbs Creek. That was an eight-week program and I really, truly enjoyed it. It was a four-track program; we called it “Visual Communications.” Some of the other kids in the other programs wanted to be in the drone program, [but] they were not able to due to the other programs that they were involved in.
The camp was so successful we turned out one pilot. He’s now in college, and is now a pilot. I sent him his drone a few months ago, as he is in a new school and needed to get settled. So, when he comes home for the summer, I will hire him for our drone camp.
SUN: What is your program structure? How can someone benefit learning about drones?
SW: There was a pilot program in the city of Wilmington, Delaware and I was the lead instructor. The project was for 14 weeks with 10 students in the class. Five of the students have already passed — they are pilots, [and] they passed with high scores like 83, 95, 85 — and one student got a 70. You need a 70 to pass, so he passed.
These students will go on and they will help them with entrepreneurship, [obtaining] a summer job, and an internship. Besides that, I have my own private students that I teach on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and we do that virtually. [During] the flying portion, I hire my pilots that I have already taught and trained, and they teach the new pilots how to fly the drones. So I am always reaching back out to the pilots that I have already trained.
SUN: What has been the outcome of your journey as the “Goddess of Drones”?
SW: So far, the outcome for me has been phenomenal, being able to touch people and help them learn something new, especially when I didn’t even have confidence in myself when I was learning it. So now I can say to them, ‘you can do this — I did it, you can do this. I did it in my 50s.’ Giving them that confidence in knowing that they can do it and really having them count on me to teach them the information, that really sits so good with me. And when a student is struggling and they are like, ‘I am not getting this; can we review this?’ [I respond], ‘Absolutely! Because my goal is to make sure you win.’
SUN: What are the ages of the students?
SW: The ages of the students range from 13 all the way up to 75 years old.
SUN: How can people find you?
SW: People can find me at the goddess of drones on Instagram. They can also find me at Shari Williams Enterprises, LLC on Facebook, Shari Williams at just my personal page on Facebook, and on Twitter as Shari Williams as well. I am not hard to find and I am out there — you can Google me, I am accessible. If you want to call me to talk about drones, I will talk to you, ask me any question you want to ask, and I will share the knowledge of how drones can help change your life and the world.
Be on the lookout for Shari Williams — she is going to change the thought process of what a drone is and about what one is going to be able to do with drones right here in Philadelphia and the surrounding Tri-State area. Get ready for real change to take place! What is that in the sky? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a drone! Until next time…. PEACE!
cj is a poet, educator, motivational speaker, and inspirational writer who resides in Philadelphia. If you were moved by this piece, shoot cj a ‘like’ or comment at [email protected].