Skyward’s Mariah Scott helps keep the drone company soaring by stressing the value of teamwork.
It started with a breakfast.
Seven years ago, Mariah Scott was living in Portland, OR, as a Senior VP at WebMD when a venture capitalist friend invited her out for a morning meeting. They had barely ordered when she pitched Mariah the idea of joining an early stage drone company called Skyward. “She said they needed someone who could build a business and deal with the hurdles of regulation,” Mariah said. “I knew I could do those things.”
What Mariah was not so familiar with at the time was drones, but as her friend described the mission of the young company, she recognized the scale of the opportunity. “It’s very rare in technology that you get a chance to enter a field that is so open and green, yet clearly has the potential to transform so many industries.” Mariah said she could see the future implications for how we access the world, deliver goods and even transport people.
Mariah joined Skyward as Chief Operating Officer, partnering with founding CEO and passionate aviator Jonathan Evans. Together, they raised funding and acquired more customers while specializing in helping businesses manage their drone fleets and improving the safety, efficiency and access to airspace. “Since I joined, we’ve grown from 20 to 100 people, with ten times the revenue, and added customers from UPS to major utilities, mining and media,” recalls Scott. “It’s been a fantastic ride.”
Joining the V Team
Verizon acquired Skyward in 2017, merging Skyward’s drone operations management platform with Verizon’s network, reliability and expertise in building enterprise solutions. “Verizon has been a terrific environment for us to work in,” said Mariah, now President of Skyward.
The marriage of the two companies continues to bear fruit, most recently at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. It was there that Mariah and CEO Hans Vestberg announced during his keynote speech that Skyward and UPS Flight Forward would begin working together to deliver retail products with drones connected to Verizon 4G LTE, as well as testing and integrating 5G for delivery.
“5G will unlock a lot of use cases,” explained Mariah. “It has the bandwidth to do video and data transfer in real time, which can be critical for everything from experiences related to live events to search and rescue, security and disaster response.” And the low latency of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network will help to move drones beyond individual, line-of-sight use to fleets of drones over longer distances, even across the country. But Mariah is quick to mention that none of that will be possible without the right network. “5G is the glue that holds it all together.”
Working as a woman in tech
Mariah knows women in tech who have had to deal with unfair treatment based on their gender. She counts herself lucky. “I grew up at Intel, where they had a meritocratic structure in place. I was fortunate to have managers who encouraged me to take risks. I was always able to find allies and find support. If you had good ideas and championed them, the sky was the limit.”
She also believes women get put off from taking on leadership roles due to perceptions of what a leader should look and sound like. “Women feel pressure to fit that classic CEO mold, the man — and it’s always a man — who knows all the answers,” said Mariah. “I think it’s ridiculous how the media often celebrates the CEOs of tech companies as individuals when it’s clearly not just one person on their own. They have a whole team of people working with them.”
Mariah credits her alma maters, Carleton College and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, for instilling in her the confidence to develop her own style as a leader. “I work really hard to lead by collaboration, to resist the idea that I should have all the answers or bring tablets down from the mountain,” she said. “It’s not hierarchical. It can’t be. The world is too complex. I’m there to harness the creative energy of the team and bring people together to a common goal.”
At the same time, Mariah stresses to young leaders that her way might not be right for them. “If you have what it takes to be that ‘rah, rah, rah’ person in front of the parade, great. But you don’t have to be that way. If you can collaborate with others, those models can also be very successful.”
Supporting the next generation of leaders
When Mariah isn’t thinking about drone services, she is volunteering as Board Chair of St. Mary’s Academy, the oldest continuously-operating secondary school in Oregon. “I’m proud that our mission is all about access and ensuring every girl who wants college prep can have that opportunity,” said Scott. “It puts girls in a supportive and collaborative environment where they can try leadership positions.”
Her advice for women starting their careers is the same advice she has for men. “Take risks! Be willing to take a job that might not be the straight ahead path if it gives you new responsibilities. I always looked for positions that felt interesting because I could gain new experience and learn. Taking those risks helped me to jump ahead.”
Mariah is continuing to pursue innovative projects at Skyward. “I love making ideas real, whether that’s a new team, or the energy of people coming together and making something and seeing it transform the business of one of our customers. That’s what powers me.”