Meet Kailey (my sis)! She’s got a lot to say, and does a pretty cool job now…even if I have no idea what it is she ACTUALLY does. ha.


Name Kailey Draves
Age 26
Career/Business/Art Aerospace Engineering
Title (If applicable) Production Support Engineer
Location Grand Rapids, Michigan
Website/Social Media aerogirl12 – Instagram
Degrees B.S. Aerospace Engineering
Schools University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign



List three fun facts about yourself. 

1) I love playing music. I am in a concert band in the suburbs of Grand Rapids that meets every week and plays throughout the community. I play the trumpet and piano.

2) Since moving out the Grand Rapids, I have been here for 3.5 years, I have totaled 3 cars. Two of these cars have been VW Beetles and I have earned myself the nickname “The Exterminator” at work. (I promise only 1 of the 3 accidents were my fault!)

3) I am an avid college football fan. Every Saturday, in the fall you, can find me glued to the TV watching the Fighting Illini take on their weekly opponent. Yes, I know the Illini are in a dry spell. I grew up a Cubs fan, what can I say, I am used to it.

Tell us about your beginning. Where did you start, who were you “back in the day”.

I grew up the youngest of two in a small farm town northwest of Chicago. I was your typical know it all kid. I did every activity known to man: band, orchestra, hip-hop (my shortest and worst activity choice), Student Council, National Honors Society, Math Team, Volleyball.

I went to college with high hopes. I was going get my degree in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Physics and a pre-law designation, so I could go to law school and get a position in space policy. I was also going to get an awesome GPA my first semester and petition to be an honors student. All of this was going to happen while I was a Trumpet in the Marching Illini. SPOILER ALERT. I achieved one of these things, my AE degree.

College was to this day, the hardest thing I have done. I went from a small school with a graduating class of 200 to single classes of 350+. It was a rude awakening. The saying about being a big fish in a small pound has never rung truer for me. I muddled through my freshman year, trying to stay afloat in classes with people way smarter than me. Things that were a review for most kids in my lectures were brand new to me. For those that are STEM inclined, I dont think I ever directly learned what a vector was. It was always just a review, like I was supposed to know what it was already.

Sophomore year, everything hit the fan. I was taking a high credit hour load, classes weren’t even remotely a review anymore. I tried so hard to keep up with school, band, friends, and other organizations. Emphasis on TRY….I did not. That semester I walked away completely defeated. I got  C’s and D’s and landed on academic probation. What a punch to the gut, right? This was a huge turning point for me, though. I learned about resources available to me in my department, met so many amazing classmates because I was spending time in my department’s lab way more, and got the help I needed. I even made one of my hardest choices as a young adult, quit marching band. The next 2.5 years went much smoother. I was able to focus on my classes more and still got to play in other ensembles. Dont get me wrong college was still suuuper hard, but it went much smoother after that terrible semester. I was able to graduate on time and with my friends! I-L-L

After college I got a job at a small company in northern Illinois. It was a great first job, but nothing like what I envisioned my post college life to look like. After one year there I was offered a job in West Michigan doing something much more in tune with what I was looking for.

Tell us about who you are today. What are you doing and why are you doing it.

Today, I am a production support engineer for a defense contractor in West Michigan. I work on a giant 12 cylinder diesel engine that is used in tanks in the US Military. It is a far cry from building rockets, which is what I went to school for, but right now I absolutely love it. When I graduated college, I had this image of going to work in a power suit with heals every day. Kicking ass and taking names. Let me tell you, that is far from what I do every day. My day to day looks much more like me in greasy khakis, with steel toe shoes, and my hair up hunched over a hot engine trying to troubleshoot problems. I unquestionably love it!
I have never thought about my “why”. I guess you could say I am doing this because I love it. Science has always been something I loved and when I found out what engineering was, I jumped on board with that. I want to make a difference through engineering.

What’s your favorite part of your job/business/career?

My favorite part of my career is getting to do what I love. I have always wanted to be an engineer, so being able to do that is fantastic. There is something incredibly exhilarating seeing your ideas and solutions work and being implemented. You spend hours trying to get a model to work or a problem fixed and then finally it runs beautifully. There is nothing quite as satisfying as that.
Actually, just kidding, my favorite part is saying I am a rocket scientist. hahaha

What is your “why”? Why do you do what you do and show up everyday?

My why is pretty generic, but I love what I do. Going to work is fun for me. I love problem solving and making an impact on something. What I do matters. I also have a desire to keep pusing forward in my career. I won’t be able to move forward if I don’t succeed and focus on the now.

What advice do you have for women trying to do what you do?

Show up ready to go. Don’t let anyone’s opinion but your own matter. You CAN do it. You ARE meant to be there. There are going to be hard days. Sometimes you’ll feel alone or that you can’t do it. You can though! Also, find a group of people that are in the same boat as you. Other females in your job, even if not the same position. Stay in touch with girls from college. Join a group outside of work that has people in your niche. If you have a great support system with people who get it, it is not as hard.

What advice do you have young women trying to figure out their path in life?

Try so many things! You want to spend your life doing things you love. To know what you love, you must do things you hate first. Many of you know my sister is a dancer, well, because of that I decided I was going to be a hip-hop dancer in middle school. I quickly figured out I wasn’t one and that is something that doesn’t make me happy.

Also, don’t shut any doors. Whether that is making sure you do well in school, even though you know you’re going to be a musician and won’t need to take derivatives or supporting that person you met once at a conference. You never know where life is going to take you, having every option available will make things a tad bit easier in the end.

What future plans do you have? What are you looking forward to most.

Long term, I still plan to chase my dream of building rockets and being in mission control for a launch. That is what I have dreamed of since I was at least 10 and I am well on my way to getting there. I would also like to get my MBA and move up in my career to a manager of people or projects. I am really looking forward to where my career will take me, or more where I will take my career.

I also want to have an impact in the STEM world. I spent a lot of time in college promoting STEM work to high schoolers and it was so fulfilling. I also had the opportunity to work 2 summers at a Girls Adventures in Math Engineering and Science camp. Seeing middle school and high school girls be excited about STEM was awesome. I want to find an outlet for this in my professional life. This could be a STEM blog, working with schools and organizations, or being a resource for others. I don’t have this part of my life mapped out completely yet, but it something I want to get to.

Any last comments on today’s social environment for women? Any other items you’d like to share?

Keep going and chasing your dreams! You got this. Things are slowly changing and YOU can make them change quicker.

My first guest blogger is Janelle! Janelle and I go way back to high school and bonded in art class. She’s now a podcast host, artist, and education coordinator!

Also, don’t forget to check out her art even “Oh, Yes She Did” this winter. She talks about it more below, but both my dance company Avant + Garde Dance Company, and some of my personal work will be there.

Without further ado, here is Janelle O’Malley!


Name Janelle O’Malley
Age (If comfortable) 31
Career/Business/Art Artist,  Education Coordinator for Rockford Art Museum, and Co-Host of The Bad Taste Crimecast
Location Rockford Il
Website/Social Media,
Degrees BFA in painting , MA Art Education
Schools NIU  Dekalb, Il


List three fun facts about yourself. The more fun and off the wall, the better. This will be an ice breaker for the audience on the blog as they get to know you.
I am a Dachshund owner, the little guy I have now is named Hans. I wear lipstick at all times of the day, my favorite color is Morange from MAC. I LOVE podcasts, I listen to them almost daily. My favorite ones currently are The Last Podcast on the Left and Behind the Bastards.
Tell us about your beginning. Where did you start, who were you “back in the day”.
I didn’t start out in the visual arts. I was very active in music and theatre growing up. I particiapted in a punk band right out of high school and would also occasionally sing with a couple jazz musicians I knew. I was attending courses to become a pastry chef and intended to do that but once I was working in the field I didn’t feel the chef lifestyle was something I could continue. The hours were long and I worked days at a time without a day off. I decided I would go back to school and puruse a career in the visual arts. I painted and maintained a sketchbook my whole life but had never entertained the idea of becoming a career artist. I’m not one to sit behind a desk and I knew that the arts would be a challenge ,which I gladly accepted. I went to NIU to obtain a BFA concentrating in studio art and museum studies. This is where I expreienced working in a museum setting at the NIU Art Museum. It greatly shaped my decision to pursue a career at a museum.
Tell us about who you are today. What are you doing and why are you doing it.
I worked a few odd art related jobs  out of college at various non-profits. Being on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin there are not many museums in close proximity, however I was able to obtain a position at the Rockford Art Museum in 2018.  I currently work as the Education Coordinator which allows me to wear many hats. I create educational programming, oversee volunteers and interns, teach courses, curate our Art Annex shows, oversee tours, and facilitate exhibition related programming. Being a smaller institution I am able to be in contact more with our patrons and the community. In addition to my duties at the art museum I am also a practicing artist. I work mainly with acrylic paint creating sculptural pieces. My work concentrates on combining nostalgic imagery of the 50’s-90’s to discuss sexuality and the idealization of the human form.  My process has evolved a great deal over the past couple of years; i am challenging my own notion of what it is to be a painter. I do this by slowly eliminating tools of a painter (brushes, canvases, etc) and using the paint to sculpt into 3D objects. For me, working in a museum setting helps me with my process in my work. It allows me to be surrounded by work  and to participate in conversations about art which is important in an artists studio practice. It gives me that push to keep examining my work and progressing it further.
What’s your favorite part of your job/business/career?
I enjoy being able to talk about art with people. I think these conversations are greatly needed especially in a community like Rockford. A lot of the time people feel art is not accesible and that they cannot comprehend it or that it is for rich white  people. We have an inherent need to create, we start drawing the minute we are able to grasp a pencil. I could spew some statistics on how art is important for learning and how it creates well rounded individuals but the fact of the matter is humans need creativity. I sought this type of work to keep these conversations alive and to show people art is for everyone. There is nothing more amazing than seeing it click in a persons eyes when they realize that can create amazing art and that they can speak about a piece. Its all about connecting it.
What advice do you have for women trying to do what you do?
A visual arts career is not easy, it takes a lot of commitment and there’s a great deal of hurdles. But I have found many many rewards not only in my own practice but in teaching others. I don’t like to call myself a teacher, I prefer to say facilitator. I’m not here to pontificate art history facts; I want to show children and adults what art can do for them. Personally obtaining a BFA and MA was greatly important to me, but I do know of many people who never finished school and did just fine. My volunteer work and interships gave me the experiences I really needed and I highly recommend doing this for everyone. I feel it is really important to find a path that works best for you.
What advice do you have young women trying to figure out their path in life?
Do not be afraid to fail, it really is the greatest teacher. Out of failure I have found even greater opportunities.
What future plans do you have? What are you looking forward to most.
I wanted to a challenge for 2019 so I decided to put together a curated show by myself. Oh Yes She Did is an all female makers show opening January 17- Mar 1 at The Old Courthouse Art Center in Woodstock, Il. It will showcase midwest female makers in all forms of the arts and I am hoping this will push me to do one show a year going forward. I have also started applying to some art residencies  in a few different states; it is something I have always wanted to do and I think it will greatly help me concentrate on honing some of my work.
Anything you want to plug? Go ahead this is the place for it!
Oh Yes She Did  January 17- March 1, 2019 Opening Reception Febraury 9 6-8pm.   Brunch and Paint February17 11am-1pm Old Courthouse Art Center for more info visit  Visit The Bad Taste Crimecast at the Chicago Podcast Festival June 13 for more info

Check it out below. I’m heading up the first blog post for the new series She IS Fierce. I have three women lined up to tell their killer stories after mine. Tune in the next three Friday’s to learn more about them.

If you’re interested in contributing, reach out to me! I would love for you to tell your story and inspire others around you. We could all use a little more positivity and encouragement in 2019, don’t you think?!

Name    Lindsey Draves
Age    30
Career/Business/Art   Finance/Photography/Dance
Title    Sr.Finance Manager/ Photographer/ Dance Director
Location   Madison WI
Website/Social Media @lindseydraves
Degrees Bachelors in Commerce, Accounting , Master of Accountancy
Schools DePaul University and The Ohio State University
List three fun facts about yourself. The more fun and off the wall, the better. This will be an ice breaker for the audience on the blog as they get to know you.
Three fun facts. You all know this if you follow me on social media, but I have a dog named Scarlett, who is by all accounts the four legged love of my life. She is skiddish around new people, and isn’t a fan of men, but once she loves you, she LOVES you.

In High School I thought I was going to be an artist. Like VanGogh or Degas, but with less drama. That obviously is not the path I continued down, but I have some good stories from that year of transitioning.

Like any good Wisconsinite, I love cheese. Mac N’ Cheese, grilled cheese, plain cheese, etc., BUT I hate, I mean truly hate cold cut meat. Anything from the deli, forget it. No cold sandwiches for me!

Tell us about your beginning. Where did you start, who were you “back in the day”.
I grew up in a small town called Marengo Illinois. My family did okay like many middle class families at that time. My parents got divorced around my senior year in high school/ freshmen year in college. It was challenging and being the first to go to college in my family, it was hard navigating the whole, which school should I go to? How do I pay for it? Am I making okay decisions that weill not negatively impact my life?

That all being said, now as a thirty years old, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The struggles and things that were challenging then have made me who I am today, and I’m pretty happy about that.

Tell us about who you are today. What are you doing and why are you doing it.
I’m currently a finance manager by day. I’ve worked in corporate America since I graduated from school which is now a good 7 or 8 years. I progressed quickly and went from contractor to analyst to sr. analyst to manager and now sr. manager fairly quickly. I attribute this to my willinginess to take risks and leave when I needed to in order to get what I wanted. Change is hard, but typically it’s worth it in the end.

I work with numbers all day long, which I enjoy. I use to manipulate large amounts of data back when I first started, but now my project management skills, setting deadlines, and managing others is more my role in the organization I’m in. I also mentor and coach analysts and interns, which is definently something I love doing.

My side hustles are photography and dance. I own Lindsey Draves LLC, and am a partial owner of Avant Garde Dance Company LLC. As these businesses grow and my career grows in corporate America, I find my self struggling to devote time in the needed places. My full time job obviously comes first, but I have clients and people depending on me in these other busiensses that I also take very serisously.

I love being on the go all the time. I love having a stable job as well though. I’m interested in seeing where my path goes in the next few years.

What’s your favorite part of your job/business/career?
I love mentoring and coaching people. It’s probably my favorite aspect of every job I’ve ever done. Teaching is something that comes naturally to me. I used to be a dance instructor for most my late teens and twenties, and I loved being able to share what I love with others.

For finance I love being apart of something bigger than me. To be apart of an organization and help be a decsion maker in that organization based off of facts and numbers.

In photography I love the “zen” place I enter into with this. It’s an “easy” job for me that allows my creativity to just flow and create things truly in the moment. I love how artistic it is yet there are numbers I need to know in order for the art to work. It’s the perfect combo for me.

Dance has just been such a part of my life for so long it’s hard to pick out a favorite part of it, but now I love being a leader for young dancers who are passionate about what they do.

What advice do you have for women trying to do what you do?
Be fierce. Make friends. Network. Always be friendly and don’t burn bridges. You have to work harder than the guy sitting next to you. Make sure you find a mentor, they’ll help you bridge the gaps you can’t figure out yourself.
What advice do you have young women trying to figure out their path in life?
Don’t rush it. I’m still figuring it out to this day. You’re never really going to have a moment where things just “click” in the beginning. It takes a lot of hard work, and a lot of practice to become an expert in anything.

My. First. Wedding. YES! I loved this so much. This couple wanted a quick intimate wedding in the Madison library. We got some wonderful locations shots and then headed over to the capital. I’m now in love with wedding photography. If you know any soon to be brides and grooms, send them my way, because I just LOVE doing this.