Melanie Stricklan is a trailblazer in every sense of the word. She served the United States Air Force for 21 years, during which she logged over 1500 flight hours on board, commanded experimental spacecraft missions, and led the development of space control technologies through the Department of Defense. Today, she is the Co-Founder & CEO of Slingshot Aerospace and serves on the prestigious National Space Council. Melanie’s technical vision and strategic expertise have revolutionized data exploitation, propelling her company to the forefront of the emerging space tech landscape.
Equipped with a wealth of experience and unwavering determination, Melanie's rise in the competitive tech and space industries is a testament to the power of perseverance, transparency, and collaboration.
Establish a clear vision and purpose
Clear vision and purpose create a strategic road map. Melanie realized this from a young age, eight-years-old to be exact, when she became fascinated by the 'brilliant' night sky. She recalls many nights sitting outside with her father as he explained the difference between planes and satellites, and eventually the space program. What began as a curious interest turned into a full blown passion. Melanie visited the local library and checked out nearly every book in their three aisles of space literature.
She then enlisted the librarian for more help. Together, they wrote letters to NASA stations across the United States and, as Melanie put it, "lo and behold, this little girl in West Texas starts receiving manila envelopes from NASA of all places." She hung these photos and documents about spaceships, astronauts, and other schematics on her bedroom walls and watched her first vision board came to life.
Years later, Melanie began her space journey, stating, "I had set some goals for myself and I couldn't think of a better place than the United States Air Force to cultivate those dreams of flight and space into a career."
Embrace transparency and collaboration
Transparency and bravery go hand in hand. Melanie explains that "you have to be very courageous and brave to be vulnerable as a leader, and to not display a facade of perpetual and continual success."
She advises leaders to surround themselves with 'people who are better than you.' Willingness to share the challenges you're facing with your team will only make you stronger.
Surround yourself with a strong team
Melanie takes pride in her servant leadership style. Her philosophy is making sure the team has what they need to succeed both from a leadership perspective and a 'just because' perspective. When a team has the necessary resources to cultivate their professional and personal growth, they thrive.
When it comes to managing a team wisely, Melanie explains the grand responsibility CEOs face. "You're building a high performance team, not a family. It's your responsibility as a leader to evolve that team, to put the right people in the right seats, and to remove people should they not be helping that team's performance gain momentum every single day."
Melanie Stricklan's journey stands as a testament to the extraordinary power of perseverance, transparency, and collaboration. Her unwavering determination, fostered by a childhood fascination with the night sky, has propelled her from stargazing in West Texas to commanding experimental spacecraft missions. As we look to the future of space exploration and technology, Melanie's story serves as an inspiration to all those who dare to dream and aspire to change the world.