Aligners, meet the first black female Engineer, Venessa Roy!

Align Magazine got the chance to sit down with a local history maker, Venessa Roy, to discuss her journey into entrepreneurship and creative endeavors. Here is what she had to say…..

Tell us about yourself? Well for starters, I was born October 10, 1985 on Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Both of my parents were in the Army, so I spent my entire childhood moving around quite a bit. I’ve lived in NC, SC, GA, MA, NY, KS, and Germany twice. I can say that my unconventional upbringing plays an integral part in the woman I’ve become. The military lifestyle greatly contributed to my love of travel along with my fascination with other countries & cultures. Growing up I was always very active and athletic, commonly referred to as a tomboy. Basketball and softball were my sports of choice as I entered my second high school in Junction City, KS.  Later I focused solely on softball as I went into college at Barton County Community College where I also received my Associates of Science degree. After attending BCCC for two years, I found my way to Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith University became my new home. I played softball and volleyball for the Golden Bulls, later graduating from JCSU in 2008 with a B.S. (Accounting) & B.A. (Economics). After graduation, I took the reigns as the Assistant Softball Coach at JCSU, teaching and sharing my love for the game. Unfortunately, like most college students, I hadn’t quite figured out what I wanted to do next. I have 5 siblings, my youngest sister Jessica is the only one raised in the same household as me. I’ve only met 2 of my brothers so far and hope to meet my other 2 sisters in the near future.

Tell us about your organization or creative pursuits? In 2009 after an intense and competitive hiring process, I became a member of the Charlotte Fire Department. I was the first black female to be hired by the department in the operations division in nearly two decades.  After 10 years of riding the back of the truck as a Firefighter, I decided it was time to test and promote up. Now I am currently an Engineer/Driver operator for the Charlotte Fire Department. I also currently serve as the Camp Director for Camp Ignite, a free summer camp that introduces high school aged girls to the fire service and other non-traditional/public safety careers. The camp is used as a mentorship and empowerment tool by building the courage, confidence, teamwork and leadership skills of our young women.

Outside of my career, I am also an artist. I secretly began writing poetry in 2003, it happened to be the only way I was able to release and cope with whatever life threw at me during my adolescent years.  My curiosity along with encouraging words from friends led to the decision to share my words with the world, and in 2013 I self-published my first compilation of poems. I finally realized that although I felt alone in my thoughts, everyone else could relate to the poems I wrote and they felt my words in their own way. Because of the overwhelming response and support received after publishing my first book, I’m strongly considering a second book. In addition to being a poet and published author, I’ve begun to dabble into photography as well! 

“Throughout my life I decided not to hold onto things or people that don’t have my best interests at heart”.

Venessa Roy

Has your journey been an easy one so far?  If not, what are some challenges you’ve had to overcome?  I can admit my journey has been an interesting one, but I’ve never been afraid of change or taking chances. I also know how and when to work hard, I’ve never been given anything, nor have I ever expected to. There are always challenges in life, and even more so when you work in a non-traditional career field. Everyone knows fire departments to be predominantly made up of white men. As a double minority (black and female), everything you do is being watched through a microscope. At times it feels like people want you to fail, so you have to outwork everyone else just to be accepted.

What’s one thing we should know about you or you? One thing to know about me is that I love to learn/see new things, I cannot take being stagnant.

What sets you apart from competition? Something that sets me apart from the competition is my work ethic and my attention to detail. I am very observant and I absorb more than people are aware of.

What has been your fondest moment in your career thus far? The fondest moment would have to be having my youngest sister attend the girls camp that we put on. To have the opportunity to show my sister what I do for a living and why I love it was a feeling I couldn’t explain. I believe that experience brought us closer together, especially since we have a 13 year age gap between us.

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years from now? 5-10 years from now, I see myself pursuing and attaining another promotion within my department to the rank of Captain. I also plan to keep pushing Camp Ignite to higher heights, because there is no greater service than doing my part to encourage and empower our youth. Other than that, I plan to build on my creative endeavors and possibly even turn them into businesses.

Who has been the most influential person in your life? The most influential person in my life will always be my mom! I am who I am because of her. I know what strength, knowledge, and selflessness looks like because of her. She never tried to force anything on me and always let me be me. She has been my biggest cheerleader and supporter all my life! 

How were you as a child? As a child I was free-spirited and into everything! I loved sports, being outside, and just laughing and having fun. I also was a goofy kid, I can admit that not much has changed lol. 

Is Charlotte a good city for what you’re doing? Without a doubt! Charlotte continues to grow and change. To state the obvious, a city like this requires emergency services. And as far as the art scene, I feel like our creative community is getting bigger and better everyday.

What would you like people to remember about you when you’re gone? I would like people to remember my character. That I am strong, caring, kind, I’ve never been afraid to be myself, even if it meant standing alone, and quitting has never been an option for me.

Give one piece of advice that you can share with fellow Millennials Don’t be afraid to try something new or go for what you want. Have an open mind, don’t be deterred by criticism, and don’t stand in your own way! So many people fall victim to social pressures and other people’s opinions. Throughout my life I decided not to hold onto things or people that don’t have my best interests at heart. I am unapologetically me, and I gravitate towards things and people that make me happy. Life is too short not to be happy.

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