Valkyrie Performance

Accountability Integrity Attitude

Project Educate and Inspire: Week 3

Andrea Writt

Welcome and thank you for stopping by! This is the third iteration of our series to honor and share the stories of empowered women, fulfilling roles as leaders in their country. The mission of this project is to inspire, educate, and connect women who are currently serving or considering serving in typically male dominated professions such as military, police, or fire service. Over the next ten weeks we will share the stories of ten amazing women who have served, or are currently serving our Nation, providing unique perspectives into the inspiring realities of these women's lives.

If you would like to contribute to our project and share your story through Valkyrie Performance, please email me at writt.aj@gmail.com

Melissa Bragg.jpg

Melissa Bragg

Maryland Firefighter/Paramedic


1. What do you appreciate the most about being a woman in a male dominated field?

The thing I appreciate most about being a woman in a male dominated field, is the experience. I have worked very hard to earn my respect. I am allowed the privilege of experiencing very unique situations, something that my female friends and relatives will never see or be a part of. Sometimes I feel like I am part of a small fraternity, and I worked hard to
get to this level, and worked hard to get the respect I am due.


2. As a woman in a male dominated field, what challenges do you regularly face and how do you overcome those challenges?

As a woman in a male dominated field, I regularly face many challenges. Some of those are male egos, but another is often from women. When inevitably I meet a new female, and she asks what I do for a living, the back and forth questioning ensues. Women don’t want to believe I actually work as a firefighter/paramedic. “But you don’t actually work on a fire engine… you must mean you work at the fire department… answering phones. Right?” Again, I will explain, followed by them asking another version of the same thing. It has become such a joke, that often I just tell people I work at a doctor’s office. They would rather hear that, and it requires no explanation.


3. What practices do you have, to re-center yourself when you’ve had a tough conversation or someone has given you an ungrounded assessment or unsolicited advice?

When I need to re-center myself after a tough conversation or the dreaded unsolicited advice, I step away from the situation for a bit. I try to see their side, or why they are acting the way they are, and then try to rationally reply or react to that. It’s not always about me, but maybe sometimes about their misconceptions, or lack of education on the subject.


4. What are your top 3-5 priorities in life? How do you make time for the areas you value most?

My top priorities in life are my faith, my family, my fitness, and being my best self. Cliché as it may sound, these are the things I find important. The older I become, these things are easier to pinpoint. I am very involved in my church, the same church my family attended as I grew up. This is an extended family for me and I have taken on bigger roles in my adult years. I do not have children, but I am always there for my family. I have always found that as the reliable kid in the family, with the responsible job, I am called upon first to take care of others. I often see this with my co-workers, as well. Fitness wise, I never miss a morning working out. I have worked out with the same trainer for five years, and the results speak for themselves. I am the strongest I have ever been. If I miss a day, I am just
not my happiest. I always strive to be my best, whatever I do. I don’t want to let anyone down.


5. While serving, what has been your biggest personal victory? What about the best organizational/team victory and why?

After reading this and thinking about it for awhile, I think my biggest personal victory is becoming a strong firefighter/paramedic. Being respected by my peers. Lots of little victories along the way in my career have added up, to make me who I am today. The best organization/team victory? Every time my crew and I do something well together, that is a team victory for me. Recently, we completed a management level class, all group work and presentations, with positive feedback and great success. Anything I participate in, I will give my all, and encourage those working with me to do the same.


6. Do you feel like you have found your “life’s purpose/calling” yet, or do you still feel like you are continuing to discover and unravel what unique gift/niche you bring to the world?

I definitely think I have found my life’s calling. I knew as a kid this is what I wanted to do, and I feel like I am good at this. I put my full effort into this, and I am finally at the point in my career where I am a good mentor to young people just beginning.


7. How do you combat negative self-talk, and pick yourself back up from failure? 

Combating negative self-talk is tough. In a male-dominate field, self-doubt is often served for breakfast. I feel like women have to remind themselves they are good enough, and in fact they are often better than their male counterparts. However, there is a fine line. I have also seen women with such bravado, and zero skills to back this up. So, what I am saying is, be confident, be humble, but don’t let anyone make you feel less than, including yourself.


8. If you could describe yourself in 3 words what would they be? If others described you in 3 words what would they be? Are they congruent with the way you think you are portraying yourself in the world?

Describing myself in three words, I would use funny, strong and creative. If others described me, they would say intimidating, determined and caring. While I don’t necessarily feel as though I am intimidating, I think I would rather be seen that way than weak. I am a leader at work, and in my extracurricular activities. I like to get people fired up!


9. What changes would you like to see in the next 5 years for women in male dominated environments?

I would love to see more opportunities for women in the next five years in male dominated environments, such as promotional, training, mentoring and educational opportunities. So, everything? I think it would be great to see some specialized opportunities for women to train with just women, learn from each other, and mentor each other and build each other up, rather than compete with each other, and tear each other down.


10. What advice would give to your 19 year old self? Or to a young woman starting her journey of serving our Country?

What advice would I give my 19 y/o self? Funny you should ask. At age 19, I vividly remember being given unsolicited advice from a tough, much older road medic. She told me I would never get anywhere, looking “the way [I] do.” I didn’t know what to say. Oh, by the way, “the way I looked” was pretty plain. I never wore makeup, I dressed for the job, but I was considered thin and young and cute. The way I looked had nothing to do with me and my future career. I would tell my 19 y/o self, that no matter how I look, won’t affect my career. Instead, continue to work hard, harder than the others, go the extra mile, and do the name (my last name) on the back of my coat proud.

 

Again, if you have questions or would like to share your story with Valkyrie, please  contact me at writt.aj@gmail.com