FIRST Hires Tech Industry Talents Erica Fessia, Chris Rake to Join Leadership Team

MANCHESTER, N.H., October 2, 2018 FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an international, youth-serving not-for-profit organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, announced two leadership team hires: Erica Fessia as the vice president of field operations and Chris Rake as the vice president of programs. Both bring extensive technology industry leadership experience and a passion for advancing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) through the mission of FIRST.

In her role at FIRST, Fessia’s primary mission is to work with the FIRST community to evolve the vision and implementation for sustainable, coherent, growth-oriented local FIRST ecosystems, where kids throughout the world have access to a full progression of FIRST programs. 

In his role at FIRST, Rake’s primary mission is to champion the growth of FIRST programs worldwide. Rake and his team are responsible for strategic planning and development of the overall content and experience across all four FIRST programs, supporting their current forms while driving future changes and improvements.

FIRST is pleased to welcome Erica Fessia as our new vice president of field operations and Chris Rake as our new vice president of programs,” Donald E. Bossi, president of FIRST, said. “While Erica and Chris are new to FIRST as employees, they are both longtime drivers of our mission to build science and technology leaders. Coming to us from FIRST Strategic Partners Qualcomm and National Instruments, respectively, both had key roles in strengthening their organization’s relationship with FIRST. I’m grateful to have their talents on my team as we grow FIRST programs and make the FIRST community even stronger.

Vice President of Field Operations - Erica Fessia

Vice President of Field Operations - Erica Fessia

Fessia joins FIRST from Qualcomm, a FIRST Strategic Partner, where she most recently served as the director of community engagement and has been instrumental in supporting and growing Qualcomm’s relationship with FIRST over the past few years. Fessia also served on the FIRST Executive Advisory Board (EAB) for the last two years.

Fessia brings a strong professional and leadership background to FIRST in social entrepreneurship, community engagement, and human-resource management, spanning both the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds. In addition to a successful, long-time career with Qualcomm and running her own HR consultancy, in 2007 Fessia launched a non-profit organization, South Bay Children’s Museum, to pursue her passion for creating memorable learning experiences in the areas of math, science, and art for children in her community.

”I am excited and honored to join this premier youth-serving STEM-focused organization. As part of the FIRST leadership team, I have the privilege of serving with a wide community of talented and passionate people dedicated to making the FIRST experience available to all children across the globe. I can’t think of a better place to align my personal passions with my professional pursuits,” Fessia said.

Rake joins FIRST from National Instruments, a FIRST Strategic Partner, where he most recently served as a chief engineer. As part of his responsibilities in that position, Rake managed and owned the FIRST Robotics Competition control system program for over ten years, commencing with the inaugural National Instruments CompactRIO-based FIRST Robotics Competition controller in 2008. Rake has also been a FIRST Tech Challenge world judge advisor and FIRST Championship judge, a FIRST Robotics Competition judge, a FIRST LEGO League referee and Affiliate Partner Steering Team member, and a FIRST LEGO League Jr. coach.

Vice President of Programs - Chris Rake

Vice President of Programs - Chris Rake

Along with his passion for FIRST, Rake brings with him an impressive background in leadership and technical excellence. At National Instruments, he led complex cross-team architectures and initiatives in the areas of data acquisition, embedded control, and industrial systems. Rake also created curriculum for a strength-based talent development program at National Instruments, now part of the R&D Learning and Development initiative. Chris received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, with highest honors, from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a supporter of FIRST for nearly 15 years.  I’ve witnessed the incredibly positive impact FIRST has had on our youth, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join FIRST to help advance its mission to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators.” Rake said.

To learn more about careers at FIRST, visit

About FIRST® 
Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies and more than $80 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition for students in Grades 9-12; FIRST® Tech Challenge for Grades 7-12; FIRST® LEGO® League for Grades 4-8; and FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. for Grades K-4. Gracious Professionalism® is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to