By Morgan M. Hurley | Contributing Editor
Members of the Uptown communities are familiar with Elizabeth Hannon, who for the last several years was a very visible force as the CEO of the Uptown Parking District.
But earlier this year, Hannon seemed to effectively drop out of sight, causing many in the community to wonder where she is and what she is up to.
Wonder no more.
We recently caught up with Hannon who, after taking a monthlong hiatus from the churning wheels of San Diego to lend support during the passing of her beloved father in January, was forced to take a long hard look at where she was and where she was going.
“In a nutshell, my nearly four years work for the Uptown community at the parking district was a tremendous experience,” Hannon said. “I learned much about designing our streets, the inner workings of our public agencies, politics, and developed such fondness for the four unique communities. I should also mention the personal joy and challenge it was to balance all the varied voices, letting them be heard, finding compromises and steering opinions to find common ground to bring about community consensus.”
Hannon said she understood how important it was to ensure the district’s recently hired support staff were equipped appropriately to continue making progress for the region in the four transportation modes of choice — walking, biking, bus riding or parking.
One of Hannon’s fait accompli was making sure that the district reviewed its vast parking demands and documented all the statistical data, which included patterns of usage and time of day, as well as parking needs.
“We developed a parking toolbox with tools to manage our needs and analyzed the data to deliver a set of comprehensive strategies that can better manage parking in Uptown,” she said.
With decisions made and loose ends wrapped up, “everything aligned wonderfully” and Hannon has now moved on. In April, she landed at Sutra Research, in a role with a larger focus on the region’s transportation issues and the added ability to pursue the reality of her dreams. Here are five questions for Elizabeth Hannon.
- What is your new role at Sutra Research and Analytics and what does this company do?
Sutra provides technology, strategy and planning, system engineering and change management with a focus on transportation for public agencies and organizations. A progressive technology and strategy-consulting firm, Sutra is based in San Diego, with clients worldwide. They are regarded for their expertise in bridging ideas and communication between technology developers and project stakeholders.
I’ve been brought on as their COO to coordinate operations, expand and develop business, while serving as a project manager and community liaison on current projects.
For some time, I have been looking to create a livelihood in work that is a bit more profound and rooted in my spiritual practices. It is through my studies and implementation of the practices of Buddhism, yoga and mediation that I find the greatest connection to my authentic self and I honor the role of mindfulness in being a leader.
To this end, I’ve been attending summits and retreats for many years to learn and to integrate these key practices into my day-to-day life with the intent to share them with others.
I’ve been able to manifest a win-win situation to develop a passion project, “Wiser Everday,” while still putting (gluten-free) bread on the table, as Sutra is fully supporting this effort.
- What is “Wiser Everyday” and who will benefit from it?
My passion project has now come to fruition with the founding of this new organization. Together with my partner, Ty Manzo, we launched Wiser Everyday to provide leadership and development training and consulting, rooted in mindfulness practices.
Currently, we are working with several women-focused nonprofit organizations for those seeking to develop skills and a leadership presence to advance equality in their work.
Of the people we’ve begun to work with that are women, many are in affinity groups — for those working at corporations — or small businesses, or are entrepreneurs themselves. Several are interested in leading social change.
We have designed and are customizing workshops to teach everyone, with a focus on women, how they can develop the leadership mind.
- What motivated you to start it?
For the past 15-plus years, I’ve been exploring a spiritual path rooted in Buddhism. Mindfulness, as taught in Buddhism, is key to finding the clarity and compassion to be a resilient and resonant leader.
Throughout my career and work in the community, it has been a tool that allows one to find the space between a situation and a response; it is being aware of others and of one-self and a major contributor to how one can find the space to lead others.
As our personal partnership blossomed, Ty and I discussed the significant benefits we’ve both experienced with this and in emotional intelligence.
We wanted to share our insights with others to create more inspired and keenly developed leaders — many of whom are women — to better lead our organizations and communities with more compassion, more courage and the confidence to find their own voice.
[The Women’s March], events like it and what we are doing are the best thing to come out of this seemingly devastating administration. People, and especially women, are standing up and getting engaged!
- What are your short- and long-term goals for the organization?
This fall, we will be conducting a survey called, “100 Wise Women Leaders.”
One of our goals is to use the survey and the stories from it as a means to inspire, provide role models and develop mentor programs. We are interested in learning more about how these women have achieved their wisdom, how they moved through the leadership ladder, and what advice they have to share.
Those chosen for the survey will come through our established connections, input sought through our partner organizations, and guidance received from our task force/working group.
We also have two main ideas for books in the works and will be tying all of these ideas together to share our life lessons and the 100 wise women’s life lessons to further develop compassionate, resonant leaders.
Later this summer, we’ll be talking a bit more about our 100 Wise Women Leaders interviews and survey to better understand the opportunities and obstacles for women in leadership positions and those stepping onto or up the ladder.
- Do you have any upcoming events that will allow the community to get more involved?
Our only public event in the next few months is on June 21, presented by the San Diego Chapter of NOW.
It’s called “Developing Leadership Presence for Social Change” and takes place from 6–8 p.m. at the San Diego Foundation, located at 2508 Historic Decatur Road in Liberty Station.
Those wishing to attend can sign up or get more information by emailing SanDiegoAreaChapter@gmail.com or calling 818-927-3669.
Then we are doing a three-month long series of presentations for San Diego’s leading organization of women professionals in the transportation sector, launched in 1977 as Women’s Transportation Seminar and now called WTS International.
These presentations will focus on board development, mindfulness and emotional intelligence for leadership development, and they are scheduled to begin in August.
We are also providing training for the American Public Works Association (APWA) at the Public Works Institute here in San Diego this September, which will cover a spectrum of practices within Public Works in San Diego for emerging leaders at all levels.
Hannon said she and Manzo recently attended a women’s circle event at The Chopra Center, which gave them further inspiration for what they have planned to do.
“We are also beginning to explore how to bring these practices into under-served and lower-income aspects of our community,” Hannon said. “It is there that the seeds for greatness and loving kindness need to be planted and it is perhaps there that people voted for something ‘different.’ By opening hearts, we can open minds.”
Intrigued? Visit wisereveryday.org or contact Hannon at 619-794-8612.
—Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.