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Mary Hendra

Mary Hendra

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

Recently, I was called a “weaver.” I like that! What does it mean? It means I am an executive who relishes the intersections between corporate, non-profit, and government spheres. All three are needed for us to strengthen the civic fabric of our society.

As a “weaver,” I blend ideas from different industries to spark creativity. I connect people with whom I see interesting complementary perspectives and experiences. When moderating discussions, I listen attentively and weave together threads of questions and answers to build new thoughts.

This drives my current focus as I lead efforts to scale the civic impact my organization has across California, advocate for social good as a Board member of Conscious Capitalism LA, facilitate my own workshops to help individuals find the clarity they need to take action in this world, and seek every possible venue for facilitating rich discussions about the things that matter. This includes: a POD club for Ellevate along with other great programming as a Los Angeles chapter lead, Next Big Idea book discussions, and interviews with individuals as varied as Civil Rights activist Dolores Huerta, CEO of Women 50/50 Betsy Berkheimer-Credaire, Making Gay History podcast host Eric Marcus, and author Alice Hoffman.

For me, weaving is sparked by deep curiosity and a life-time dedication to community-building.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

During the pandemic, I was listening to more podcasts and seeking more conversation. I proposed a POD club to the LA chapter of Ellevate, and started offering a monthly space for women+ to discuss ideas of interest. Some listen to the podcasts beforehand, some afterwards, but it is always a thought-provoking conversation and powerful networking with others interested in the ideas of the theme. As a result of POD club, we have seen podcast guest invitations, books donated to raffle, new program events generated, and friendships formed. Plus, it deepened my involvement with Ellevate LA to serving on the LA Leadership Team.

At Ellevate, I’ve found that women actively seek ways to support, inspire, and strengthen each other. That is exactly what I want for my community and my involvement with a network!

How would you define your professional mission?

As an executive with a compassionate heart and entrepreneurial mind, I consider my primary professional mission to be weaving a stronger civic fabric. Professionally, I’ve lived in spheres of government, education, and non-profit industries, much of it focused on youth. While I still believe in the phenomenal potential and resilience of youth, I’m troubled by putting the weight of change just on youth. What if we did not give up on adults? That sparks my current work - creating for adults the spaces in mindset and community to reclaim our sense of identity, conviction, and connection to the world.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

“Career path” sounds so linear. For me, the threads which have held my career together and now form my professional tapestry are: (1) showing up in service to others. This began with Los Angeles County’s Management Training Program, continued through education, and has led to my current role leading purpose-driven social enterprises. (2) Relishing each step of my professional expression. While driven for exceptional quality of work, it has also been important for me to enjoy each step, not just be focused on the climb. I seem to have boundless curiosity so learning has been a constant, including 2 Master’s degrees, getting National Board -certified in teaching, a Certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility, Seth Godin’s altMBA, and countless non-degree endeavors. And (3) Building community. Some of the more unique stints in my career - particularly in moments of “pivot” - have focused on relationships and community: Conducting court-ordered victim-offender mediations for youth offenders, a teen abuse prevention program with the LA Commission on Assaults Against Women, and launching my own cohort program, Move with Grace, which helps individuals facing painful transition to find clarity and take action.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

Often as adults, we no longer give ourselves space or permission to create - for example playing with color as we did as children. In fact, while we don’t give up walking when we decide we won’t be a professional athlete, we are likely to leave color play entirely to those we’ve labeled as “artists.” As a result, we lose that tool for processing. When we hit particularly rough patches in our lives, it can be hard to think our way through a situation verbally. Visual and kinesthetic processing can help. I’d like my legacy to include a reclamation of artistic play as a regular thinking tool for adults as well as youth in order to help people move through life - and all its challenges and difficult transitions - with more grace (and a dash of play).

What is your morning ritual?

Does getting out of bed count? I find I need to have a few possible routines and mix it up. Sometimes, I lay everything out the night before to go to barre first thing in the morning at the studio down the street (or online). Other mornings I read quietly for half an hour before anything else. For a special treat, I set up a canvas or special paper on my craft table and mess around with paint first thing.

What is your favorite social media site? Why?

Linked In. I find genuine connections, thoughtful conversations, and interesting opportunities for learning.

What would you say your personal superpower is?

My superpower is bridging the visionary and the concrete. I love ideating and imagining, and then I break it into discrete steps because I also love making it actually happen!

What does success look like to you?

Success is constructing a life where every day has joy and engagement with life. This could be an interesting challenge, an opportunity for creative thought, a great hike or other physical experience. Success means being able to be your true self in everything you do - confident strength in acting in a way that is authentic to your values and goals.

Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

I think as soon as we’ve set “work” and “life” in competition with each other, we’ve lost. I think the threads between these are complex, varied, and fluid. One thing that keeps me centered when things feel particularly busy is to create a “to be” list. It turns my focus from a list of tasks to the question of who I want to be as I do my work. How we do things matters, and ties back to the integration of “work” and “life.”


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