Member Spotlight: Dana Hanchin
Women in Housing and Finance of Pennsylvania (WHF-PA) is dedicated to promoting and supporting the professional growth of women in housing, finance, and the development industry. To support this mission, WHF-PA began highlighting members to learn more about their career path and to inspire other women in our industry.
This month we are featuring Dana Hanchin, President & CEO of HDC MidAtlantic.
In June 2018, Dana Hanchin joined HDC MidAtlantic as its President & CEO. Founded in 1971, HDC MidAtlantic’s mission is to build hope and opportunity by providing a safe and affordable place to call home. HDC serves over 5,000 residents in 58 affordable housing communities across PA, DE and MD, employing 156 employees with an annual budget of $11MM.
Dana has spent over twenty years building and leading affordable housing initiatives in both the non-profit and public sectors. Prior to HDC, Dana served as Deputy Director for Philadelphia LISC. She has spent her career working for organizations dedicated to advancing affordable housing which includes the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, Women’s Community Revitalization Project, Reinvestment Fund, and the City of Philadelphia.
Dana attended Temple University, earning a Master’s degree in Urban Studies. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Kent State University. She also was a fellow at Drexel University’s Leading for Change Program at the LeBow College of Business.
WHF-PA recently met with Dana to learn more about her career path and the advice she’d share with others as a woman leader in the affordable housing development industry.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My story begins in the Monongahela Valley of Western Pennsylvania where I was born. My grandfathers were steelworkers and my dad was a Marine and a small business owner with my mother working alongside him. I was raised in a family where the principles of hard work, compassion, and service to others were regular teachings. This upbringing helped shape who I am, both personally and professionally.
As a first-generation college graduate, my education was transformational in understanding that not everyone has equal opportunity or access to live their best life. While at Temple University earning my master’s in Urban Studies, I began to focus on affordable housing, which I believe is a cornerstone of family stability and economic mobility.
How do you get your start in the affordable housing industry?
I started my career with the City of Philadelphia organizing residents, businesses and non-profit organizations around affordable housing issues in the heart of the Latino community. At the same time, I was volunteering at the Women’s Community Revitalization Project (WCRP). I came to know WCRP through my graduate school research, in which I studied community participation and engagement in neighborhood revitalization efforts. I connected with WCRP’s mission of building community leadership and affordable housing through a social justice lens. I volunteered for six years and then finally worked my way onto WCRP’s payroll, serving as their Director of Real Estate Development and Property Management.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?
Get involved and take initiative. There is so much work to do and a lot of folks sitting around the table waiting for someone else to do it. Organizations need more folks to roll up their sleeves and get things done. Look for ways to help solve problems, think strategically as well as tactically, generate big and tiny ideas and find ways to simplify the work and make the organization run more efficiently. I was fortunate enough to work for organizations that welcomed initiative, for the most part. I didn’t ask for or wait for these opportunities, I created them.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
The most significant barrier for me was fear, of being able to take the leap to play a more forward-facing, external role and shoulder the responsibility of leading an organization, where residents, employees and partners are counting on your success. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I realized I could not afford to sit back and continue playing a “second chair” leadership role. Like other women across various sectors, locally and nationally, I needed to do more to create the world and workplace I wanted to be part of: one that better reflected my values of compassion, equity, collaboration, and respect.
Who and/or what has had the biggest influence in your success?
I am particularly grateful to Temple University and its ability to offer me full financial support to obtain my Master’s degree. I am proud to be “Temple Made” and will continue to pay it forward by helping others to advance in the industry. I am also grateful for individuals who created the space so that I could grow and thrive in the workplace. They helped cultivate my talent, build my skills and advance my professional goals. These individuals include Lisa Yaffe, formerly with PHFA, Nora Lichtash at WCRP, and John Carpenter, formerly with the PRA.
I would also like to recognize Donna Cooper, who was my boss at my first job out of graduate school. She now serves as Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. Donna provided professional insight that resides with me to this day. I was complaining in a staff meeting about the level of disorganization and lack of planning. She looked right at me and exclaimed, “Dana, I pay you to manage the chaos!” That was an a-ha moment. She was exactly right: it is my job to manage the chaos. Nothing is perfectly planned or implemented. Work is dynamic, full of unknowns and riddled with challenges. I have Donna to thank for mastering the art of building the plane and flying it at the same time.
What advice do you have for other women in your industry?
Don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen. And if you aren’t in a place that provides you the freedom and space to lead or recognizes your value, learn what you can then move on to something better, something bigger.
Go ahead and take the leap. You really don’t have time to think about failing because the work takes over and you will rise to the occasion. Also know that there is a world of support out there because people really want you to succeed. Including me.
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