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10.23.20

Let’s Talk! Hannah Gordon, CAO and GC of the San Francisco 49ers

BY Courtney H. New

For Nixon Peabody's latest "Let's Talk!" virtual event, I had the opportunity to interview my client Hannah Gordon, Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel of the San Francisco 49ers about her career path and her new book.

Hannah's path to leadership at the 49ers was achieved with a laser-like focus. She pictured herself in this role and knew she wouldn't get there by watching from the sidelines. Her toughness and drive rivals any player in the NFL. I'd like to share with you some key themes from our conversation.

Find a mentor: A mentor is a coach that is there to give you guidance but can't do the work for you. Hannah and I agreed that successful mentorships are proactive and reciprocal. They are also organic and like any relationship, take time to build. So instead of asking someone to be your mentor, ask them to get coffee or if they'd be willing to tell you a little bit about their career path, and see where it goes.

Advocate for yourself: Having mentors and sponsors that will coach and advocate for you is invaluable but ultimately, you are your own best advocate! Seek out work that you want and the people that you want to work with rather than being a passive receiver. Hannah knew what she wanted to do with her career and knew she had to fight for it. You have a lot more power than you think.

Build the right team: Your team is who you surround yourself with not only at work but in life. People on your team should lift you up and challenge you to be better. Who you have on your team is obviously very important but Hannah and I also talked about the importance of making cuts. Identify people on your team that are not supportive of your goals and even if you can't find a way to cut them, sideline them.

Be mentally tough: I think the best advice that Hannah gives to mentees is to develop mental toughness. That toughness doesn't mean being hard on yourself, but instead, developing the resilience to bounce back and keep going. Be kind to yourself, take a break, and come back ready to put in the hard work.

Create more room at the table: I asked Hannah if she feels pressure being the only woman in the room in two male-dominated industries. I believe Hannah's answer to this question speaks to her character. Hannah knows she belongs at the table. The pressure she does feel is to add more chairs. She feels the pressure to effectuate more change. It isn't enough that she is there, she wants to help change the whole picture and that is where the biggest challenge lies.

Put words to action: Real change takes action and practice. With that in mind, Hannah wrote an eight-week guided journal, Szn of Change. Each week has a different focus and includes exercises that will challenge you to evaluate where you are today, decide where you want to go, develop your plan, pick your team, adjust, recover, and then keep it going with gratitude, focus, and affirmation.

Hannah is blazing a trail for herself and other women in both the legal and sports industries. It was a pleasure speaking with her and learning more about her background and her goals for the future. I have a feeling that she is just getting started.

Our next "Let's Talk!" virtual event will take place on November 17, featuring U.S. Senator, Tammy Duckworth. Keep an eye out for that invitation in the coming days.

Finally, don't forget to download the Let's Talk Series app! The app will serve as a hub for all information related to our Let's Talk series. Click here to download the CrowdCompass AttendeeHub app. After installing, search for "Let's Talk Series."

Tags: Let's Talk

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Courtney H. New

Counsel

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