Pyramigo Profile: Liza Sheehan
An Interview with our Conservation Project Manager
Posted: Apr 13, 2017
Every day we’re excited to come into the office. Not many people can say that. But we can, because we know the work we’re doing matters. We believe we can change the world. Each of us has a different story to tell, a different story about why doing good in the world matters to us. We thought we’d share it with you. Get to know the Pyramigos!
Meet Liza. She’s Pyramid’s Conservation & Sustainability project manager, a former backcountry ranger, and a dynamic problem solver.
First off, who are you?
I'm Liza Sheehan. I support Pyramid’s work in conservation and sustainability. I work with the organizations fighting to make our planet last for a good long while and protect the people and animals who live here.
How did you arrive at Pyramid? What brought you to working in conservation and project management?
I've been project managing in one form or another for 20 plus years. I’ve worked in a variety of different places from PCC Natural Markets to Starbucks to running my own independent consulting business. Most recently, I was the marketing director at Forterra where I worked with Pyramid to build a case statement for us. Later, I was networking, and the opportunity to join Pyramid as a project manager just kind of popped up.
I first became attracted to conservation when I did a 30-day National Outdoor Leadership School backpacking trip in the Alaskan wilderness. I was 21 and had never done any camping or hiking before. It was a life changing experience and really set me on a course of taking seriously our impact on the planet and the choices we make each day. Now I love spending time in nature and I’m working to protect and enhance it in my professional life.
That’s a long path to Pyramid. Could you tell me a little about what starting your own consulting firm was like?
I was an independent consultant, essentially doing organizational development work. I had been working at Starbucks corporate, but then I had my first kid and decided I didn't want to go back. I started a part-time practice where most of my clients were small business owners. I gravitated toward clients who were thoughtful about their contribution to society. I ended up with a niche in yoga studios. I consulted with yoga studios about whether to expand, how to ramp up business, or how to differentiate themselves from the rest of the yoga studios out there. I also did a lot of financial modeling and taught my clients how to look at their business, so they could feel more confident making more of these decisions on their own. I helped clients channel what they wanted to get done into action and helped organize them.
That’s great. What would you say you have a knack for professionally?
I’m known for being sharp and picking things up quickly. I'm good with people and love working with both clients and co-workers. I have a lot of energy and get a lot done in a short amount of time. I also like the stimulation of moving from one project to another. Those are all traits, but I think they carry me professionally.
Wonderful. What's one problem that you think you're best at solving for clients?
I like listening to my client's confusion and disparate thoughts and translating it into a clear pathway forward. Underneath that confusion, there are always underlying solutions and strategy.
In this mission driven work we do at Pyramid, what would you say you are you most passionate about?
I enjoy work that brings a greater awareness to the impact that we're having on the world. I like creating innovative ways to do things that disrupt the status quo. I work best in that place where people become more aware of their connection to the world and how they are affecting it. I’m also really involved in social justice and youth empowerment, especially in my personal time.
That’s great. You’ve done a lot of work around youth empowerment in your off hours, right?
I have. I was on the board of an organization called Art Corps for nine years. They deal with closing the opportunity gap primarily for youth of color. It provides youth in underserved communities with access to creative experience in the arts through free classes both during school hours and after.
I was also a super volunteer at the cooperative elementary school my two kids attended. Except for the teaching staff, the school was run by the parents. I did a lot of volunteer project management for the school, coordinating field trips for things like three-day bicycle trips for 100 people.
That’s awesome that you're so heavily involved in the community. Do you volunteer now?
Yeah, I just wrapped up a giving project with the Social Justice Fund. Over 6 months, 16 of us raised $214,000 for grassroots criminal justice work in the Northwest. We granted that money to nine different organizations in the form of two-year grants. I’m still doing some work with Arts Corps, though I termed off the board.
It sounds like you like to keep busy. What do you do to unwind?
I've been a yoga practitioner for 20 plus years and for 19 of those have had a near-daily home practice. Practicing consciousness and self-awareness is something I also spend a lot of time on. I care a lot about living consciously—it's kind of like a meditation of life in your everyday world.
I also love being outside. I spend most of my summer outside whether I'm swimming in a lake, paddleboarding, kayaking, hiking, or just sitting on my front porch steps soaking up the sun. In the winter, I telemark ski. I'm passionate about friends and community. I see a lot of movies and have dinners with friends. I'm a big cook, especially healthy, organic, quality meals. I love good food and cook frequently just to relax.
That's great. Where did you grow up?
I was born in New Jersey in Bruce Springsteen territory. I grew up there save for eight years in the middle when I lived in a suburb of Chicago. I went to college back out near Chicago at Northwestern so I grew-up kind of split between Chicago and New Jersey.
How did you end up on the west coast?
Approaching the end of college I needed somewhere to go. I was getting a degree in industrial engineering but I knew I didn't want to do the standard professional job that came with that degree. A friend of mine had worked with the Student Conservation Association the summer before and was applying for a different SCA job for the summer following our graduation. She encouraged me to get the job that she’d held previously as a backcountry ranger at Mount Rainier in Glacier Basin. So I did. After the summer, I took a job at PCC and decided to stay. Seattle is definitely my home.
That's awesome. You really started your career in conservation working directly in nature, didn't you?
Yeah, I really did [laughs]. I was a backcountry ranger for the Student Conservation Association, so I wasn’t officially a ranger. I was paid subsistence, like $40 a month just to pay for food. They gave me gear and I lived five days a week in a tent in Glacier Basin. It was awesome.
That’s quite the experience. What’s the most important lesson that you've learned?
There are lessons that I've learned and lessons I am in the process of learning. One is that things will go better the more I stop demanding that I be placed in the center of the world, but instead place the world in my center. I’ve also learned that I can't control everything but it’s important to take responsibility for what I can.
Is there anything else you want people to know about you?
I love my dog. She's a 4-year-old labradoodle named Hazel.