Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Most Likely to: Host a fertility séance
Favorite Quote: “Be here now”
Product marketing manager at Planned Parenthood’s innovation lab, Hannah Pyper, has a strong connection to her role. After beating ovarian cancer, Hannah found a career that utilized her digital media background while ensuring women have proper access to health care. In her time at Planned Parenthood, Hannah has led the effort to scale their birth control and period tracking app, Spot On, to one million installs. In her spare time, Hannah volunteers for multiple ovarian cancer non-profits. Aside from her professional achievements, she completed the Brooklyn Half-Marathon this past year—her greatest physical accomplishment since undergoing chemotherapy. In a society that constantly works to restrict the freedom of women’s bodies, Hannah’s life is a reminder that our bodies should have no bounds.
What is your earliest memory associated with what you do now?
I work in technology, and consider myself someone whose job it is to make information more accessible. While this wasn’t something I grew up dreaming of doing, there were some early signs. I taught myself HTML and Photoshop as a preteen to build and run a pretty impressive .net website from ages 9-14. The website was primarily devoted to my obsession with anime, but I also provided design and coding services for free on request. Sadly, when I hit puberty I didn’t think this was very cool anymore, so I shut down the website and subsequently forgot most of my coding and design skills.
When did your occupation become real to you?
My career has been extremely nonlinear, so it’s challenging to pinpoint when it became real. But, there has always been an “ah ha” moment early on. For my current job, it became real to me the moment I saw the job description. It was a position for the Marketing Strategist in Planned Parenthood’s first Innovation Lab; a team dedicated to teaching the organization how to work and think differently and meet people where they are with digital products. I had been jobless after my previous employer was sued out of existence in the aftermath of a tumultuous 4-year-long legal battle (RIP Grooveshark).
In addition to this, I was recently in remission from ovarian cancer, a surprise diagnosis that hit me like a truck 10 months earlier and turned my life upside down. I was biding my time volunteering with multiple ovarian cancer nonprofits on the side (National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and TEAL), trying to understand how to piece my life back together.
When I saw the job, it felt like every experience that I had in the last 10 months and all of my prior work experience converged on this—my nose dive into the complicated world of women’s health and cancer care; five years of experience at a startup innovating the ways musicians grow their audiences; and my brief experience with women’s health nonprofits. The opportunity and privilege to play a small part in making sexual health information more accessible to people who need it is what I knew I was going to do.
How does Brooklyn/your neighborhood particularly inform your work?
My neighborhood is my sanctuary and place for self-care. To be able to bring 100% of myself to not just my job, but also to work outside of my job. I need to remember to take care of myself.
I love running in Fort Greene park on Saturday mornings. I love hot yoga at Sacred Studios. I love treating myself to cinnamon buns from Good Batch. I love that my friends live close enough to walk to, that I feel comfortable dropping by whenever, and the community we have built with one another. I love my home and being at home (Shout out to my cat Apricat!). If I didn’t have this balance, I don’t think I could remain sane and be productive.
What do you feel is most challenging about being where you are now?
Maintaining a semblance of normalcy is extremely challenging. I have physical scars on my body and organs taken away, and I sometimes feel like less of a woman because I produce a third of the amount of eggs someone my age should be. I have to get CT scans every year and blood drawn constantly.
When I’m in the middle of a fertility cycle, a process I’m undergoing because of the cancer, I have to give myself shots of hormones every day and take myself to Columbus Circle to get vaginally probed before 9AM. I am so grateful for my journey and the lessons it has taught me and the people it has brought close to me, but it’s hard to ignore the things I have to do that most women my age will never have to think about.
What’s most rewarding?
I feel so privileged to be able to call Planned Parenthood my employer. I work in an office where every single person believes that abortion should be safe, legal, and accessible for anyone anywhere, no matter their immigration status, ability to pay, location, no matter what—and unfortunately that’s not the norm. I work with people who care so passionately about the mission and bring 1000% of themselves to work everyday.
I work on a team where we provide content and services for people who need it. Knowing that 8 million people access our website every month and 200,000 people use our app every month. An app that I helped to build and grow; an app that’s helping people stay more compliant with their birth control. That is so rewarding.
5 spots in Brooklyn people should know about?
- Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway and Shore Parkway bike paths (try both at once!)
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Conservatories: Especially during winter! A reprieve from seasonal depressive disorder.
- East Harbor Seafood Palace in Sunset Park for dim sum.
- BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Summer Concert Series in Prospect Park. Seeing Whitney and Moses Sumney for free last summer was pretty amazing.
- The Park Slope Co-op
What’s your most significant accomplishment to date?
Professionally, I led efforts this past spring to scale our period and birth control tracking app to reach one million installs. We ran a program that I strategized and pitched to senior stakeholders. Meaning my job was on the line if this failed. It required a lot of coordination across the organization and involved pieces of work I had never previously led.
We talked to staff from Planned Parenthood health centers to find out how to best tell patients about the app. We worked with our local advocacy teams—ie: the people who rally for our causes—at college campuses to figure out how students could use it, too. We partnered with our User Experience team to map out how we could reach the people who need the app the most. There were so many other moving pieces. The app’s goal is to provide a way for Planned Parenthood to meet people where they are and help them take control of their sexual and reproductive health. It was amazing to know that we were helping one million people across the country be more aware of their own bodies and menstrual cycles!
Personally, I felt substantial pride finishing the Brooklyn Half this year. I know millions of people run marathons every year, but for me, it was my greatest physical accomplishment since finishing chemotherapy. It signified that all of that was behind me. I cried as I was running towards the finish line, not just as a celebration of running 13 miles without stopping, but also thinking about everything I had accomplished in the last two years free of cancer.
Who/what inspires you?
The people in my life inspire me. I have so many amazing friends and family members who have overcome challenges and accomplished feats that make me so proud to know them. I have friends starting their own businesses, making their own hot sauces, smashing the patriarchy, raising babies, juggling work and school, filming Netflix specials, working thankless jobs, and just generally kicking ass. They push me to the next level.
Thinking about the future, where do you see yourself in the next 30 years?
As a general rule I try not to think too far into the future, because there’s no guarantee that I’ll live that long (just trying to be realistic!). I also feel like it’s a distraction to get too caught up in goals for the future. I have always had a lot of ideas about what I thought I wanted to do or be, and literally none of them have come true. But I wouldn’t change a thing about my life and work and how I got here.
I try as hard as I can to live for who I am right now, who I want to be right now, the work I want to be doing right now, and the things that I can directly influence and change. Though, I do have aspirations of retiring early on my Bitcoin investment and opening a cattery.
What’s next for you?
I contribute freelance marketing support for Womanly Mag, a not-for-profit publication and platform dedicated to circulating updated health information to women of all backgrounds through the lens of visual and literary art. Issue #2 will be out in late February. I will be speaking at the Agents of Change Conference in February on the positive health impacts of our digital products, and SXSW Interactive in March on health care innovation at Planned Parenthood. The upcoming National Ovarian Cancer Coalition 3rd Annual 5K Walk/Run is taking place on May 19, 2018. I will be working to increase runner participation and race visibility. Sign-ups will open in early February!