When the invitation arose for Hank Cochran to serve on the board of Strong Women, Strong Girls Pittsburgh, he was a bit surprised. In an organization by and for women and girls, what could he bring to the table? But after discussing it with the board’s chairwoman, he accepted the invitation and became not just a board member, but also the chair of the communications committee. Soon after, he realized that the meshing of various backgrounds, perspectives, and insights is invaluable to the organization.
“One of my favorite things is the interaction when we’re in meetings – we’re pulling things together, we’re learning from different people, we’re talking, we’re debating,” said Hank. “It’s interesting to be the only man in the room sometimes – I learn a lot both by being involved and by observing how others think.”
Hank has lived in Pittsburgh for the last 17 years and grew up not far from the city. He lives in the North Hills with his wife of 22 years and two sons, who love to ride ATV’s with him. It was during his MBA program at the University of Pittsburgh that he met Laura Freedman, the current chair of the SWSG Board of Directors. They maintained their connection over the years, which ultimately led to Hank’s involvement in the organization.
During his time with SWSG, Hank has discovered a number of strong connections between it and other areas of his life. Though he’s now the Director of Financial Shared Services and Support for Arconic, a global manufacturing firm, Hank was raised on a farm in Fayette County, Pa. His parents inspired him from a young age to “do things differently” – in addition to running a 500-acre farm, his father served on the board of directors for a local bank and was involved in many other pursuits. And while his mother always wanted to go to college, her family didn’t have the means for her to do so at the time.
“My parents gave me the real push to do something different and, though they weren’t saying the exact words ‘dream and do,’ they did push me to think more broadly that I would have done on my own,” said Hank. “Without that push, without that mentorship, without that expectation that there was more out there, I never would have taken some of the steps that I ultimately took—and for that I am eternally grateful.”
“Doing things differently” has become a mantra that Hank lives by, and it’s prompted him to look more critically at his actions and their impact. He’s also a very open and accepting person, as his job requires him to work with people all over the world on a daily basis.
“I deal with people in very different cultures and at very different levels in an organization, and you have to bridge that gap. I’ve seen with my own eyes how it really takes everybody to make a complete team,” he said.
Hank realizes that in order for him to get where he is today, people throughout his life have had to push him, teach him, mentor him, and take chances on him. At work and in SWSG, he believes he’d be remiss not to extend the same service to others. He hopes that, through his role with SWSG, he can open doors for girls in underprivileged areas who may not otherwise have the same opportunities if it weren’t for someone willing to do things differently.