DIA Executive Director Jen Sanders: Passion Meets Hard Work

Jen Sanders Executive Director of DIA

Dallas Innovation Alliance announced good news last week. It has appointed co-founder Jen Sanders as the first full-time executive director.

She will be responsible for leading the direction of the organization, and executing the DIA’s mission to design and execute a multi-phased smart cities strategy for Dallas, beginning in the West End.


But, this article is not your typical announcement.

This article is about the love and sweat equity that has led up to this big announcement; it’s about the heart and soul of the woman behind Dallas Innovation Alliance and how she is leading the charge to transform Dallas into a smart urban city through technology and socially-driven initiatives.

Because I have the privilege of calling Jen a dear friend, I am particularly well-suited to share the story of what happens when passion meets hard work, as I’ve watched from a front-row seat as the story of DIA has unfolded.

I first met Jen a little over a year ago at the 2014 Angel Summit here in Dallas, where we both were interested in seeing private investments fund Dallas technology organizations. Our paths crossed again at a Mayor’s Star Council civic engagement event early the next year, as Jen is the 2015 President of the organization, whose mission is to empower young leaders to impact the city.

Through these encounters, Jen and I developed a deep friendship, and she eventually shared her true passion with me — urban development and community engagement.

This time last year, Jen was also heading up strategic communications and stakeholder engagement at Perry Street Communications. But, her passion for urban development could not be ignored, so she invested the little spare time she had in coursework and conferences on urban development.

But, over time, simply investing her leisure time wasn’t enough.

She wanted to make a meaningful impact in the community, and Jen knew the time had come to channel her energy to create real, meaningful change here in Dallas.

She wanted to make a meaningful impact in the community, and Jen knew the time had come to channel her energy to create real, meaningful change here in Dallas. When she arrived in Dallas in 2005, Jen thought she’d be back in Chicago within two to three years.

What she found was her home, and over the subsequent years became energized by all of the movement in Dallas. It  became clear that this city has all of the elements needed to reach its potential, but the beauty is in the realization of that ideal.

It was time to put down roots and get to work.

With that, Dallas Innovation Alliance was born in the summer of last year. With co-founder Trey Bowles, Sanders hit the ground running – attracting high-profile corporate and civic partners, securing highly sought-after civic grants, and lining up their first projects to launch in Dallas’s own West End District. She accomplished all of this while continuing to spearhead the Mayor’s Star Council and serve her clients at Perry Street with the utmost professionalism.


When I received a call from Jen earlier this month and she told me about joining DIA full time as its first executive director, I could not have been more excited.

I was excited because this is a huge step toward turning her passion into her life’s work and a validation of the love and sweat equity she has put into the organization.

But also because I love my city, Dallas, and I know how fortunate we are that Jen is now driving the Dallas Innovation Alliance forward full time.

I’m excited to see to what’s in store for Dallas Innovation Alliance and I’m confident our city is in good hands with Jen behind the wheel.

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Lauren Hasson is the Founder of Develop[Her]  a career development platform for tech women by tech women, and a practicing software engineer at a prominent Bay Area fintech company where she’s bui(...)

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