We had the good fortune of connecting with Angel Mannion and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Angel, how do you think about risk?
I view risk as opportunities for change. Before stepping into the arena of risk, I ensure that I will be content with all possible outcomes. This means that I only pursue risks that will either improve my current situation, or result in an outcome that will still allow me to thrive in a new space. In terms of career, my last example of risk came about two years ago.
In late 2018/early 2019, I filled two roles at San Diego Opera. Half of the time I created digital content for the marketing team and the other half I spent creating a new program called Opera Hack – which I was extremely excited about. During the busy performance season, I struggled to give equal priority to both assignments and asked my boss to let me go from my marketing duties, so that I could focus on Opera Hack part-time and remotely.
Wanting someone in-office who could fill both roles, they said no (and I didn’t blame them for doing so). A few weeks later, feeling overwhelmed and dispirited, I used the opportunity to try a new career shift entirely and accepted an offer to teach rock climbing part-time at an adventure camp in Aspen, Colorado; with a free place to stay for six months.
I did, however, make it known that I was still interested in continuing to manage Opera Hack from Colorado if they changed their mind. During my last week on staff, SDO accepted my offer and in the end I was able to do both. I didn’t go into the scenario expecting that would happen, so you can imagine my excitement at the time.
I still believe that my reasons for leaving was the most respectful and honest way to handle the situation. I don’t want to give off the vibe that I was ungrateful for the work I had, it was quite the opposite. While it would have been unfortunate to give up a project that I worked hard to get funding for, my staying in the same situation was the bigger risk for both parties because I was unable to keep up with demands.
With that being said, I can’t talk about risks I’ve taken without also acknowledging incredible mentors I have had to lean on for difficult decisions. I know it’s a sensitive topic but the reality is that being frugal with money prior to reaching a tipping point made it easier for me to navigate the above situation. It’s crucial for all of us (especially younger generations and artists) to study personal finance and seek mentors who can advise us through unexpected opportunities.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I develop and manage a project called Opera Hack, a program that finds new ways for technology to solve problems in theater. Last year, we (San Diego Opera) hosted a hackathon for 40 experts in theater and technology to come together and brainstorm new uses for tech onstage and behind-the-scenes. At the end of the event, we awarded $40,000 to three innovative ideas that can help opera become more affordable, exciting, and sustainable. OPERA America just awarded us two more years of funding through 2022 and I’m really excited to continue building the platform because I think it can be really valuable in the performance world post-COVID 19.
Prior to working on Opera Hack, I directed a choir that recorded music for TV and video games (Folklore Guild), I freelanced as a writer and photographer, and I sang for professional choirs/orchestras as often as I could. I was proud to call myself a workaholic but eventually I burned out because I had no time for relationships or self care.
After an intense period of self reflection, a friend recommended that I look into psilocybin (psychedelic mushrooms) as an alternative treatment for anxiety and self therapy. An incredible psychedelic experience helped me realize that I was obsessed over my career aspirations, obscenely full of myself, and was constantly reliving traumatic experiences from my childhood. I had no idea how depressed, selfish, and full of anxiety I was until I felt at peace (for the first time in several years) as the result of several hours of deep, spiritual crying.
Since that experience, my work and personal life have improved tremendously. I’ve come to realize that it’s much easier to attract meaningful work when I remain vulnerable for feedback, am fun to be around, and make an effort to understand how my skills can fill the needs of others. It’s more fulfilling to be everyone else’s biggest fan rather than overwork myself for validation.
I’m extremely grateful to have had an incredible support system of both men and women over the last decade who have been patient with me as I’ve come to realign my career goals to serve a higher purpose. I still expect to make plenty of mistakes, but overall I feel more mentally prepared to pick myself up afterward. I wake up more thankful for my friends and colleagues everyday.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would take them rock climbing out at El Cajon Mountain, hiking at Stone Wall Peak, paddle boarding in Crown Point, and barefoot jogging at sunset along the beach in Coronado. I would also check out a Tuesday afternoon organ recital at St. Paul’s Cathedral, followed by getting a Cosmic Coconut Cream Pie from Peace Pies in Ocean Beach.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
San Diego Opera and Space 4 Art