Emily Lamia '02, Packer's 105th Founder's Day speaker, reflects on the intersection of her passion and her career — and the journey she made to reach it.
The first time Emily Lamia ’02 set off on a journey of her own was at age 24. She found herself in between campaign jobs after the 2008 election and decided to travel to Belize. The trip was revelatory — not only because she made life-long friends and got to see a new part of the world, but because she discovered how independent and capable traveling solo made her feel.
Nearly a decade later, during a walk in Prospect Park, Lamia found herself thinking that that was going to be the year when she “needed to make a pivotal move” in her life. She set off on a new path and founded Pivot Journeys, a company that offers structured getaways for professionals who want time to reflect and focus on career development.
Today, Lamia says that her road to entrepreneurship began at Packer when she entered in the 9th Grade. In the Upper School, she was a self-proclaimed “theater nerd,” singing and acting in the plays and musicals. Her passions allowed her to travel internationally to Italy with the Packer Chorus and France and London with her theater class.
She cites the lasting influence of her teachers — George Snook and former faculty Ann Diederich, Judy Kemlitz, Sean Mullin, and Debbie Pressman — who gave her “all the tools in the toolbox” to be successful through college and each phase of her professional career.
Lasting relationships with her Packer classmates have enriched her life and career through the decades. She singles out a tight circle of friends going back to her days in the Upper School: a “lifelong teacher,” “a waitress-turned-published-author,” an “art-seller-turned-insurance-saleswoman,” and “an arts-nonprofit founder,” who all share business advice and lend moral support.
“I have built a lot of the work I do with Pivot Journeys because of people I met at Packer,” she says.
After graduation in 2002, Lamia moved to Massachusetts to attend Mount Holyoke College. She pursued her new passion for progressive politics through on-the-ground internships with aspiring Democratic politicians in the Northeast, including presidential candidate Howard Dean. Election campaign work was intense; Lamia remembers “holding up a four-by-eight-foot [campaign] sign at 4 a.m. on the side of the highway... in -10 degree weather” in hopes of electing officials who would bring positive change to the country.
Fortunately, the campaign election cycle left Lamia between jobs for months at a time when she would travel abroad — creating the pivot around which her life began to cycle. “Little did I know those periods of unemployment would be the basis of the idea behind launching Pivot Journeys years later.”
Lamia discovered her true passion while working at Democratic GAIN in Washington, DC, which provides career development resources for political professsionals. When her supervisor stepped down, she assumed the role of director at age 26. The unexpected leadership role gave her the “opportunity to test out being an entrepreneur for the first time and trying to build an organization.”
“I started my career in politics because I thought that in order to make a difference in the world, change needed to happen from the top down.” But after working directly for political organizations, she “realized that the impact I wanted to make was [centered] around individuals, instead of...larger systems.”
Fast forward to the walk through Prospect Park in 2015, when Lamia “decided to make the leap,” and Pivot Journeys was born. Lamia is passionate about the power of travel to change one’s perspective — a claim she eagerly backs with research. “Travel increases neuroplasticity, which is the ability for your brain to create new connections and pathways. When you’re in a new space and things are different, your brain is stimulated to create connections that you don’t have when you’re sitting at your desk and everything is the same.”
As CEO, being solely responsible for the success of her business is daunting, but “knowing that you built something that is making a difference in people’s lives is incredibly rewarding,” she says.
Her advice for those who are wanting to embark on their own pivot journey? “There are so many different ways people are affecting change today. There’s no one recipe or path to go down in order to do this work. Find what you’re good at and what you love doing, and change the world by doing that.”