Finding a Professional Family

From the moment I met Emmy Negrin during dinner at Big Ideas Fest 2011, I knew that I liked her. We hit it off quickly, sharing interests in LGBTQ issues, backgrounds in international education, and enthusiasm for our Action Collab groups.  I learned she had previously been an instructor with Outward Bound and had come to BIF to explore what her next move could be. Great conversation aside, I appreciated the easy, confident attitude that Emmy exuded. Rather than the trained sociability that comes from those who know how to “work a room,” Emmy seemed at home amongst our fellow educators. Recently, I learned that this feeling was accurate, and that Big Ideas Fest helped her find and connect with her professional family. 

Emmy made it clear to me that she didn’t first enter the Ritz-Carlton with this easy confidence. Unemployed at the time, she initially found BIF intimidating for “how many big names … and how many different sectors were there.” But this quickly changed when she met the other participants (including myself!). Emmy’s description of how it felt to be overwhelmed initially by like-minded peers changing the face of education reminded me of the scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, when the group of winners enters the Candy Room for the first time to experience exuberance, inspiration, and a sense of coming home.

She says, “What was inspiring to me, I felt like I found my professional tribe. Putting [myself] out there was incredibly helpful. There were so many resources and people there who could help you hone in on your interests.” 

Emmy has been a BIF rockstar since December. She’s a part of an Action Collab that won funding to implement its idea after BIF (the iGPS group); has written about her experience for BIF newsletters; and continues to find ways to reflect on the design thinking from her Action Collab. And as a result of the connections made during BIF, Emmy found a place with Galileo Learning after meeting them at the Fest and “falling in love with what they’re doing.” Now a Senior Recruiting Specialist with Galileo, Emmy teaches educators how to help kids become innovators. 

She describes her BIF-found job as a perfect fit: “In my view, what’s really important is helping educators become empowered with the right tools to educate effectively. I’ve taken a more organizational side to address the bigger picture. A lot should come from educating the educators.” 

Still expanding her outreach –-  from helping to launch a camp for LGBT families, to writing curriculum for potential student innovators as they explore the Oakland redwoods –- Emmy reflects on the impact of BIF on her professional growth. Despite initial feelings of insecurity, she believed she had “a dream, a passion” just like other BIF participants. Connecting with educators who were exploring issues facing education brought Emmy into an empowered space: “I’m inspired by being part of a network of people who are thinking of how to prepare the next generation of youth for the challenges they’ll face. BIF felt like a genuine place to talk to people. The big questions I have are being answered in so many ways. I found the hub…and that’s what the Fest is about.”