Life After MAPP: What Do Positive Psychology Practitioners Do?

Pam Alfrey Hernandez
Pam Alfrey Hernandez

As a MAPPster (master of applied positive psychology), Pam Alfrey Hernandez has a lot of experience in the field of positive psychology on the scientific, theoretical, and practical side.

For all of those who are considering to join a MAPP program, I decided to do a short interview with her so that you get an idea of what to expect and how getting a MAPP degree may be beneficial to your career path.

Hope you enjoy!


Tell me a little bit about yourself…

I started my career as a teacher and then spent the bulk of my career in financial services moving from an individual contributor (trainer) up through the ranks and capping my career as COO of a financial services company.

Throughout my career, I was fascinated more with people and culture than operations and finance. I knew I wanted to start my own company and use my practical experience to help individuals navigate organizational life and to help organizations create more supportive cultures.

I felt I had a lot of practical experience but wanted to ground my experience with a solid theoretical foundation. My executive coach at the time had been a member of the very first MAPP class at Penn and recommended I apply.


What has been the most valuable thing about doing the MAPP for you?

The curriculum, of course, was fabulous, but it really was the exposure to other fascinating, accomplished people. Our guest instructors included Adam Grant, Barbara Frederickson, George Valiant, Jane Dutton, Paul Bloom, Barry Schwartz, Ryan Niemic, David Cooperider to name a few.

In addition, my colleagues were from around the globe with incredibly different backgrounds and experiences.


How has the MAPP shaped your career path?

It helped me clarify and articulate my mission, which is summed up in the tagline to my company, The Right Reflection. “See clearly, act boldly, live fully.” I really feel my role with individuals and organizations is to help them see clearly.

My work is focused on leadership: leadership of ourselves, our teams, and our organizations. Leadership is not a coat of skills we put on; rather it is a way of being which we develop. The MAPP program gave me the tools and the mindset to help others become authentic leaders.


What kinds of fields have you seen co-students end up in as PP practitioners?

I have seen some go on to pursue doctorates in positive psychology. Many have applied the learnings of positive psychology to their own professional domains such as law, education, medicine or business. And many have become practitioners either internally with their employers’ organizations or have launched their own coaching/consulting business.


What is the number one recommendation you have for people who are about to finish their MAPP and go out into the ‘real world’ again?

There are more and more people out in the world who are educated in positive psychology. It’s not enough to have the knowledge and the tools. It’s a very crowded landscape. Decide what do you uniquely love and have to offer and hone that. You’ll be more successful and more fulfilled.


A lot of MAPPsters are entrepreneurial people and like to start their own initiatives. Not all of them become a booming success. In your opinion, what do MAPPsters who succeed in setting up their own practice, platform, organization, or consultancy agency have in common?

As Angela Duckworth would say, “Grit.” It’s very hard work. Also, they’ve found a problem that they’re uniquely positioned to solve.


Is there anything important that you would like to share with fellow MAPPsters and PP enthusiasts?

I read recently that eventually there should not be a field called “positive psychology.” As most students of positive psychology know, the term was coined to differentiate it from most other psychology studies of the 20th century that focused on why people suffer.

Martin Seligman made the point in the early 2000s that the field should focus as much rigor on why people thrive. Positive psychology is not an end in itself; it is a means to help people live their best lives.

About the Author

With his work in positive psychology, Seph Fontane Pennock has been able to help tens of thousands of practitioners and educators all around the world. Seph strongly believes that we can deal with most of life’s absurdities by leveraging human connection and challenging ourselves, instead of using dogma or pharmaceutical drugs.

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