Area Vice President, West, BetterUp
Master of Applied Positive Psychology, University of Pennsylvania ’17
Bachelor of Arts in Human Developmental Psychology, Boston College ’10
As the Area Vice President, West at the global coaching network BetterUp, Chad Thomas feels fortunate to work at a company that takes positive psychology seriously in the workplace as it fulfills its mission of helping its clients “pursue their lives with clarity, purpose, and passion.” He applies positive psychology fundamentals daily with the eight sales executives he oversees by incorporating positive interventions like gratitude exercises. And he challenges his staff to do inner work to “take time to reflect and breathe and think about intrinsic value before they show up to work.” With five Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) alumni working at the company, over 20 alumni coaching in the network, and professors Dr. Martin Seligman and Angela Duckworth speaking at company events, it’s “literally a family of positive psychology.”
The MAPP program came at the right time for Chad, both personally and professionally. After having worked in banking for several years, he was fed up with the stresses of the job and started searching on LinkedIn for articles about being happier at work. He hadn’t been familiar with the field, but his research led him to articles about positive psychology and eventually to the MAPP program website. When Chad read the program description, he says it was as if “the clouds had parted, and I found my purpose.” Chad discovered MAPP alumni in his LinkedIn network, and after a few conversations with them, he prepared his application and was accepted to the program in June 2016.
For Chad, MAPP was transformative. Like many when they enter the program, he was at an inflection point and wanted more out of his personal and professional lives. He completed the program while working full time, planning to get married, and preparing for a move—“a convergence of a million personal things happening at once.” Chad says that MAPP gave him “a spark of hope and joy of what psychology could be in the workplace, and practical tools for how to really get the most out of work and how to get the most out of my life. And I've never heard of an academic program that does both of those things.” Chad also credits MAPP with helping him find his way to BetterUp. The program inspired him to pursue purpose in his work, challenge himself to figure out what made him happy before thinking about a paycheck, and push himself there internally.
Chad cites the Introduction to Positive Psychology class he took with Dr. Seligman as the course that particularly stood out. Dr. Seligman helped Chad recognize the beauty and rigor of the field and to see that it was truly applicable and much less narrow than he’d realized. Chad and his classmates met pioneers in education, business, athletics, and medicine through class lectures. One guest speaker, neurologist Steven F. Maier, came in to talk about learned helplessness and the science behind it. That lecture opened Chad’s eyes to how much potential there was in the field. His view of the applicability of positive psychology broadened again when he served as an assistant instructor for the course in 2019 and met people from diverse backgrounds who were all aspiring to use positive psychology in their own workplaces. Chad observes that for students, “MAPP is a trampoline to their careers, and they just go off and do amazing things, which proliferates positive psychology in places that it normally wasn't able to access.”
Chad has already recommended MAPP to three of his colleagues, all of whom ended up enrolling in the program. To other prospective students, Chad notes that it is an amazingly enriching program, but one that will stretch you, especially if you're working full time or have a family. But, as he says, “MAPP is one of the most incredible experiences, and it's up to you to make the most of it. The program will challenge you to think about the best version of yourself and how to normalize that so you bring that back to your work, your home, and to finding a way to stay balanced.”
Chad believes there’s an increasing appetite for people to get educated about the benefits of positive psychology and feels that Penn “MAPPsters” are especially suited to meet that need. For his part, Chad hopes to continue to be “a better voice for positive psychology at scale. Being a part of this program is a privilege in that it gives you a voice that people want to hear.” Through his writing and speaking sessions, he aims to help positive psychology proliferate and reach more people who are not involved in higher education, including middle- and high-schoolers. Chad jokes that he’s “been trapped in this positive psychology bubble for a while now, and it's pretty awesome.” Through his work and other projects, he’s helping to include more and more people in that bubble.