We’ve all seen those cheesy Instagram posts with inspirational messages—like “Seize the day” or “Follow your heart” or “Live with passion”—scrawled across picturesque photos of sandy beaches, golden sunrises, and snow-capped mountain peaks. Maybe we’ve even tapped that little heart icon to publicly declare our support of such statements. But rarely do we live by them—at least not consistently. Emily Ely, on the other hand, has always used her heart as her compass—and it hasn’t failed her yet (well, except for the time she wandered off to an elementary school playground, scaring her parents half to death and setting off a massive search effort that involved a police helicopter).

That’s not to say Emily was a rebel child. On the contrary, she was the stereotypical overachiever: she always got good grades, she was a multisport athlete, and she even teamed up with her dad—who worked in the automotive industry—to rebuild the 1986 Chevy S-10 Blazer she drove in high school. “My dad bought it from my uncle and surprised me with it, and I was so excited,” she said. “Then, he told me it didn’t work.” But, Emily took it as a learning opportunity, and she spent the next two summers gutting the car and replacing the engine and the transmission.

That ended up coming in handy a few years down the road, when she began dating her now-husband, Tucker. “One of my first dates with him was helping him change the transmission on his truck,” she said with a laugh. The couple met in Santa Barbara, where Emily was attending college—and despite a friend’s best effort to keep them apart (“She thought he wasn’t good enough for me!”), they ended up getting married just shy of a year after they started dating. To some, that might sound crazy—but Emily knew in her heart that she’d found her soulmate.

The truly crazy part, Emily says, was that she and Tucker—along with their parents—planned the entire wedding in two weeks. “My mother-in-law is incredible,” she said. “My only job was to find a dress. My parents and his parents somehow managed to get the venue [in Henderson, Nevada] and the flowers.” And so, on July 4, 2008, before a crowd of 50 of their closest friends and family members, Tucker and Emily were married. “We planned it for the Fourth of July because Tucker was in the Navy and was training to go to Afghanistan, so that was the only day we knew for sure he could get off.” Luckily, the hitchin’ all came together without a hitch (pun intended). The wedding party even got to enjoy a spectacular fireworks display, as the reception room overlooked all of Las Vegas.

In 2009, Emily graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in communications—just as Tucker was processing out of the Navy. They moved to Santa Cruz, California, where Tucker attended school under the GI Bill, and Emily hit the pavement in search of work. “It took forever for me to find a job,” she said. “I had just graduated, and I didn’t have any real job experience. Plus, we were right in the middle of the recession.” Eventually, she landed a customer service gig at a screen printing company—and later, she ended up getting a job at a local bakery. “That was where my love of small business really began,” she said. “I started to understand small business owners and their challenges.” There, she wore many hats: administrative assistant, marketer, social media manager, website designer, blogger—even cookie packager. “Things were always really, really busy during the holidays,” she said. “So it was all hands on deck. I was out on the factory floor sleeving and boxing cookies. I’d come home with raw fingers from twisting the ties on the cookie bags.”

While she and Tucker loved Santa Cruz—their apartment was only a 10-minute walk from the boardwalk, the university, and the downtown area—they eventually decided to make their way to the Valley of the Sun so Tucker could enroll in a doctoral program at Arizona State University. “I was excited about all of the different opportunities for work,” Emily said. By then, she did have some real job experience under her belt—but she hadn’t yet discovered her true passion. “I knew I liked social media and interacting with customers to get their feedback,” she said. So, she applied for some social media positions, but she didn’t have much luck.

Not one to be discouraged, Emily decided that if she couldn’t get a marketing job, she’d put her efforts into marketing herself. “I subscribed to a bunch of design blogs and figured out how to make my own business card,” she said. “And I started going to a bunch of free networking events. Basically, I took on a ‘fake it until you make it’ kind of attitude.” All that hustling paid off: one of her networking contacts invited her to a special technology meetup, where she made a connection with someone from a local tech company—and that ended up turning into a job in website management, blogging, and social media.

Once she had her foot in the door of the Phoenix tech community, she started meeting people from other companies—including Charlotte Bohnett, WebPT’s content marketing and communications manager. The two hit it off, and when a position opened in WebPT’s marketing department, Charlotte enthusiastically recommended Emily for the job. When Emily received the offer to join the WebPT team, she again followed her heart—and accepted. At first, she handled WebPT’s EDU sales and media placements. “Talking to [physical therapy] professors was really cool, because they have so much knowledge about what the industry was when they were first starting out,” she said. “And it was also really cool that most of them were familiar with, or had heard about, WebPT from their therapist friends.”

The more she talked with those in the therapy profession—including WebPT Members—the more she started to recognize a huge opportunity to build some type of therapy community. “I got this feeling that a lot of people [in the PT industry] have wanted a central place for networking and peer-to-peer feedback and support in general,” she said. Fast-forward almost two years, and she and her team are on the cusp of introducing the exact type of community she was envisioning (stay tuned to the WebPT Blog for more details about this exciting development). “When WebPT was small, each Member had an assigned rep,” she explained. And while that ratio wasn’t scalable as the company grew, Emily says the new program “will hearken back to that.”

The program has also helped open a new door for Emily, who transitioned out of sales and media to take on the more customer-centric role of WebPT Member Marketing Specialist. “The position that I have now is something that developed and was created because of a company need and personal interests,” she said. According to Emily, that’s proof-positive that if you’re at the right company, you can chart your own path and align your passions with the work you do on a daily basis. “Knowing that a company will adapt to your wants and needs is a huge benefit as an employee—and one that keeps me happy every single day I’ve ever worked here,” she continued.

And in the spirit of WebPT’s work-hard, play-hard philosophy, Emily also stays busy outside of work—trying new restaurants, testing and rating ice-cream sandwiches, and training for a winter 10K in Sedona, Arizona. “I’m going to be huffing and puffing,” she said, adding that it was Tucker’s idea to register both of them for the race. It’s a hilly, high-elevation course—which means it’ll require a lot of cardiovascular strength. Luckily, Emily knows she can always rely on her heart.

Fave Five with Emily

  1. Favorite food: Spaghetti
  2. Favorite movie: Hot Fuzz
  3. Favorite sports team: San Francisco Giants
  4. Favorite band: Dave Matthews Band or Nine Inch Nails
  5. Favorite place: Bass Lake, CA