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Emily Penn's Answers to Thriving Interview

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

Interview with Emily Penn
Photo credit: Parley

Ocean advocate and skipper Emily Penn has seen first hand how much plastic ends up in our ocean. She has organised the largest ever community-led waste cleanup from a tiny Tongan island, trawled for microplastics on a voyage through the Arctic Northwest Passage, rounded the planet on the record-breaking biofuelled boat Earthrace, and worked on a sailing cargo ship trading western supplies for coconuts.

Emily now splits her time between running eXXpedition; a series of all female sailing voyages whose mission is to collect data and expose the ‘invisible’ microplastic and toxic pollution in our seas; and developing upstream solutions on land with a network of changemakers, corporate partners, scientists and government bodies.

Take a read of Emily's answers to thriving and be inspired to pursue a life purpose, even if it means taking a unique path than everyone around you.


The ‘Answers to Thriving' is an interview series that takes a look at the women who have taken action to pursue a life purpose, goal or ambition. We uncover key moments, lessons and habits that have influenced the life they lead today.


The last inspiring podcast you listened to and what makes it worth a listen:

Ridiculously Human - the hosts are great fun and keep it real.

How do you go about self-development?

Constantly seek out experts and ask them lots of questions :)

Which business or person inspires you right now?

Sky - they continue to be ambitious in big business, first with their pledge to be single-use plastic free by end of 2020, and now to go net zero carbon.

Who has helped you progress in your career the most and what did they do to support you?

I've had many mentors over the last 12 years, but they have changed as my direction has shifted in different directions so there isn't one person who stands out, but many people who have helped shaped the different aspects of my work - from sailing, to logistics, communications, entrepreneurship, science, and making an impact.

What has been the most defining moment in your career to date?

Seeing plastic in the middle of the Pacific ocean when I was 21 - it didn't make any sense and I've been on a mission to solve the problem ever since!

What fear have you had to overcome to pursue your ambitions?

FOMO (fear of missing out)... during the first few years of my career I went in a drastically different direction to all my friends from university. They got swanky new jobs in the City earning a good paycheck and going on glamourous holidays while I was crossing an ocean with a bunch of strangers with no running water/toilet, and not really sure where I was heading. I had to set aside preconceived ideas of what I 'should' have been doing in my twenties, and trust that I was onto something and that the perseverance would pay off in the end.

Life/career advice you wish you’d been given in your early 20s?

Follow your gut - your instincts always know best.

What advice would you give women who want to make a positive change in their lives?

Work out what you're good at, and what you enjoy. Find the point that intersects the thing you care about, and spend your time working hard to turn that sweet spot into a reality!

What does thriving mean to you?

Waking up every morning so excited to jump out of bed because you can't wait to live another day!

Emily Penn and eXXpedition
Emily analysing plastic samples and the eXXpedition all-female Round British team.

Image credits: 1-2 Eleanor Church Lark Rise Pictures. 3 Getty Images. 4 Emmanual Lubezki.

Find out more about the all-women voyages exploring the impact of plastics and toxics in our ocean through eXXpedition

Follow Emily Penn on Instagram or twitter


Enjoy this interview? How about sharing it with others?

Thrivhers mission is to inspire as many women as possible to take action on their ambitions. We'd be so grateful if you could help join us on this quest and share it via your preferred social media channel.

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