Exciting adventures have been many for Emily Reber Porter, and, it seems, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I don’t know if we have any more lives than one, so in my one life I want to make sure that I take advantage of all the opportunities to experience the world,” she says.
Her passion for growth and innovation serve her well as chief operating officer of The MacNaughton Group, a tailor-made position built upon years of learning and growing her professional and personal arsenal. The skillsets she learned while working in D.C. and San Francisco, as well as in Honolulu, bolstered her ability to support the local company in a variety of ways. And it all started with a simple decision to branch out and try something new.
She jet off to Princeton University after high school at Punahou and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs—she also earned a certificate in East Asian studies while there—and then set off for Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude. In between, she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and conducted research in Osaka, Japan, where she took her love of learning to a new level and earned a master’s degree in Japanese history. “I wanted to experience something different from Hawai‘i, to learn something new,” she recalls.
Upon graduating for Harvard, Porter returned to Hawai‘i and served as a federal judicial clerk under The Honorable Helen Gillmor and spent a number of years practicing as a litigator with Good-sill Anderson Quinn & Stifel, where she became well-acquainted with commercial business disputes and intellectual property space. At the time Porter’s husband, Wes, was a federal prosecutor in Honolulu and got offered a position within the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Porter once again packed her bags and headed back to the East Coast.
There, she continued her litigation efforts at Covington & Burling LLP. While Porter excelled at her profession, she found herself looking toward innovation and pushing boundaries and the new adventures that awaited beyond the horizon.
This vision lined up perfectly with her desire to be closer to home, and the couple moved to San Francisco, where Porter became enthralled by the tech startup world.
She landed a gig as general counsel, chief administrative officer, and vice president of customer and professional operations of JustAnswer. Through wearing multiple hats, she gained knowledge about strategic planning and financial aspects of business. Though California was closer to home, it wasn’t close enough for Porter.
In the summer of 2015, after seven years in the Bay Area, she and Wes, as well as their children Evan, 12, and Cameron, 10, came back to the islands. Upon returning home, Porter started with The MacNaughton Group as executive vice president of operations and strategy. Quickly, though, her vast skill-set was recognized and the company promoted her to chief operating officer at the end of last year.
“They created this position for me,” she says of her current situation. “We formed a bit of a bond around our real passion for Hawai‘i.”