Lana Tamaro’s career history resembles one of those old folding yardsticks. The jointed segments unfold into an awkward zigzag, but when all the pieces are straightened out, they become a sturdy and logical measure. In the same way, each connected elbow of Tamaro’s career has added strength, and the connections along her career path make perfect, logical sense too. From pre-school teacher to New York City police officer to licensed mental health counselor and most recently to business partner and new mom, the common thread for her has been working with people and helping them to create new opportunities for themselves.
She grew up first in Manhattan and then in Sunnyside, Queens with her police officer dad and her dedicated, community-minded mom, who became a statistician when Tamaro began middle school. Tamaro attended a competitive high school with a rigorous, college-bound program that planted the seeds of her future commitment to her studies. She continued directly from high school to college, intending to study marketing, but she mis-stepped quickly, due to, she says, insufficient maturity. “As soon as I figured out that they weren’t sending notes home to my mom to tell her I wasn’t going to class, I stopped attending.” When she returned to college a few years later, she first completed an associate’s degree at LaGuardia Community College and then went on to John Jay College to complete her undergraduate degree in forensic psychology while at the same time, serving as a Manhattan police officer.
“For myself, I know without liberal arts coursework, my life wouldn’t be as rich as it is today. When I hire for the business, I look for those well-rounded people, who have maybe played a sport or were on a chess team, people who cultivate transferable skills. I look for flexibility, social skills and curiosity.”
Tamaro’s dad encouraged her to take the exam to qualify for the police academy during a summer break from her pre-school teaching. She felt she was just humoring him by taking it, but she was offered a position as a police officer and never went back to the classroom. ”My career began in the 13th precinct in Manhattan, an amazing precinct with the most dedicated men and women you will ever meet. My next assignment would be in the Detective Bureau at the Forensic Investigation Division, more commonly known as the Police Lab. Here is where I would spend the next eight years. It was a front row seat to the most amazing cases and experts in the world.”
“My graduation from the academy was my father’s proudest moment; he was beaming. It meant a lot to him to have me join the family business, “ she joked. “When I was a rookie, my dad would visit me on my beat during his time off. He really got a kick out of his daughter on patrol. One time there was a very small fire at a storefront, and we stomped it out together. From that day on, my dad would refer to it as the job we handled together. My dad retired that same year with almost 40 years of service.”
She retired from the force 10 years later, and went on to earn her master’s degree at Pace in 2006 to become a mental health counselor. “Police work requires compassion and being there for those in need during difficult times. The sense of team and fellowship is something I still miss. I am fortunate to have had the experience. It was an amazing education and it prepared me both for a career in counseling and my work as an executive,” she commented. “Within the first year of private practice, I began to have a great interest in working with couples. Eventually I opened my own practice in Long Island, where I specialized in couples counseling and supervising/coaching professionals who had a desire to work with couples. I also offered couples weekend retreats where they could get away from it all and reconnect.” She also has done some work to support remote workers and with corporate team building efforts.
After 10 years in practice, Tamaro’s career unfolded yet again. At first she bridged two worlds for quite a while, but she now works full-time with her husband in their business, CASO Documents Management. The business has more than100 employees and three locations in Manhattan, San Antonio, Texas, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “I love seeing people grow and supporting their career paths. I’m fortunate to do this work.” Meanwhile, this year she finished her coursework towards her PhD in mental health counseling.
“The professors [at Pace] were progressive, challenging teachers, willing to commit to nurturing their students. We weren’t working just for the grade in our classes.”
Loan debt is the biggest burden to today’s young graduates, according to Tamaro. ”My advice to young people is to say ‘yes’ to more opportunities and to try to be flexible enough to recognize them.” Graduates have to chip away at their debt, but they also should be “building networks with smart, compassionate people and giving others a generous hand along the way. Having a generous heart is key for me, “ she comments. “For myself, I know without liberal arts coursework, my life wouldn’t be as rich as it is today. When I hire for the business, I look for those well-rounded people, who have maybe played a sport or were on a chess team, people who cultivate transferable skills. I look for flexibility, social skills and curiosity.” She also feels that internships, which her company does offer, are critical for students today.
Tamaro found Pace to be a forward-thinking university that gave her the tools to succeed. “My undergraduate career was kind of pieced together, but at Pace I was really engaged. I knew I needed to beef up my resume if I wanted to pursue a doctorate, so I chose Pace for my masters. The professors were progressive, challenging teachers, willing to commit to nurturing their students. We weren’t working just for the grade in our classes.” One special mentor was Program Director Paul Griffin, still a friend and colleague. “He’s so brilliant, but he maintains his humility. That’s unique. He’s a patient problem-solver; there’s no cookie-cutter approach to students’ needs.”
From her perspective on the Dyson advisory board, Tamaro sees the Pace experience as even richer and more eclectic now. Her position on the board has been a way to continue to be involved and to re-pay a debt of gratitude. Now she can be part of shaping student careers and can facilitate new opportunities for deserving students. “The first year I was just excited to be asked. Now, I realize that as a board member, I can have impact on and first-hand contact with student projects and scholarships. And I get to spend time with like-minded and accomplished board members like Charlie Gombar and Rose Littlejohn, amazing executives and people. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”
Tamaro is proud of her accomplishments. “My friends and family tease me that whatever I’m doing right now is always the best thing.” Still, balancing work and personal life is a new challenge right now with her baby girl at home. With the demands of new motherhood, a doctoral thesis to write and a partnership in a family business, she has her hands full. Before Mackenzie’s birth, Tamaro and her husband spent six weeks traveling in Iceland, Ireland, France and Italy last May and June in preparation for being more homebound. They also slow down the pace of their lives a little during the summer at their house in Orient Point on Long Island, where they enjoy the vineyards, boating and the area farms.
The reading on her nightstand right now: What To Expect The First Year [a parenting classic], research articles on telecommuting and the Harvard Business Review
Learning something new: “We love France, so I’m working on learning French. We’d love our daughter to speak French too.”
Her favorite dish to prepare: Sunday sauce with pasta: “Very traditional,” she laughs.
A family ritual: A big Christmas Eve with the extended family
To reach Tamaro directly, contact the Dyson Board.