Trailblazing in the Corporate Landscape: Davida O’Brien’s Story of Overcoming Challenges and Embracing Growth

The 10 Most Influential Black Corporate Women to Watch in 2023

In a realm where talent, leadership, and innovation converge, Davida O’Brien stands tall as a beacon of excellence—recognized as one of the distinguished members of “The 10 Most Influential Black Corporate Women to Watch in 2023,” her remarkable achievements speak volumes about her extraordinary capabilities. As the Tourism Standards and Training Manager at the Bermuda Tourism Authority, she showcases her commitment to driving growth and excellence in the tourism sector. Simultaneously, as CEO and Founder of Vida Fusions, she revolutionized the industry with her visionary approach. Embodying multipotentiality, Davida O’Brien’s influence is set to reshape the corporate landscape for years to come.

This seasoned executive regards “AUTHENTIC” as the quintessential essence that encapsulates her identity, a sentiment we wholeheartedly endorse. “It’s about embodying genuineness and honesty in all interactions and actions,” she says. “Embracing my spirited personality and “get-it-done” attitude allows people to see and accept me for who I truly am.”

Davida recognizes authenticity as crucial in cultivating profound connections and fostering community trust. Her commitment to this trait serves as the bedrock for establishing a safe and inclusive environment, empowering individuals to express their true selves. She views authenticity as an ongoing journey of self-reflection, awareness, growth, and adaptability—a perpetual process that enables her continual development as an authentic individual. She expresses it as a journey she fully commits to in her professional life and beyond.

A Paradigm Shift: Redefining Success 

When we ask about Davida O’Brien’s perspective on success, she reveals a transformative experience initiated by John Maxwell’s thoughtful piece, “What I Believe About Success.” Undergoing a substantial paradigm shift, she now views success as an ongoing, multifaceted odyssey of personal growth rather than a fixed destination.

In her words: “Every connection I forge, every morsel of knowledge I acquire, and each stride toward my aspirations is a triumphant celebration of success. I witnessed my evolution, resilience, and agility within these pivotal moments—characteristics nurtured through victories and setbacks.”

Davida believes that in the grand tapestry of life, we never truly know the potential impact we can have on others or, more significantly, our positive influence on their lives.

She regards life’s pleasant and challenging lessons, absorbed by those around her, as daily successes that mark her journey. Reflecting upon her path, she acknowledges having already savored the sweet taste of success, yet she remains aware that the quest for more achievements is far from over. She adds, “My journey is teeming with countless achievements yet to be discovered.”

Foray into The World of Tourism

While Davida O’Brien’s childhood may not have been adorned with concrete aspirations and ambitions, she finds solace in knowing it was perfectly acceptable. Today, her dreams are expansive, filling the void left by her younger self and propelling the aspirations of her present and future selves. She firmly believes in the power of exploration, allowing individuals to venture forth, test the waters, and uncover what genuinely sparks their spirit, irrespective of when that enlightenment transpires.

Davida embraces the belief that life unravels itself in its own distinctive timing. Instead of an early-kindled passion, the interpersonal connections she forged during her formative years ignited a nascent interest, eventually evolving into a fervent pursuit. Memories of her late aunt, with whom she spent summers in Dockyard, unknowingly planted the seeds of her future path as she observed her aunt selling hot dogs, chips, and drinks to locals and tourists.

However, the true germination of her passion for the industry occurred during her final year of high school, sparked by an intriguing tourism class, and that moment proved to be the turning point, solidifying her conviction. It led the young Davida to simultaneously juggle roles as a bartender and front desk agent while pursuing her college education. Such experiences significantly contributed to her attainment of an associate’s degree in hospitality management. Since then, her journey has been immersed in the captivating tapestry of the industry’s rich history.

Overcoming Challenges as a Female Leader of Color

This trailblazing leader draws inspiration from the weighty wisdom of Mindy Kaling: “If you don’t see a clear path for what you want, sometimes you have to make it yourself.” These empowering words have resonated deeply with her, propelling her forward with relentless confidence, even in the face of daunting obstacles.

Reflecting on her remarkable professional journey, Davida shares that one of the initial hurdles she encountered was navigating the preconceived notions associated with her age. The pervasive belief that younger people lack sufficient professional experience presented a formidable challenge, demanding her to consistently demonstrate competence, growth potential, and a proven track record of success. However, even with these qualifications, establishing authority remained an arduous task.

As a young woman of color, the complexity of her journey intensified as she had to navigate power dynamics while strategically asserting herself adeptly. Determining the most effective ways and moments to showcase her expertise demanded astute judgment and careful consideration. Although these challenges were undeniably formidable, they served as fertile ground for personal growth, fostering a profound sense of confidence, sharpening her communication skills, and emboldening her to showcase her expertise unhesitatingly.

The relationships and alliances Davida diligently forges are enhancing her credibility as a respected BTA (Bermuda Tourism Authority) leader and a successful business owner. Regular interactions with stakeholders, attentiveness to their concerns, and acting as their unwavering advocate, when necessary, form the bedrock of her professional practice.

Davida aptly notes, “This journey has taught me that leadership is not merely defined by the position one holds, but rather by the people one serves.” The inherent challenges she encountered early in her career have bolstered her unique leadership style, enabling her to transcend societal bias related to age and race and firmly establish herself as an effective, confident, and inspiring leader.

Overcoming Setbacks and Embracing Growth

Davida O’Brien has encountered her fair share of setbacks and has learned valuable lessons from each. Rejection and criticism, though painful, have taught her the importance of taking a reflective pause instead of reacting impulsively. This introspective approach promotes personal growth, enhances self-awareness, and ensures a thoughtful response.

As Davida discovered when she ventured into entrepreneurship, overcoming fear and embracing risks can lead to remarkable rewards. As a mother, balancing various aspects of life poses roadblocks, but through self-reflection, prioritization, and setting boundaries, she strives to harmonize career, family, and personal well-being.

“I may not be an expert at this delicate balancing act, but I continually evolve and improve,” Davida says. “Witnessing my growth on this journey has been nothing short of remarkable.

Propelling Transformation in the Tourism Industry

The tourism industry has undergone significant changes, primarily since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the esteemed Tourism Standards and Training Manager at the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA), Davida O’Brien is pivotal in leading a team dedicated to attracting and nurturing talent within this vibrant industry. By fostering the development of well-rounded ambassadors for Bermuda and facilitating comprehensive career growth, she ensures the alignment of the workforce with the industry’s dynamic demands. To effectively accomplish these objectives, it is paramount for Davida and the team she serves to remain at the forefront of industry changes, be they positive or negative, equipping themselves with the knowledge and preparedness required for success.

Her resolute commitment to the industry extends across her multiple roles within the BTA and as the CEO of Vida Fusions, her entrepreneurial venture. Inspired by the words of Maya Angelou, who once said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style,” Davida consistently embodies these ideals throughout her career journey.

Her enduring commitment promises to leave a lasting and significant impact, solidifying her legacy as a valuable contributor and fervent advocate. For Davida, this continuous engagement transcends professional obligations and represents a deeply personal mission fueled by an unwavering belief in the transformative power of tourism.

The Power of Connection-Making: A Woman’s Journey in Leadership

A dynamic interplay between progress and persistent challenges has unfolded throughout the journey of women in leadership, as observed by Davida O’Brien. This expedition, unique to each woman, has been defined by her as a quest for “connection-making.” She emphasizes the significance of forging connections with individuals from diverse backgrounds, recognizing it brings forth a multitude of skills and perspectives, furthering innovation and amplifying the impact within organizations. It holds true, particularly for the hospitality and tourism industries.

In her words: “As women in leadership, it is paramount that we cultivate these meaningful connections, fostering a robust network of support.”

Davida’s Journey Before the Bermuda Tourism Authority

Davida O’Brien’s professional trajectory encompasses more than two decades across diverse industries. Before she joined the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA), she played a pivotal role at the Bermuda Hospitality Institute (BHI), a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering the growth, development, and sustainability of Bermudians in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

Driven by a deep-rooted passion for this industry, she wove her entrepreneurial aspirations into its vibrant tapestry. Recognizing the universal allure of shared enjoyment over a tantalizing beverage, she conceived the idea of Vida Fusions. This platform serves as an inspirational catalyst for crafting beverages, shaping community bonds, and facilitating new connections through delightful experiences. Vida Fusions embodies her vision in Bermuda, where social interactions intertwined with expertly crafted drinks are cherished.

“With Vida Fusions, every sip becomes a journey—an invitation to an experience overflowing with excitement, novelty, and a fusion of surprise, curiosity, and awe,” Davida articulates.

She emphasizes that the essence lies in crafting an enthralling, alcohol-free, ready-to-drink encounter that transcends the notion of a mere beverage but instead serves as a celebration of life’s simple pleasures.

Proud Moments as A Leader

Immersed in an unwavering sense of fulfillment, Davida O’Brien treasures the birth of her son as her most profound accomplishment. Acting as a constant guiding light, he shapes her actions and defines her purpose in life.

On a professional level, she drives immense satisfaction from nurturing her business from inception to its current state and envisioning its potential future. A notable achievement in her career is getting the opportunity to create enduring work for Bermuda, such as her pioneering accessibility awareness training course, which stands as one of her earliest achievements. Her leadership and unwavering dedication are evident in her role as a driving force behind the development of Bermuda’s comprehensive e-learning platform, BTA+ and in-depth career guide for the hospitality and tourism industry. Spearheading the development of AnchorBDA, a program assured by the esteemed City & Guilds being released this fall, and achieving integrating hospitality and tourism studies into local school curricula further showcase her determination and persistence.

Another highlight was developing her first training course which promoted accessibility awareness along with leading and developing Bermuda’s comprehensive e-learning platform, BTA+, reflect her commitment to service quality and the industry.

Davida’s recent appointment as Chairwoman for the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism/West End Division is a source of pride. She aims to foster strong stakeholder relationships, leveraging partnerships and collaboration to revitalize Bermuda’s hospitality and tourism industries. With a clear vision and pride, this corporate expert embraces each new endeavor as an opportunity for growth and impact, promoting fresh and innovative ideas. Davida eagerly looks forward to the future, driven by her passion and determination.

The Motivation, Authenticity, and Work-life Balance 

Motivating students and maintaining personal-professional equilibrium are tasks that Davida O’Brien gracefully navigates daily. Her work serves as a beacon of motivation and enables her to forge robust networks, leave a lasting legacy for her son and Bermuda, and embrace her authentic self. She draws inspiration from Noor Tagouri’s words, I want to teach people that my authentic self is better for the workplace. That person brings more ideas, more voice, more energy,” and she remains steadfast in her pursuit of excellence.

The savvy entrepreneur also endorses Michelle Obama’s statement, “There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice.”  Davida engenders inspiration, drives a desire for learning, stimulates personal growth, and cultivates a community driven by shared objectives, by creating an inclusive environment where individuals feel seen, heard, and respected.

As a doting mother and a multifaceted professional, she manages multiple responsibilities like an octopus using its metaphorical eight legs. Balance, she acknowledges, is a constantly shifting equilibrium influenced by the circumstances of each day: triumphs, challenges, and moments of calm mark the journey. Parenting and entrepreneurship bring simultaneous pressures, making a perfect 50/50 balance unlikely. Nevertheless, she seeks harmony that aligns with her daily needs, drawing strength from family and friends while carving out moments of solitude and relaxation.

Working in the vibrant hospitality and tourism industries makes every day different. Engaging in stakeholder meetings, building partnerships, and channeling creativity on a computer screen are among the varied activities she encounters. Regardless of the specific tasks, each moment brings fulfillment and satisfaction.

Reflecting on Dreams and Boundless Potential

“Looking back, I am far from having realized all my dreams,” expresses Davida. The allure of dreams lies in their infinite nature, their capacity to expand as far as the boundaries of one’s imagination. It is fascinating how certain aspirations only come to one’s mind once they materialize. Davida urges everyone never to confine themselves or their potential. Instead, to steadfastly hold onto the belief that anything is within their reach. Dreaming is a cherished pastime, offering glimpses into the vast possibilities that lie ahead, while also serving as a potent source of motivation. At times, it is delightful to immerse oneself in the richness of these dreams, drawing inspiration and courage from their essence.

Vision for the Future and Message to Aspiring Professionals

Looking ahead, Davida O’Brien has defined her goals for the upcoming years, primarily focusing on the growth and development of her business, Vida Fusions. She aims to strengthen the brand, establish a persistent presence in the market, and expand the distribution network to ensure easy accessibility of quality products to their valued customers. Additionally, Davida is driven by a personal ambition to continuously evolve and thrive in her career while serving as a respected role model for others in her industry.

For aspiring professionals and emerging leaders, Davida O’Brien offers a message of guidance and encouragement. She emphasizes the importance of leading with a clear vision and empathy, as these qualities are the foundation of effective leadership. Cultivating collaborations and nurturing relationships should be prioritized, recognizing them as the lifeblood of innovation and progress. Lastly, she advises cherishing one’s unique voice and developing a habit of self-introspection, empowering individuals to continually evolve, adapt, and make a meaningful impact on their chosen path.