As Bermuda’s post-recession economy continues to slowly improve, members of a new generation of budding professionals are finding their place in the island’s diverse business landscape, honing their skills as they settle into careers in their chosen fields. For this reason, we at The Bermudian are pleased to profile the achievements of ten young people who have been nominated by their respective companies for being “Rising Stars,” those who display a special potential towards success in their fields while exhibiting a positive attitude in the face of adversity.
In 2017, our Rising Stars include candidates from banking, insurance, reinsurance, hospitality, culinary arts, law and interior design. Their stories are all equally impressive, and we hope that our younger readers will take inspiration from this feature that they can do whatever they put their minds to with the right combination of perseverance, work ethic and a little bit of luck.
This year’s Rising Stars are:
“I think Bermuda offers a great start when you are trying to grow in an industry,” says 29-year-old Madison Mello of her role as a marketing coordinator for the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. “The island is small, it is very easy to excel at something without having a degree, and Bermuda likes to watch Bermudians succeed.” With almost a decade of experience in the hospitality industry from working at Flanagan’s Irish Pub, Mello realised in the summer of 2015 that she wanted to expand her skill set and successfully applied for an assistant manager position at the Fairmont-managed hotel. In February 2016 she applied for her current position, and was delighted to be offered the job. “For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had finally figured out what I was meant to be doing,” she reflects.
Mello’s day-to-day responsibilities include crafting messaging for the hotel’s advertising, branding, public relations and social media. She also hosts social media influencers, and even had the opportunity to work with the producers of NBC’s The Today Show when they broadcast from the hotel in May of this year. “I love how current it is,” she explains of her position, elaborating that getting to meet and work with so many interesting people is one of the biggest perks of the job. For those looking to get a start in the hospitality industry, she offers simple, but powerful advice: “Believe in yourself. Close your mind to the negativity and continue to push forward. Eventually someone will notice and it will be worth the wait.”
Nineteen-year-old Kayla Williams is a chef de partie at the MEF Restaurant Group, having begun her ambitious journey into the world of cuisine by enrolling in a two-year culinary arts programme at Bermuda College. After her first year, she participated in a charity event called Plates of Passion, where she was partnered with an executive chef to design and execute a menu for 100-plus guests. It was here that she met Serge Bottelli, executive chef at the Lido Complex, and was offered a summer internship at Mickey’s Bistro. “My class of 2014 from Bermuda College inspired me in my career,” admits Williams. “They made me realise that there are so many ways to be a chef, so many different personalities, styles and tastes, that when mixed together can produce incredible works of art.”
Williams’s ultimate goal is to open a café in Bermuda that caters to all eating styles (including those of diabetic, celiac, vegan or vegetarian diners) and is managed by and employs trained, qualified Bermudians. “Additionally, I’d like to create a training programme for youth and young adults that offers career skills for prospective chefs, waiters and waitresses, while helping them understand the importance of service in our community,” she adds. Noting the hurdles associated with being young and female in her chosen profession, she is nonetheless determined to show the industry that she is creative, fast, assertive and strong in her career. “The best advice I would give someone starting out in my industry would be: Make sure you really, really want it.”
An actuarial analyst at Validus Re, 25-year-old Helen Crisson approaches her chosen career path with enthusiasm and confidence. “Seeing the opportunities for growth is very exciting,” she says. “Industries evolve, so watching and being a part of something for which Bermuda is on the global stage has always been a big part of why I chose a career in reinsurance.” Having originally gotten her start in reinsurance as an intern at Validus, she has been there ever since, and started as an analyst right out of university. She enjoys the variety that comes with her position, noting that each submission is different and presents a new puzzle to solve. “When I’m not pricing, there are always projects to work on, challenging me to think outside of the box and learn new skills.”
Noting that she’s had a multitude of positive, inspirational people guide her to where she is today, Crisson states that her short-term goal is to pass the actuarial exams and get fully qualified. “Learning how to study well has been, and still is, one of my biggest obstacles,” she admits. “It’s an ongoing process that keeps changing as I continue to take the exams.” In terms of advice for people considering a career in reinsurance, she encourages young people to ask questions and never stop learning, elaborating that as the associated technologies evolve, so should one’s skills. “The more you understand, the more you can contribute, and the more you can contribute, the more valuable you are.”
“My environment is ever-changing, and the best thing is I get to evolve and grow with the business,” states 26-year-old business manager Yanni DelValle of her role at HSBC Bermuda. “Every day I am challenged to find ways to streamline processes and find effective ways to improve the staff and customer journeys.” Having graduated university with a degree in women’s studies, DelValle never expected to end up in banking, but in 2013 she accepted a position as part-time teller and began to take a keen interest in the inner workings of the bank. Within three months, she was a full-time employee whose persistent enthusiasm and eagerness to learn resulted in her current position as business manager. “It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you are willing to learn and know that nothing is impossible,” she says.
DelValle thanks her parents for helping her get to where she is today, noting that they made countless sacrifices for her. “They are the hardest working people I know,” she says. “They ensured that my sister and I accomplished the things that they always wanted but never had the opportunity to accomplish.” In terms of ambitions, she hopes to be sent on an international assignment in another HSBC jurisdiction to acquire new knowledge that can benefit the Bermuda branch, and ultimately wants to leave a legacy for those that come after her. “Knowing that I can be a role model and assist in the development of people who started where I did is very humbling, and I hope I can leave a positive impression.”
Vanessa Bean is 30 years old, and works as an interior designer at OBM International (OBMI). “I love that I indirectly help my clients in their daily lives by providing functional, yet aesthetically pleasing spaces where they live, work and play,” she says. “The mos
t exciting part of my career in Bermuda is getting the chance to develop spaces inspired by my island home.” Having originally worked as a furniture sales rep at Rooms For You, Bean’s first position at OBMI was as a volunteer in their design materials library, and she eventually worked her way up to become a full-time designer in 2012. Specialising in graphic presentation and space planning for projects of all shapes and sizes, she aims for her work to create the stage for a unique experience. “Art inspires life, life inspires art,” she declares.
“I would advise them firstly, to believe in themselves,” Bean says of advice she’d give to those considering interior design as a profession. “Seek an accredited school and know that this is a multi-faceted industry which requires patience, compassion and professionalism.” To encourage more interest in the field, she hopes to help increase community awareness about her profession and inspire locals to embrace the opportunities available for a career in interior design. Her long-term goal is to design spaces that affect the greater community while encouraging growth and Bermudian pride. “I feel that our intimate community is providing me with just what I need in this stage of my career.”
Twenty-seven-year-old Andrew Burnett-Herkes is an assistant underwriter and management trainee at Argus Insurance, and highly values the supportive environment that his company provides. “I’m constantly given the tools and support needed to succeed and progress in my career,” he says. “With our small team there are opportunities to gain experience working with all manner of clients across multiple industries, which is great from a development standpoint.” Stating that he loves the problem-solving aspect of insurance, he also appreciates the sheer diversity of work he encounters day to day. “One moment I could be helping a client insure their car, the next I’ll be working on a business’s commercial fire policy.”
Burnett-Herkes notes that the biggest obstacle he had to overcome to get where he is today was himself. “Relatively shortly before I started at Argus, I was resistant to the idea of working in the insurance industry,” he admits. “Shedding that mindset was the best thing I could do.” Now, he takes advantage of any and every opportunity that presents itself, and aims to complete his Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation in the near future. As for long-term goals, he aims high. “Who knows how realistic it is, but someday I’d like to run my own company,” he reveals. “Whatever industry that’s in I don’t yet know—maybe that industry doesn’t even exist yet.”
A senior associate at PwC, 24-year-old Chelsea Terceira started as a summer intern after finishing her first year of university, and was able to complete three co-op work terms within various departments as part of her degree. “This helped me to gain valuable experience and ultimately decide that I wanted to return to the insurance and reinsurance department after graduation,” she elaborates, adding that having a strong support system helped her get to where she is today. Extolling the value of early networking and relationship building, she hopes to work her way up to a managerial role in the firm, and ultimately aims to be in a position to mentor other young professionals with the experience she’s gained throughout her career. “There is a lot of opportunity in regards to career progression and mobility, as Bermuda is connected with other major financial services centres,” she says.
Terceira values the variety afforded by her career, noting that being in auditing not only gives her exposure to different companies, but the different parts within the companies themselves. “Given the size of the island, there are more opportunities to interact with and learn directly from industry leaders, which are not as common in other major cities,” she adds. In terms of obstacles overcome, she explains that completing her CPA designation was one of the hardest things she’s had to do. “It was a challenging two-year process, which often involved missing out on a social life, but the accomplishment at the end was well worth the sacrifices.”
“Although I didn’t start out in banking, I brought with me experience and transferrable skills from previous positions I’d held,” states Melissa Pridham, vice president of financial services at Clarien Bank at age 30. Having formerly owned a restaurant in Halifax with her husband, she notes that “business is business,” and that a lot of the skills required are the same whether you’re selling a steak or a bank account. Pridham values Clarien’s position as a smaller bank in giving her more exposure to opportunities she might not have at a larger organisation. “Be flexible, adaptable and embrace ambiguity,” she advises prospective bankers. “It’s critical in remaining competitive.”
Pridham highlights her gratitude at having the constant guidance of her fellow Clarien team members. “There is still much for me to learn in banking, so I intend to further immerse myself in different areas of the business and explore as many opportunities as I can to grow professionally,” she reveals. “I thrive on the fact that every day is different and challenging and very much value the support from my colleagues.” Other positive influences include her father, who instilled in her the values of hard work, determination and “keeping at it.” Ultimately, she hopes do the best she possibly can at whatever she does, with passion and no regrets, and to know that she’s helped and encouraged others along the way.
To Jordan Knight, 30-year-old litigation associate at MJM Barristers & Attorneys, getting started in a career in law is a matter of being up-front and expressive. “Don’t be shy!” he says. “I’ve learned that it’s easier to get noticed by being vocal and sharing your opinion.” In 2007, Knight was accepted into the Kent Law Programme at Bermuda College, and was eventually granted a government scholarship to complete his legal studies in the UK. When asked what he loves most about his chosen career, his reply is philosophically big picture. “Everything we do as a society is immersed in the law in some way or another, which makes what I do feel like it has a purpose larger than each individual task I complete,” he reflects.
“Advocating and seeing others advocate is the most exciting part of being an attorney in my opinion,” Knight declares of his area of law. “Although I originally studied to be a corporate attorney, the allure and excitement of being a litigator has swayed me from that path.” He aims to absorb as much as possible from his current position, as well as to gain practical experience at every opportunity. His long-term ambition is to eventually become a director or partner should he remain in practice, and he is grateful for the unique learning experiences that come with working in Bermuda. “Being in a smaller jurisdiction means being part of smaller teams, and as such, having more direct working relationships with the most senior members of the firm.”