Global Benefits Group (GBG) partners with Bonfire to empower its emerging women leaders to unlock their full potential. As a leading global financial services company, GBG offers global insurance products to businesses and consumers and has 15 offices around the world. GBG’s partnership with Bonfire is a powerful testament to the alignment of corporate values with personal values, demonstrating the company’s commitment to nurturing high-potential female talent.
Luciene DaSilva, Director of Operations at GBG, was among the first group of women at GBG to embark on the Bonfire experience, which has since transformed the careers of other female leaders at the company. DaSilva recently sat down with us to share how Bonfire was a pivotal part of her professional growth and ascension to her current role. She resides with her husband and son in Palm City, Florida.
This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Q: Could you share how you ended up working at GBG and your current position?
I’ve been with GBG for eleven years and in the industry for over sixteen years, which has brought me a lot of experience, opportunities, and learning.
When I came to GBG eleven years ago, we were just opening up our operations in Latin America. I worked with the Latin America territory for the first ten years, and at first, it was a learning curve for me. I was eventually able to adapt to all of the different departments and learn new things. I felt very lucky to have the opportunity because they trusted me and gave me the chance to develop, grow with the company, and grow in different departments.
About three years ago, just before the pandemic, I knew I was ready for something else. If I were going to make a change, it was not going to be within the same industry. I didn’t want to just go work for a neighboring insurance company; I really liked GBG.
An acquisition happened in 2018 that brought new leaders who established programs and opportunities (like this one) for the entire company. When I was selected to be part of the first group of Bonfire women, I was honored. Being selected for it out of the entire company – across the 450 employees that we have – made me feel honored to be part of it.
I knew I was going to take advantage of it because it was something good for me and something I could implement within the company. Through Bonfire, I developed courage and could envision the type of change I wanted to implement. At the end of the program, I was able to take a step back to look at what I wanted to change in my career.
During Bonfire, I was helping GBG with some operational projects for Latin America that would intertwine sales and marketing. I didn’t have the experience, but as I was doing it, it grew on me, and I really enjoyed learning these new skills.
It was a little while after the Bonfire program concluded, when an opportunity presented itself. I was looking for a new role within GBG and talking to my manager Joel about it. He’s a great person and is always willing to open new doors for his team. I really appreciate that. There was a position open for Director of Operations. It was focused in North America, but when I interviewed with the COO and Senior Vice President of Operations, they explained that the role would be more global, aligning with the company’s mission to act as one greater team. I said, “Okay, perfect! That will be a challenge for me, but I’m interested.”
I applied as if I were coming from outside the company, sent my resume, completed a few interviews, and waited with high hopes. They offered me the opportunity. I’m very thankful that I took that step forward. GBG trusted me and gave me the opportunity. Honestly, I don’t think I would’ve taken that step if it wasn’t for Bonfire.
Q: Can you share a specific example of a challenge or obstacle you faced during the program and how Bonfire helped you overcome it?
There was an exercise that asked us to describe ourselves, and it was hard for me to talk about myself. That was difficult, but I had help, especially from the small groups; we would get together and talk about it before we had to present it, which was very helpful because it was a challenge for me.
Q: What skills or qualities did you learn and develop at Bonfire that you later applied after the program?
Relationships. At that point, I did not have anyone reporting to me, but I kept in mind certain suggestions and ideas that I heard from the group and the presentations. Now, I have people reporting to me, so I use and apply those skills. It has been helpful because the relationship with coworkers is something that you really have to pay attention to. It seems easy, but it’s kind of like watering the plants every day. You have to communicate daily so you are prepared to face the challenging moments, which is a skill I learned. I went into Bonfire not expecting to learn that specifically, but I expected to come out with some things I could use in my professional life, some even in my personal life.
Q: Do you have an example of a lesson that applied to your personal life?
Take the step. For anything. I love to travel – I’ve always been very outgoing, but sometimes I was afraid of going somewhere I’ve never been before and don’t know the language. I learned to take that step and go on that trip, even if it’s going to be on the other side of the world. I’ve now been to Thailand, which was so cool.
I was also inspired to return to traveling with my son. We used to travel a lot, but it kind of slowed down. We take trips, just me and him, for mom-son bonding time. I’m lucky to have that time for just the two of us.
Q: Is there an internal Bonfire community at GBG that you connect with now that there are multiple cohorts of Bonfire women?
I do. My experience was so great, and I want them to have the same. We have conversations like, “How was the topic? How was your session today?” Connecting before they begin the program is very helpful for them. I share little tips and especially my enthusiasm!
Q: What can you share with company leaders about the importance of having a space for women to talk about their career and learning journeys through investments like Bonfire’s leadership development program?
Being at Bonfire with women who share different experiences but at the same time find similarities in them helps you to be open and realize what it means to be a woman in this space. I’m a working woman with the same opportunities as anybody else to succeed. I take care of a lot at work and at home, and I also take care of myself. It’s easy to get burned out. Many of the women in Bonfire with me were in very demanding roles, it helps us to stick together.
I learned how to have balance because otherwise, it’s too much, and with women, sharing those experiences is motivating. It opened my mind to what my company sees and my opportunities. It allowed me to grow and apply what I learned in Bonfire within my company.
Q: Is there anything else you want to share about your Bonfire experience?
I will always be thankful for the experience with Bonfire, what I learned, the opportunities it has brought to my life, and how it opened my eyes to different things that I needed to just go for. See what happens, take the chance and don’t be afraid.