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Umoja kicks off WHM with Disney executive

Updated: Mar 20

The president of Disney-branded television shared her path to success with Umoja Black scholars.

By Kenya Harris, Staff Writer

Ayo Davis, President of Disney Branded Television, spoke to Monarchs as part of Umoja’s Women’s History Month celebration. (Photo Courtesy of Joel Trudgeon)

The Umoja Black Scholars program organized a special women’s history month event on campus Tuesday featuring President of Disney Branded Television, Ayo Davis, who galvanized Valley College students and staff to achieve their personal and career goals.

Davis’ work includes the award winning show “How To Get Away With Murder” on ABC, as well as overseeing streaming platforms Disney XD and Disney + Television. She did not start out at the top, and had a lot of advice to impart on her audience, especially in regards to how she got to where she is — a woman of color in an executive position at a major company.

“Every stepping stone leads you to your next place,” said Davis. “I’m doing it for myself. Whatever I learn is for me. The output is for someone else.”

Davis spoke of her humble beginnings as an undergraduate at Fullerton Junior College, when she was not yet sure of which track she wanted for her future. Davis credits her success to some entry level positions early in her career when she worked as an intern for the Quincy Jones Productions, and New Line Cinema. Interning without pay, traveling to two different workplaces, Davis’ early career is an embodiment of hard work and dedication. Her entry level internships taught her how to manage multiple projects at one time, giving her the education and training she would later need to succeed as an executive.

Another piece of advice she offered was to not underestimate the importance of building relationships and connections with whoever you can interact with. It was through her interning work and the relationships she had built that she finally landed a paying position. David spoke about how the mindset needed for success, advising students to always keep learning and give themselves grace or patience as they begin or continue their career journey.

“Just take the time for yourself as you go through,” said Davis. “It’s important to manage expectations and follow up. You’re in charge of your own destiny. Make sure you’re soaking in everything. Don’t focus on the role — learn about the company.”

Ayo fielded questions from the attending staff and students. Many students took the opportunity to pick the executive’s brain, hoping to glean knowledge about how to break into the entertainment industry.

According to the 2022 Women in the Workplace study from Lean In, “Women are still dramatically underrepresented in leadership…. only 1 in 20 is a woman of color.”

Ayo also gave her best tips and practices to succeed in life;

While Davis’ advice served as an invaluable resource for students hoping to break into the entertainment industry, it was also applicable to everyday life.

”It is so great to work on listening,” said the president of Disney Branded Television. “You pick up on silent cues, understand your audience. Silence sometimes is power. Listen, process, read the room.”

The Valley students and staff seemed very receptive to Davis’ messaging.

“It was phenomenal of her to come,” said student Arianna C Gardner. “I learned perseverance and to not keep all your eggs in one basket,” added Akira Joy Evans, also a Valley student.

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