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Vanessa  O'Brien

Vanessa O'Brien

Mountaineer & Business Leader

Vanessa O'Brien

Mountaineer & Business Leader


Vanessa O’Brien is a world record-holding British-American climber and arctic explorer whose extensive international business experience affords her a unique take on the world. Having moved to live on her own at the age of 16, O’Brien developed a sense of responsibility early on. Determined to rise to the top, she worked extra hard “climbing” the corporate ladder, not knowing that the worst recession in living memory would lead her to face her biggest challenge yet: climbing Mt. Everest.

Despite having no mountaineering experience at all, and after only two years of training, O’Brien went on to set the women’s speed record for completing the “Explorer’s Grand Slam”—reaching the geographic North and South poles, as well as reaching the top of the highest peak on each continent—in eleven months. In March 2013, she became the fastest woman to climb the seven summits, doing so in only ten months and being one of only 54 women in the world to accomplish such a feat.

O’Brien’s focus, enthusiasm, energy, commitment, and persistence were critical to her success in the business world. She became the first person ever sponsored by GE for an executive MBA after she won their prestigious Pinnacle Award for outstanding achievement. This led to senior executive roles in finance, strategic planning, and business development in some of the world’s leading institutions including Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Bank of America, and GE Capital.

Using the metaphor of climbing, Vanessa O’Brien takes audiences on an audio and visual tour of some of the most challenging and remote places on the planet. In her customized presentations, she explores the importance of overcoming adversity by having a purpose through short-term goals. She illustrates how preparation, teamwork, staying focused to avoid risks, and applying a success-oriented mindset differentiate the winners from the losers—not just on the mountain but in business and in life.

Speaker Videos

Preparing for the Grand Slam

Shattering Records on Wake Up with AI

Finding and Reaching Your Goals

Speech Topics


There are working groups and then there are high-performing teams. What do you have? What have you experienced? The audience will learn how high-performing teams differentiate themselves and can make a difference in any organization.


Are leaders made or can they be trained? What are the traits of a successful leader? The audience will find out what differentiates great leaders through leadership examples in business and on the mountain.


Do you want to win? What are you willing to sacrifice? The audience will learn how goal setting, determination, and hard work will get you where you want to go both in the business world and in life.

Overcoming Adversity

Obstacles are a fact of life: “that which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.” The audience will find out how to turn adversity into opportunity.


Becoming the fastest woman to climb the seven summits and reach both poles in 11 months is no small challenge. The audience will take away a better understanding of the sport of mountaineering and the challenges a mountaineer faces along the way. 


Paris, before the days of the Eiffel Tower, had no distinction. But after the Eiffel Tower was built, many came to marvel and admire this amazing structure. What is your Eiffel Tower? The audience will learn the importance of differentiating oneself from the herd and becoming memorable to others.

Women at the Top

Is there a glass ceiling? Do women have the same opportunities as men to succeed? What traits do women possess that position them above men in terms of success? Discover why women are achieving more than ever in today’s increasingly complex society.