Lisa Lutoff-Perlo Leads 7 Seas With Innovation & Soft Touch

She’s as comfortable navigating Twitter as she is interacting with guests from all over the world on one of her luxury ships. Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, is the kind of inclusive, forward-thinking leader needed for the 21st century.

RSM Hall of Fame

RSM Hall of Fame

We met on Twitter, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo and I. A fact that speaks volumes about today’s most effective leaders and their need to stay connected. Very naturally, our conversation about female leadership moved off line. Lisa had hired the first American woman Captain of a mega ship, Kate McCue, and we wanted to interview her, which we did.

But hiring Captain Kate was just one more way in which Lisa Lutoff-Perlo showed her role as an innovator and disruptor in the industry. At work, she’s always challenging assumptions, looking for more creative ways to open up the world through travel, to help bridge the many divides we are facing as people.

That powerful drive to break the rules of her field was behind the development and launch of next-generation cruise ships that Lisa led twice. Most recently, the just revealed Edge-Class, a completely new type of cruise ship experience.

Outside of work Lisa is constantly inspiring girls and women to dream differently. As she shares her own story of self-limiting dreams, you’ll see why she’s adamant about passing on the learnings. Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, a true role model for the Red Shoe Movement Hall of Fame.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo talks about her job

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises, is an innovative leaders who is constantly reinventing her industry.

What is the hardest part of your job and why?  

I have the best job in the world, so it is hard for me to say there is a hardest part. I think, though, it is fair to say that there are things about any job that make it particularly difficult. For me, the hardest part of my job are the things I can’t control. Geo-political events that disrupt people’s desire to vacation in the amazing parts of the world we visit and issues that can arise when something mechanical happens to one of our ships. After all, they are vessels that, like our automobiles and despite the best maintenance in the world, can have something happen. Given that I am also the head of our entire corporate Global Marine Organization as well as President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, I do have to ensure that our $45B of assets are running smoothly, safely and efficiently. I count myself very fortunate that I work with an amazing team of professionals who make the hardest parts of my job as easy as possible.

What aspects of the job of a CEO did you not expect as you were advancing in your career?

I didn’t expect to feel the overwhelming outpouring of support that I received when I was appointed to this position – both internally and externally. Nor did I expect to feel the immense gratitude each day for the people around me, who support the vision that we share for our guests, our crew and our brand. We live every day to open the world for those who want to join us as we explore each of the seven continents in modern luxury. We open the world so that people can experience different cultures and places. We also live every day to break down barriers that divide us. When I am on our ships and either meet our guests or watch our crew from over 60 countries taking care of each other and our guests I am filled with an unspeakable pride and grateful to know that I have the ability to create experiences that truly change people’s lives. I had not anticipated the magnitude of that. The other thing I did not expect is the opportunity and platform I have as a woman in this role to “pay it forward” and give back. That is another thing I wake up every day determined to do as I take that responsibility very seriously.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo with Captain Kate McCue and the crew take a selfie

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo with Captain Kate McCue and the crew take a selfie

What Was Lisa Lutoff-Perlo Major Career Mistake?

Tell us about one major screw up in your career and what you learned from it?     

My one major screw up in my career was in limiting my aspirations. See, my professional goal was always to be the head of sales. It’s what I dreamed of and I campaigned for each day. Then my world and dreams came crashing down when the SVP of Sales & Marketing at the time decided to move me into a marketing role. I was absolutely devastated and he knew it. I felt crushed. That I would never achieve my dream of being head of sales. But he also knew what I didn’t know. That it would be one of the best career moves of my life. He saw more in me than I saw in myself. And that’s something very hard to accept at the time when it’s happening. That perhaps this other person sees more potential in you than you see in yourself or that they can see your career trajectory much farther out than you can imagine. The rest is history as I moved from one position to another and finally as the President & CEO of Celebrity. I learned that you have to go where your career takes you, be flexible, be open for change, and never ever limit what you think you can achieve. All of the experience and knowledge I gained along the way gave me the foundation I needed for my current role and has made me a better CEO.

Lisa Lutoff Perlo inspirational quote RSM Hall of Fame

Lisa Lutoff Perlo inspirational quote RSM Hall of Fame

What is the best way to engage the executive men in an organization to support their female colleagues’ growth opportunities?

I happen to work in an organization that values diversity of all kinds. Being the only woman on the Executive Committee gives me a unique opportunity to ensure that we are always thinking about and promoting diversity. I have always said that having a woman at the table enriches and changes the conversation in a way that is powerful. I am fortunate that my male colleagues agree. And I have a VP of Marine Operations who has increased the percentage of women on our nautical team from 5% 18 months ago to almost 20% today. I am fortunate to work with people who share a common vision. And you need to hire for that.

Launching a new ship class- Lisa Lutoff-Perlo does it again!

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo led the development of the Edge Class, a ship that completely changes de travel experience.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo led the development of the Edge Class, a ship that completely changes de travel experience.

Ten years ago you launched the Solstice Class. This March you launched the Edge Class. What does it take to bring a project like that to fruition?

Launching ANYTHING new has its own unique challenges. For the Edge launch, I had a few key objectives. This new Class of ships had to transform Celebrity and the industry. And it had to transform the financial performance of my Brand. All of the feedback and booking activity has validated that mission was accomplished. From the design to the engineering and technology, we threw away the rulebook and took away every barrier for the sake of creating the most refined ship ever built. It took vision, determination, resilience and a village of outstanding people on my team and across our organization to make Edge happen. And a Chairman (my boss) who supported us every step of the way. We did it, I can’t wait for guests to be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor, and I can’t tell you how.

Follow Lisa Lutoff-Perlo on Twitter.

 

In Historically Male Occupation, Ilya Marotta Leads Panama Canal Expansion

Her pink safety helmet and vest have become iconic in a a historically male occupation. Ilya Espino de Marotta is the Panamanian engineer who led the execution of the Panama Canal Expansion Program. Get inspired!

RSM Hall of Fame

RSM Hall of Fame

The new Panama Canal was inaugurated June 2016. An engineering feat that enables cargo ships with a capacity of more than double the current one, to pass between the Atlantic and the Pacific, which substantially reduces transportation costs of goods. Today we spoke with the leader of the project. An interview that will change your perspective on what you can or cannot achieve even when you enter a historically male occupation or field. This is why Ilya Marotta is in the Red Shoe Movement Hall of Fame.

The first Step towards a traditionally male career

RSM Hall of Fame 2017 honoree: Ilya Marotta, Executive Vice President, Panama Canal Authority

RSM Hall of Fame 2017 honoree: Ilya Marotta, Executive Vice President, Panama Canal Authority

What awoke in you an interest for engineering? How did you start your career?

I had won a Fulbright scholarship to study marine biology in the U.S. The ocean is a passion of mine. I loved to scuba dive and I loved Jacques Cousteau. A year and a half after returning to Panama, when I saw the work opportunities in Marine Biology weren’t the best, I decided to change careers. I gave up the scholarship because it was for that specialty at a specific university. So, I started to look for schools in the U.S. that had careers that would have something to do with the ocean and ships.. I was always very good at math and physics and I chose Marine Engineering because I was going to work with ships. My father told me he would only pay for four years of college and I wouldn’t have the three summers required for the sail practice. I chose a school that wouldn’t require me to sail in order to get my degree. So that’s how I applied and got accepted to Texas A&M University, which would give me the Marine Biology degree without the sailing requirement. So, I ended up studying Marine Engineering not because it was my passion but because it was close to the ocean. Once I graduated and came to Panama and started to work on the Repairing Dock of the Floating Equipment of the Panama Canal, however I fell in love with my career. It was very gratifying to design something in the office, go to the workshops where they built it, and then seeing the ship in operation with design I had made.

We could say then that you came into this career path from the sideways and you found the pleasure in it along the way.

Of course! 30 years ago we had a different mindset. Today we value choosing something that you are passionate about and that you enjoy doing. But at that time it was more like: “You have to get a job”. It was a more traditional system. So I started with what inspired me (Marine Biology), and I changed to a more practical career (Marine Engineering.)

And did you have the support of your parents, especially your father, to pursue what at that time (even more than today) was seen as a historically male occupation?

Yes, 100%. Both parents supported my choice at all times.

In a historically male occupation, Ilya Marotta inspires women in the workplace

In a historically male occupation, Ilya Marotta inspires women in the workplace

The role of sponsors in a historically male occupation

As you progressed in your career, what do you think was the role played by sponsors? Do you think they are an important factor to reach the highest levels in a male dominated profession?

It’s what paves the way, especially in a profession where there are no women. If I had not had the support of my various bosses at different stages, I would not have been able to get to where I am. The way I won the support of these sponsors is with dedication, work, ethics and transparency. Once your boss sees your professional skills, it opens opportunities.

All the people who have given me opportunities for promotion have been men. So sponsors are definitely needed, but their support is earned by the work one does.

Leading the Panama Canal Expansion, Ilya Marotta broke gender barriers in historically male occupation

Leading the Panama Canal Expansion, Ilya Marotta broke gender barriers in historically male occupation

Overcoming obstacles

What were the most important obstacles you had to overcome in your career?

I remember that when I was in the repair dam, a professional diver position for the Canal opened. I was a professional diver. I had done outside diving jobs, and I applied for the job but they did not fill it. Officially they told me that they were not going to fill the post at that time, but I knew they did not want to pick me because I was a woman. But you overcome those obstacles and learn from them. It has happened to me in other positions where I wasn’t chosen because of company politics. You have to make yourself known, because otherwise you do not move. In order to get to my current position I had to have the support of my direct boss, and my boss’ boss, because it was a position ratified by the board. One of the administrators at the time was very candid and told me that these positions are not reached by merit and professional ability. You also have to do a little lobbying. I was fortunate that my boss did the lobbying for me.

Ilya Marotta inspires you to take on challenges to prove yourself

Ilya Marotta inspires you to take on challenges to prove yourself

Advantages of women in a traditionally male profession

The expansion of the Panama Canal must have been one of the biggest challenges an engineer can face. In a male-dominated profession what do you think was your advantage as a woman to carry it out successfully?

You have to have a lot of emotional intelligence. You can’t take things personally. It is a big project, and you have to deal with many people, many contractors, and in this type of projects problems always come up. Things are not easy and simple. So when something happens, you have to look at it from both points of view: Your own and the contractor’s. I think I had the ability not to take things personally. To think that they are just situations and everyone is defending their own interests. Throughout this process of many years that we have been at work on this project, I had the ability to negotiate and be conciliatory.

In a male dominated occupation, Ilya Espino de Marotta has shattered the glass ceiling

In a male dominated occupation, Ilya Espino de Marotta has shattered the glass ceiling

What do you think is the impact of resilience, a trait that is abundant in Latin American people and particularly in women?

It is extremely important because you cannot let failures or errors discourage you. You have to always go forward, have the ability to overcome obstacles. What I always tell people is that they shouldn’t do something to prove anything to anyone. Do it because it is what you want and because you want to prove yourself that you can do it. I did not choose this career to show anyone that women can do it. I chose this career because it was something that caught my attention and I wanted to climb its ranks because I like it.

I have seen some photos in which you wear a pink helmet and vest, which highlights what is evident: that you are woman in a male occupation. What has been the effect?

It has been fantastic! Although in the beginning I did it to prove to myself that I could reach this position. In Panama women in traditionally male professions have proliferated but reaching a high rank in a male dominated career is very hard. So when I was in NY, at one of my son’s medical checkups, I told my husband, “I feel like I should buy myself a pink helmet to show that a woman can get to this position.” I saw it in a catalog and I ordered it. Now it has become an icon and fills me with pride for what that helmet represents for many other women. I get messages from women who tell me that they have sent the photo to their 9-year-old daughters saying, “Look at how women can reach leadership positions.” It was not planned, but the result has been nice. It sets you high standards, because now people expect more from me. I have to show that it’s doable, no longer just for me, but for those who see me as hope for themselves, as an example.

Ilya Marotta supports #RedShoeTuesday

Ilya Marotta supports #RedShoeTuesday

Advice for young people and women interested in entering a historically male occupation

What advice would you give to a young woman today who is deciding on her choice of career or study?

Definitely do something that you are passionate about. I had the blessing that although Marine Engineering was not my first love, over time I found in my profession something that fulfills me and I am passionate about. When you do something that you like, it brings out the best in you. Also, do not be afraid of challenges or changes. Whenever you get a chance, never think that you cannot do it. When I applied to different positions, maybe I did not know everything that they asked for, but I knew I could learn it. Finally, be a transparent person, treat everyone equally, be the same person in all environments where you work.

Any particular advice for those women who are thinking of entering historically male dominated fields?

Don’t take offense at everything in a world of men because they have their way of managing themselves and of being with each other. You cannot expect them to change for you. You have to adapt, as long as they respect you. For example, if they joke in a certain way, don’t get scandalized, unless of course, it’s something that refers to you. I learned how to deal with that, and so I earned men’s respect. It’s not about becoming a man either. I’m happy with them giving me their seat or opening the door for me. It’s about making it so you can coexist like men and women together pleasantly. And trying to be conciliatory, rather than antagonistic, that has also helped me a lot in my professional career.

Connect with Ilya Marotta via Twitter @MarottaIlya

In Male Dominated Occupation Captain Kate is Queen

Kate McCue is the first female American Captain of a mega ship. In a male dominated occupation, Captain Kate is at the helm of the Celebrity Summit. A 965-foot-long, 91,000 gross tonnage, luxury cruise-ship. And she’ll rock your boat!

She could’ve been a cruise director, her dream when she was a child. But her dad suggested she could “drive the thing.” And he reminded her of that long-ago conversation when it came time to go to college. He encouraged her to apply to California State University Maritime Academy, where there were 15 men to each woman. And only 8 girls in her graduating class.

What’s fascinating about Kate is that she started her career at the bottom, as an Apprentice Officer 3rd on a training ship and banana boat. In an occupation known for being predominantly male, she worked her way to the top by working hard, establishing strong relationships and smiling a lot.

Contrary to studies that show that smiling a lot can negatively impact your career, Captain Kate says her tendency to smile a lot has helped hers.

Contrary to studies that show that smiling a lot can negatively impact your career, Captain Kate says her tendency to smile a lot has helped hers.

How did it feel the first time you sat at the head of the Celebrity Summit as the captain?

When I took over the Celebrity Summit as Master, there is only one word that comes to mind: “EPIC”! It was the culmination of the dream, the hard work, and years of hope coming to fruition and it felt larger than life.

Do you feel a sense of added responsibility being the first female American captain of a mega ship? Is there something you must prove being a woman in a male dominated occupation?

Many are surprised to hear that I have always worked with women in this industry, whether they were my senior officers, my peers, or my apprentices. I am not alone and only on very rare occasions did I find myself as the solo female presence on the bridge.

One of the secrets to success, regardless of gender, is the ability to do your job, do it well, and do even more than what is expected. Then there is no way you can’t succeed.

Don't miss another great piece on a male dominated occupation: Bia Figueiredo, race car driver.

From the get go, you said you wanted to be a very visible captain. (And judging from your passengers’ comments you are!) How much of a leader’s role is staying in touch with her clients and her team?

Safety is and will always be the number one priority.

The ability to understand what your team, your guests and your ship need or want is imperative. Being a visible captain means that I am accessible for open communication and constant feedback, which makes a more cohesive environment.

"Safety is and will always be the first priority," says Captain Kate who is known for begin very friendly with passengers and crew.

“Safety is and will always be the first priority,” says Captain Kate who is known for begin very friendly with passengers and crew.

What kind of leader are you?

I strive to be an approachable manager who can reach out to others with warmth and sincerity. Besides being quick to offer a smile, the most valuable contributions, as a manager, are the commitment to teamwork, empathy, and the ability to connect with others.

What traits are clear advantages you bring to a male dominated occupation?

Before becoming a Captain I was sent to Sweden for a Marine Profile, which is a series of psychological tests, specifically for mariners. The results surprised me as I was diagnosed with excessive tendency to smile, even under the pressure of the tests. Many people will tell you that if you smile too much, you won’t be taken seriously. I found the contrary because a genuine smile breaks the ice, makes people feel comfortable, instills trust, and is contagious. I have even read that smiling can be a more effective leadership technique than having great management abilities.

Hear Rosemary Rodriguez talk about being a film director, a male dominated occupation.

What are some of the aspects of your personality or your style that you’ve had to adjust for this role?

On the way up the ranks, I liked to do it all. However, when I was promoted to Captain, I came to the realization that I couldn’t do it all myself. I needed help. I had to share the responsibility and tasks or I wouldn’t be able to build a team or even sleep. Luckily I have an incredible group of experts in their respective fields that constantly exceed my expectations. It makes my life and my job that much more enjoyable.

As in any profession, in a male dominated occupation you will work hard. Having fun along the way is a must.

As in any profession, in a male dominated occupation you will work hard. Having fun along the way is a must.

It seems that the captain uniform was originally designed for an all male workforce. Do you think eventually there will be some adjustments to accommodate more women in this male dominated job? What would be some of your suggestions for a uniform that would be more feminine?

My husband is from Croatia, home of the Cravat. While I must respect that, I have to add that when it comes to a woman in uniform, neckties detract from femininity, so it would be best to make them optional

My husband is from Croatia, home of the Cravat. While I must respect that, I have to add that when it comes to a woman in uniform, neckties detract from femininity, so it would be best to make them optional.

When I started sailing, I had to buy my own uniform pants because the women’s pants never came with the basic necessities: Pockets & belt loops. Try carrying around items like keys, a radio, and flashlight with no belt or pockets!

When I came to Celebrity Cruises, they actually asked for my opinion on several uniform pieces, which I thought was pretty fantastic. We now have more tailored evening jackets and pants with all the bells and whistles!

I have a few more suggestions for uniforms, for example, work shoes. My go-to shoe for evenings is a Christian Louboutin black patent leather platforms. You simply can’t go wrong there! In a perfect world, every one of my female crew would have access to that fabulous feminine addition to their uniform!

Another suggestion I would make for any company uniform is regarding neckties. My husband is from Croatia, home of the Cravat. While I must respect that, I have to add that when it comes to a woman in uniform, neckties detract from femininity, so it would be best to make them optional.

You are a role model to women and girls who might not have considered a career like yours. How do you embrace that role?

I am honored and humbled to be considered a role model by any means. With that comes the obligation to uphold the position.

I do like to use social media, Instagram in particular, as a platform to answer questions or impart advice to inquiring minds. The focus of my Instagram account is to provide a behind the scenes look into the life of a Captain, making it more tangible and hopefully interesting to others attracted to the career or the shipping industry.

Kate McCue is ready to embrace #RedShoeTuesday!

Kate McCue is ready to embrace #RedShoeTuesday!

Finally, do you keep up with the comments your guests leave on the Celebrity Cruises website? What are some of the most surprising comments you’ve read?

A guest posted on the Celebrity Cruises Facebook page, the following, which really rocked my world: “On our Celebrity Silhouette transatlantic crossing in April, a man sat with us one night for dinner. I apologized for not remembering his name but you, Captain Kate, I am sure will remember him. He lost his wife and has been cruising alone. He could not say enough about you and how kind you were to him. He was on the cruise with you and your parents. He even travels with a 8×10 photo of you and proudly shows it to all of his dinner mates. I just wanted you to know how much your kindness touched this man.”

On a much lighter note, a guest once told me at a cocktail party that I am to Captains what Southwest is to airlines. I hope I can assume that Southwest’s reputation of incredible crew who strive to provide Positively Outrageous Service with a fun-loving attitude was what she meant! Just don’t hold your breath waiting for me to dance in the corridors or sing on the public address system. I save that for special occasions!

Connect with Captain Kate McCue on Instagram!

@captainkatemccue

Innovative packaging helps manage women’s periods at work

Cora has designed a chic and smart packaging to help manage women’s periods at work. Never again hide a tampon up your sleeve on your way to the bathroom! Their sleek black clutch could be a cosmetics case. And with a 100%  organic product, there’s one less stress factor to worry about at work!

Molly Hayward, founder of Cora, a company that offers an innovative method to take care of women's periods

Molly Hayward, founder of Cora, a company that offers an innovative packaging to help manage women’s periods

Meet Molly Hayward, the female founder of Cora. As in, yes, there’s also a male founder. When I first heard about a company focused on how to manage women’s periods with a 100% organic product wrapped in the most stylish packaging I’ve ever seen, I was struck by the co-founders. A man and a woman who, as I’d learn later, didn’t know each other before they got into business together. Today we interview Molly to find out what inspired her to create a product to better manage women’s periods wherever they happen to be. We then talk about the stress connected to women’s periods at work and we ask her about what it took to get investors to buy into such a female-oriented idea.

Molly is a young entrepreneur with a strong social conscience. She practices business with soul. In the last ten years, her travels through five continents became the springboard for her interest in how to manage women’s periods. The seed of a brilliant idea for Cora, a business that favors the circular economy. A business that helps professional women manage “that time of the month” fearlessly, openly, and with style.

I’m sure you didn’t grow up thinking, “When I grow up I’ll found a company focused on how to manage women’s periods.” How did you stumble upon this as a need?

The idea for Cora originated from my travels throughout the developing world, meeting girls who were missing days of school each month because they couldn’t access or afford safe and effective menstrual products. I had the idea to create a brand and a company that could offer women in my own society a better period experience, while also helping girls in need.

For too long women's periods have been a source of stress at work. Molly Hayward is set to change that!

For too long women’s periods have been a source of stress at work. Molly Hayward is set to change that!

What’s different about the product itself?

Cora offers only 100% organic tampons, made from premium cotton. This is vastly different from conventional tampons, which are made from non-organic cotton (one of the dirtiest crops in the world) and synthetics like rayon and polyester (which have been linked to higher risk of toxic shock syndrome.)

Cora is also one of the first companies in the U.S. to offer an organic tampon in a compact plastic applicator (BPA free.)

Is there any research regarding the stress at work women feel due to the stigma surrounding women’s periods?

Research in this area has been primarily focused on the effects of stress in the workplace on women’s menstrual cycles, as opposed to our menstrual cycle’s contribution to stress at work. But there’s no denying that the workplace isn’t always the easiest place to easily manage our periods. From shoving tampons up our sleeves to walking to the bathroom from our desks to forgetting tampons altogether to the anxiety of wondering if we are leaking through our pants in the middle of a meeting, periods definitely bring stress into our working lives.

That’s why Cora created high-performing organic tampons, as well as accessories for stylishly and discreetly storing and carrying them whether you’re at home, the office, or out on the town.

How much are people attracted to the product because of the chic packaging that looks like cosmetics and jewelry cases? Do you think this contributes to a more seamless work-life integration?

Cora's products chic packaging makes it easy to manage women's periods at work. Gone are the days when you had to hide your tampon on the way to the bathroom.

Cora’s products chic packaging makes it easy to manage women’s periods at work. Gone are the days when you had to hide your tampon on the way to the bathroom.

I think the sophistication of Cora’s brand and products makes women feel confident at work—a place where we all want to feel more confident. We want women to feel like wherever they are, they can manage their periods without fear or shame.

You met your business partner while seeking investors, right? How did it happen? Did you think that a man would be a good partner for a company selling a product for women’s periods?

Yes! We were introduced by a mutual colleague. She knew that we were both working on similar concepts independently and suggested we meet. After our first conversation, we knew we would work together because our value around organic products, sophisticated design, and giving back to women and girls in need.

Walk us through the process of getting funding for an idea. What did you need to show your investors in order to receive your first round of funding? And how hard was it to get funding for a product that dealt with women’s periods?

With unique packaging like this black clutch, Cora makes it easy to carry your supplies as any of your other accessories, reducing stress at work.

With unique packaging like this black clutch, Cora makes it easy to carry your supplies as any of your other accessories, reducing stress at work.

Early on, we showed investors the positive data and reviews from our early Beta customers, and shared our future vision for the brand and everything we were doing to prepare and execute to make the vision a reality. We laid out our plan and showed where we’d already accomplished goals.

Can you share any negotiation strategies that you used during the meetings with investors to get to a Yes?

For us, it’s never been about negotiating. When seeking funding, we bring investors into the story and mission of Cora. We show them the negative experience that women currently have because other brands on the market don’t actually solve the pain points of having a period. When they consider the magnitude of the problem, it becomes a logical decision to join us.

You can find out more about Cora via social media:

Instagram: @corawomen

Twitter: @corawomen

Facebook: www.facebook.com/corawomen

Skills and Talents of Pianist Make for Great Perfumer

So many of us grew up thinking that you need to have specific skills and talents to enter a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.) That unless you are a nerd with a highly analytical and logical mind, you couldn’t enter the field. Today we interview a mother and daughter who prove our assumption wrong.

For the past 24 years, Judith (Jude) Hollingshead has developed perfumes for Olay, Pantene, Herbal Essence, Fabreze, Pampers and other P&G brands. Mind you, there are only around a thousand perfumers in the world.

Judith Hollingshead had the skills and talents of a pianist. She ended up studying Chemistry and entering a career as a perfumer.

Judith Hollingshead had the skills and talents of a pianist. She ended up studying Chemistry and entering a career as a perfumer.

When I first met her I was curious about what skills and talents are required to be a perfumer and how does someone even decide to become one. The answer surprised me and I wanted to share it with you. See, Jude is not the stereotypical nerd most of us imagine would choose chemistry as a career plan. She was a piano player who studied Chemistry and became a perfumer. And most of it happened because someone saw skills and talents in her that she didn’t yet see.

Because she was always curious and willing to try new things she explored the possibilities presented by others and has had an incredibly successful career as a result. Along the way she has raised, as a single mother, two children. Her daughter Shealyn, a very artistic child, is now finishing her sophomore year as a student of Chemical Engineering at Ohio University – Russ School of Engineering. We talk to both of them about their unusual experience.

Skills and talents required for the job

MD- You are currently a perfumer at P&G. What skills and talents does your job require?

Judith Hollingshead in the P&G lab

Judith Hollingshead in the P&G lab

JH- Perfumery is a blend of Art and Science. A perfume is made up of a blend of

100’s of individual ingredients. A perfumer needs to understand how the ingredients’ smell and how they blend together to form specific odor. For example, an orange is made of materials XYZ, and an Apple is made up of materials ABYZ. A perfumist needs to understand how all the 1000’s of materials smell and how to combine them to achieve a specific and pleasant odor.

So the skill necessary to become a perfumist is, first and foremost, an excellent sense of smell. Another skill that is a close second in importance is the joy of smelling, and desire to constantly want to push out on the boundaries of what is possible. Most perfumers are never satisfied with the perfumes they make, they are constantly working on making them better.

MD- Did you grow up wanting to be a perfumer?

JH- I grew up in the Midwest in the USA. I had a very traditional family. My mother was a stay at home mom who managed the family and my father was a banker

Some of the most important skills and talents Judith Hollingshead transferred from being a talented pianist into chemistry were her perseverance and drive to achieve perfection in her work.

Some of the most important skills and talents Judith Hollingshead transferred from being a talented pianist into chemistry were her perseverance and drive to achieve perfection in her work.

with a 9-5 job. I was not even aware that the career of perfumer was a possibility. In fact, I grew up not even thinking about having a “career” because I did not have very many role model females in my life for this. Throughout my childhood I studied piano, and as I got into my teen years I began to think about what I would do for the rest of my life. Since piano was such an integral part of my life it made sense that continuing to study music, specifically as a performance major in college, would be my course of action. And I pursued that thru about my senior year in High school. It was that year, that my High School Chemistry/ Physics teacher approached me to discuss my high aptitude for Chemistry, Math and Physic. And encouraged me to investigate this as career and major in College.

I am always up to trying new ideas so I began to investigate this direction as an alternative. I found the world of science that year and while I still play piano today and love classical music, I have never regretted becoming a scientist/Perfumer!

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MD- Which of the skills and talents needed to be a concert pianist could you transfer to a career in Chemistry?

JH- The most important skill that transfers from music performance to chemistry/perfumery is hard work, tenacity and the pursuit of perfection

As a performer you must work hard and practice constantly to get a piece to perfection. This is the same for perfume experiments. We are constantly reworking the blend of ingredients to make the perfume the most perfect execution of the idea that we have in our head.

Both represent a sensorial experience. A piano performance is an auditory sensory experience and a perfume is an olfactive sensory experience. And both should give the receiver of the experience a sense of pleasure and enjoyment.

Sometimes people see in you things you still don't. The interviewer at P&G saw in Judith's extra curricular activities something they were looking for. A creative person with a hard science background.

Sometimes people see in you things you still don’t. The interviewer at P&G saw in Judith’s extra curricular activities something they were looking for. A creative person with a hard science background.

MD- What exactly did you think you’d do in this field?

JH- My high school teacher was a huge influence to help me understand I had an aptitude for the hard sciences and the job opportunities that were available.

I realized that while I could always have music with me, that science was a new pursuit I would have to learn.

In college, I fully immersed myself into my science studies, I was not sure what I wanted to do, but as I went to Graduate school to pursue my doctorate, I started working in the area of superconductors and semi –conductors. This was an emerging area, and I loved the research.

It was only after I finished graduate school and started to investigate potential companies that the idea of becoming a perfumer became an option.

Definition of perfumer

Definition of perfumer

As part of the job placement services at Iowa State University, our resumes are posted for recruiting companies to review and request interviews.   Procter and Gamble chose me to interview. I had no intention of seriously considering working for P&G because they did not do work research in the area I had focused on in my studies. I was frankly surprised that they even wanted to interview me.

The interview took a strange turn as the interviewer did not ask me about my research or my work in chemistry, as was the case with all my other interviews. He continually probed me on the hobbies I listed on my resume: playing piano and needlework.

I finally asked him about this and he told me that P&G was interested in someone with a strong scientific background and with a strong interest, skills and talent in artistic, creative endeavors. He explained the job of perfumers, and I was immediately intrigued by the idea of being able to use both my creative, artistic side and my technical work. I loved the idea so much I took the chance and shifted my career to perfumery.

Here's a post about an orthopedic surgeon "I find my passion in the most unexpected places."

Like mother like daughter

MD- Shealyn, you are finishing your sophomore year in college. You’re studying Chemical Engineering but you also have the skills and talent to follow an artistic career. What made you decide to give engineering a shot?

Shealyn Holligshead

Shealyn Holligshead

SH- My mom was very persistent in showing me that I would exceed in my academic endeavors as a woman in STEM even though she knew I would be successful in the art field. What really persuaded me to turn my attention to STEM was that she showed me a Ted Talk by Debbie Sterling about a woman in the engineering field. This Ted Talk was about how Debbie created a children’s toy for young girls that will inspire them to build and create like most boy toys that are currently sold today. Her point was that most girl toys, like Barbie’s, teach girls at a young age to focus on building relationships not physical things.

Deb’s talk discussed her struggle to get through school as a woman in STEM, and then on getting her toy design to the market. This Ted Talk really caught my attention, and I decided that I should give STEM a shot because I have the creative ability to innovate. I just needed to apply this ability to a more advanced curriculum to create/innovate more practical inventions that I believe can have a larger impact on the world.

MD- Jude, what are some of the aspects of your career that you love the most?

JH- In my job I get to develop a perfume that is used by millions of consumers. I consider myself very lucky to be able to touch peoples live and make them more enjoyable. I love the ability to work on perfume design for our products. A tremendous amount of effort goes into making sure the right perfume gets combined with the right product at P&G. In addition to that, in other parts of my job, I get to also work on technical upstream research this allows me to use my technical scientific talents. I have the best of both worlds.

Skills and talents needed to enter a career in STEM

MD- From your own individual experiences, what recommendations do you have for young women and their mothers regarding careers in STEM? Do people need to have a specific set of skills and talents or should a wider range of women give careers in STEM a try?

JH- Having a career in the STEM field can be exceptionally rewarding and I believe we need more women to bring their viewpoints to the problems of today. So many women are brought up to believe that they are nurturing, caring or creative and that this is the direct opposite of STEM. It is a misconception that STEM careers require highly logical and analytical mindsets. In reality, we need MORE highly Creative people to be trained in STEM to develop new Inventions and solve today’s problems in NEW and CREATIVE ways.

If you have creative skills and talents you (or your child) may find great satisfaction in a STEM career. Make sure to explore the possibilities!

If you have creative skills and talents you (or your child) may find great satisfaction in a STEM career. Make sure to explore the possibilities!

Another post on finding your passion with your nose you'll love.

SH- When I talk to young women who are considering going into the STEM field, the first thing they ask is, “how hard is the schooling and the work?” It took me aback the first few times I heard this because I never considered this when I chose Chemical Engineering. Maybe this was because my mom is a woman in STEM and my whole life I saw how possible it was to succeed in this field. I never considered the difficulty. But being asked this many times has given me the chance to really consider how to answer this question. It has led me to my most common recommendation for young women:

Whatever you choose to do for your education and/or work life is going to be difficult whether it is STEM or not. It is going to take a lot of work and effort to be successful in any field you choose. So, if you are interested in STEM fields, go for it!

My experience has been that every class I have taken has been nothing but foreign and intimidating to me. The only way to get through it is to just apply yourself and do the work. Eventually, it won’t be so foreign and intimidating. After working thru a class for 15 weeks, by the end, you will be close to mastering the material if you put in the work. I strongly believe that a wider range of women should give STEM a try, especially if you have any interest in science, math or technology.

I would never recommend it, however, to someone who has no interest in these topics.

 

You can connect with Jude Hollingshead via email at Hollingshead.JA@pg.com or on Linkedin: Judith Hollingshead.

She shares her artistic endeavors (weaving, sewing quilts, knitting and other lace making techniques) on her Instagram: Judeh22

You can reach Shealyn Hollingshead at: ShealynHollingshead@gmail.com or on Linkedin under Shealyn Hollingshead.