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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

Alexia Keglevich: A CEO With Effective Red Shoes

Alexia Keglevich is the Global CEO of ASSIST-CARD. Today she reveals her journey from messenger at age 16 to CEO of the world’s leading travel assistance company.

RSM Hall of Fame

RSM Hall of Fame

Her offices in a smart building in Buenos Aires never keep her away from the reality of her clients. Alexia Keglevich travels all over the world visiting the 36 countries where her company operates, to evangelize a culture of help, from human being to human being, in which she deeply believes. Upon learning of my plans to go from her offices in the neighborhood of Saavedra to my next appointment in downtown Buenos Aires, Alexia Keglevich (or Alexia as she prefers to be called,) arranged for Abel, her personal assistant, to take me. “We’re here to help,” she said as if it where the most natural thing to do.

From the various positions she has held in the company, Alexia Keglevich has played a transcendental role for the consolidation and expansion of the business. At 16 she joined ASSIST-CARD, the company founded by her father, as a messenger. Her ability and desire for improvement led her to launch and develop the Marketing and Advertising area of the company. For 10 years she held different positions within the organization, specializing in new product development and in the design of commercial strategies. She also led the expansion of the business to Southeast Asia.

RSM Hall of Fame Alexia Keglevich Poster

RSM Hall of Fame Alexia Keglevich Poster

After leaving the company for a few years and continuing her professional development at Banco Río (now Santander Río) as credit cards leader, in 2000 Alexia returned to ASSIST-CARD as Executive Director. In 2006 she was appointed CEO for all global operations. Since her return, the company has multiplied its sales eight times, diversified its lines of business, and developed new sales channels, products and services.

In 2014 she was recognized by the Latin Business Chronicle magazine (LBC) in their annual ranking of “The Top 50 Executive Women of Latin America.” And today she’s in the Red Shoe Movement Hall of Fame!

Alexia Keglevich holds a degree from the Universidad Argentina de la Empresa (UADE) and an MBA in Business Management from the IAE Business School.

Getting to know Alexia Keglevich

What personal characteristics make you an effective leader?

Perseverance and intensity. I am an eternal dreamer. I am convinced that anything is possible. Also, I think I have a contagious energy, which makes people follow me because they see me in continuous movement. The key to success is listening and talking to everyone in the company and approaching the “other” in a way that you are a peer side to side. That way, it’s easier and more rewarding to understand the situation or the ask of the other person. The ability to empathize, and to be sensitive also forge the type of leadership personality with which I identify. Leading by example is critical. Being consistent in what you do and what you say is basic.

Alexia Keglevich partners with TECHO organization to build homes for the less fortunate

Alexia Keglevich partners with TECHO organization to build homes for the less fortunate

What were some of the hard and soft skills you had to learn to become a CEO?

Hard: I had to learn all the financials of the company and the P&L, which bores me. But for this position I have to understand that since it’s a necessary aspect that I must master to make informed decisions (aside from the advice given by my collaborators, and specialists in this area.) Soft: I cultivated these skills as I went. I don’t know if a leader is born or made. I think it’s a combination of what your life and your experiences. Maybe you could be a leader as a kid and maybe something happened that prevented you from having the capacity to lead.

Personally, I was marked by the period of 1994 -1995 when I went to open ASSIST- CARD in Asia where the majority of the population was Muslim. That opened my mind early on and gave me the ability to adapt, which I don’t think I would have without these experiences. Just imagine, at that time I had to organize the entire trip and meetings via fax, without knowing before arriving at the scheduled meeting if it would come to pass or if it was canceled. Technology without a doubt is certainly a great ally for these issues (and many others.)

That made me grow a lot and have a ton of experiences. It taught me to be humble. I was 25 years old, and arrived to an unknown country where I would try to get customers, sell my services, etc. In addition, I was also a very young mom and that in itself gave me the ability to understand certain situations early on in life. Things were not easy. Coordinating family and my career… I learned in the school of hard knocks.

Alexia Keglevich has an open door policy. "I believe in been a peer. Standing side by side with every one"

Alexia Keglevich has an open door policy. “I believe in been a peer. Standing side by side with every one”

Successful negotiation according to Alexia Keglevich

How did you learn to negotiate?

One of the greatest negotiators I met in my life was my father. He taught me a lot! Now, when I see myself in the very moment of a negotiation, I see in myself many aspects of my dad when he was in those situations. With the great distinction that I am a woman, which has allowed me and continues to allow me to use my femininity as an advantage, and not a disadvantage. For me, entering as the only woman in a meeting is an advantage. I think I’m an excellent negotiator. I am clear on what I want to achieve, what I am willing to concede, and what I’m not.

What are some of the negotiation strategies that have worked for you the best at the highest levels?

Alexia Keglevich, CEO, ASSIST-CARD in her office at a green-building in Buenos Aires.

Alexia Keglevich, CEO, ASSIST-CARD in her office at a green-building in Buenos Aires.

Knowing perfectly where I want to go, what I’m willing to give up and what I’m not. Having a plan of action. Imagining myself in the negotiation. Doing a little role-playing in my head. It’s something very personal. What happens if you tell me something, how will I react and what will my offer be.

Can you project executive presence and maintain a feminine style? Tell us how.

Absolutely. It’s true that women have another sensitivity. We have an ability to multitask that is not easy to find in a man. Historically women have done the multitasking so that the ability to have your mind on several things at once is particular to women.

Sometimes women are self-limiting when they think about the family because they ask themselves: “What do I do? Do I have children now or later?” You can plan your family and grow in your work environment. One thing, though. You have to make it clear to the bosses because there is a preconception that a 30 year old woman will want to have children, and so she is not offered opportunities. They don’t even ask her if she wants it. You have to be upfront about it.

I read an interview where you commented that during the time you started working on ASSIST-CARD for your dad, his expectations for you were very high. And you said that at that time you became a perfectionist. How has perfectionism affected you in a positive and negative way?

I am an eternal perfectionist. I permanently question the status quo because I am convinced that we can always be better. It probably comes from when my father was the CEO of ASSIST-CARD. When I joined the company at age 16, he told me: “You have to be much better than the best, because you have to set the example and because you are my daughter.” If I came in a minute late, he made me lose the bonus that represented 80% of my salary.

Is it good to be a perfectionist? On the one hand it helps me because I’m in constant improvement mode. And on the other, the negative part, is that I demand of my environment as much as I demand of myself. That can cause teams to become frustrated because I ask more and more and the team that is giving their maximum feels that nothing is good enough.

Faced by bad news, the thought that helps me to get ahead and not to succumb is to think of how others have come out of worse situations. This helps me strengthen myself and come out ready to act with tactics that will allow me to get out of that bad situation. Holding on to that thought is crucial to getting out of any personal or professional crisis.

Raised to seek perfection, Alexia Keglevich is always looking for ways to improve.

Raised to seek perfection, Alexia Keglevich is always looking for ways to improve.

Alexia Keglevich on organizational culture

What are some of the most effective strategies you have implemented to accelerate the growth of women in your organization?

We are more women than men. However my direct reports, the C-level, are all men. The third line is more women than men.

Since I took lead in the company, machismo as a norm has disappeared. At the time my father was leading, there were no fathers taking their son to a school event, or to a doctor. That was what women did. Now, both men and women have a duty to care for their children, so the request to “go out for a school event” is even. For us the family is a critical support system of our people. If the family is not happy with the person working at ASSIST-CARD that employee will not be happy. I try to make sure that male collaborators are sensitive to the demands placed on women. I talk a lot from the heart. Not from the formality of a leader. I am Alexia. I hate being called CEO or when people call me by my last name.

I believe that this sensitive and from-the-heart part is what will serve us through this tough time of full-time technology, which is already here and will continue to grow. There won’t be any robot that gets excited like we do. I can no longer stand calling in to a customer service center in the U.S. and getting a robot. Something that is increasingly used because of costs. It is much more important to be “hearts tending hearts” than to be “robots tending hearts.”

Alexia Keglevich speaking at X Extreme. Always speaking up for equality and inclusion.

Alexia Keglevich speaking at X Extreme. Always speaking up for equality and inclusion.

How do you use technology to maintain the culture of the organization even when ASSIST-CARD was bought by an American company, Starr International?

The sale of ASSIST-CARD was the most important negotiation of life. And within that negotiation one of the things that I negotiated was to keep the culture of the company free of any external culture. This part of the negotiation is the one I’m most proud of. And I did it directly with Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman and CEO of Starr International. He understood that this company was different and that its greatest asset is its culture. We love helping. We love what we do. No one can come work for us if they don’t want to help.

We handle 36 countries from Argentina. Bringing our culture to all these places is becoming increasingly difficult, but the culture is becoming ever more important. Technology is a great ally, although nothing replaces the “face to face”. Nothing replaces being in the other person’s red shoes. In every trip I make I sit down with the salesmen, the couriers who travel on motorcycles, the people who serve coffee. Each city has a different reality but the culture must be the same. I have groups in Whatsapp so I can talk to everyone of our employees. I send voice messages so they can hear my tone. Technology helps to continue to expand and evangelize the values that make the organizational culture of ASSIST-CARD.

You can follow Alexia Keglevich on Twitter.

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

I find my passion in the most unexpected places

The story of a woman surgeon, woodworker & sailor

“I’m an orthopedic surgeon. I like building furniture and sailing. All fields usually dominated by men. I find my passion has never been limited by my gender. I’ve never looked at anything through that lens, until I noticed that others did.”

Dr. Margareta Berg was born in Gothenburg, Sweden where she also went to the University Medical School and obtained her MD in orthopedic surgery and a PhD degree. She has dedicated her life to her passions, which frequently found her in a male-dominated field. Her latest project is her biggest challenge yet and it could save many lives. This could be the story that changes your view on what you can do!

Dr. Margareta Berg, Swedish orthopedic surgeon who works part of her time in Laponia, an area of Sweden close to the Arctic Circle.

Dr. Margareta Berg, Swedish orthopedic surgeon who works part of her time in Laponia, an area of Sweden close to the Arctic Circle.

Read more about how to find your passion here.

When we first met, you told me, “An equal opportunity household helped me find my passion.” Could you expand?

When I grew up there was no difference between male and female chores at home. I still don’t know if this was a conscious choice made by my parents, or just a sign of their true nature. My elder brother liked cooking and baking at a very early age, and as a 7-year old I thrived in my father’s simple woodworking studio. One of my favorite hobbies was to carve wood with a very sharp knife, most often holding the piece against my stomach and directing the knife towards my own abdomen. Nobody would have guessed that these early exercises helped me find my passion for orthopedic surgery.

"I find my passion in many things: making furniture is one of them," Dr. Margareta Berg

“I find my passion in many things: making furniture is one of them,” Dr. Margareta Berg

In elementary school in the 1960s we had to choose between sewing or woodworking. As I had sewn my own slacks since I was ten and I liked carpentry, I chose woodworking. I was the only girl out of a thousand students in the class. Of course I was bullied for this choice, even by some woodworking teachers. But I didn’t care, and continued to find my passion in unusual places. I don’t know where this stubborness and strong-will came from. Maybe it was a combination of genes inhereted from my ancestors. I come from powerful men in the iron and steel production and I’m distantly related to the prominent Wallenberg family with ties in most industrial groups in Sweden.

When you were 14 years old you wanted to be a psychiatrist and as you graduated high school with top grades you were able to enter Med school right away. Then, after your “surgery semester” (or rotation) you changed your mind. How did you find your passion for orthopedics?

When the surgery-semester started, students were placed as medical candidates at different surgical wards. It started with three weeks in orthopedic surgery in August 1979. The very first day, not knowing how to scrub or how to behave in an operating room, our supervisor pointed at a friend and me and said, “Our first case is a hip replacement and you will be my first and second assistants.” We were both thrown into the OR and did as we were told. Now, remember that back in 1979 a hip replacement was a much longer procedure and not the kind of “assembly line” we know today. During those few weeks we assisted in all kinds of orthopedic surgery, even in children.

"I find my passion in orthopedic surgery after my rotation in orthopedics. I entered Med school to be a psychiatrist." Dr. Margareta Berg, founder of Surgicon Foundation

“I find my passion in orthopedic surgery after my rotation in orthopedics. I entered Med school to be a psychiatrist.” Dr. Margareta Berg, founder of Surgicon Foundation

After my three weeks rotation in orthopedics I did find my passion. So I changed my mind. I wouldn’t be a psychiatrist but an orthopedic surgeon.

Did you realize you were entering a male dominated field?

There was not a second of hesitation or any thoughts whatsoever about this profession being a “male” or “female” occupation. I just wanted to do something I liked, instead of spending my lifetime in a specialty with better working hours but for which I had no passion.

Dr. Margareta Berg, Founder Surgicon Foundation

Dr. Margareta Berg

The first time I realized that just being a female resident in orthopedic surgery was a provocation, was at age 30. It felt like I was being interviewed nearly every day at work when people asked me:

“How do you feel about being a woman in orthopedic surgery?” To which I’d usually answer:

“Well, how should I know? I don’t know how it feels to be a man in orthopedic surgery.”

So from the very beginning I entered the field completely free of any preconceptions. I just did my job, as everybody else. It took me several years to understand that it was something special to be a woman in this profession. The gender question was thrown at me after I had already been in this field for a while. Why couldn’t I be left in my innocent, equal world? The truth is that if I had known this reality from the start, it would certainly have given me second thoughts about this specialty.

Laughter is always a great way to navigate an awkward situation.

Laughter is always a great way to navigate an awkward situation.

You might enjoy reading “Women mentors: A group of surgeons like no other

Were you treated differently because you were a woman?

I was bullied, almost every day. But this just helped me develop a very useful method to defend myself: A very rapid, sharp and efficient sense of humor. I did not want to raise my voice for fear of being seen as a bitch, and I did not want to cry (as I never do) showing a useless weakness. When things got awkward, making everyone burst out in laughter was the best way to handle the situation.

This film director is another powerful woman in a male-dominated field. Don't miss her story!

You worked hard and yet you found time to continue to find your passions elsewhere. Tell us about that.

I spent days and nights at work, just to learn, doing a lot more hours than expected. I would usually go home at 7 or 8 PM, had a rest, and then returned to work until midnight.

"I find my passion in sailing. The silence helps me rest and unwind," Dr. Margareta Berg, founder Surgicon Foundation

“I find my passion in sailing. The silence helps me rest and unwind,” Dr. Margareta Berg, founder Surgicon Foundation

But I also needed to unwind. So, faithful to my habits, I did this wholeheartedly. During Med School I had saved all my student loans for eleven semesters by working on weekends to support myself. In 1980 I made a large withdrawal and bought a 26 ft sailing boat. (I had been sailing with my family since I was a child.) It took a week of being all alone on the boat to get back to normal sleep and to feel well rested. As the boat had no engine I developed the technique of entering and leaving harbors and desert creeks by sail during ten years. To some people, this was a strange thing for a single woman do to. And I find my passion for woodwork is still alive today in my furniture-making.

You shared with me that through your career one of your ongoing concerns had been the standarization of practical surgical training. How did that become your latest project and passion?

Well, trying to continue to find my passion in surgery led me to something I had been observing for years.

By 2010 I had spent 30 years in orthopedics. I had observed the lack of structure in surgical training and also I had experienced the differences in quality of surgical training and the potentially harmful consequences of this differences. So I decided that we needed to do something about it. I contacted key colleagues in my own network of surgeons across the world and organized a two-day brainstorming meeting in September 2010 in Howth, Ireland. Along with a group of leaders in surgery we decided to create the Surgicon Project.

What exactly is the Surgicon project and why is does it matter so much to you?

Surgicon is a worldwide network of leaders in surgery with a common interest in Surgical Training and Equalized International Certificates of Surgical Skills. There is a high incidence of surgical errors that are a direct result of the lack of a structured surgical training. In general, across the world, a surgical resident is placed with an attending surgeon who functions as a mentor for 4 or 5 years. After that period he/she becomes a “specialist.” Yet there is a lack of standardized curriculum during this learning period and different attending surgeons teach different things to their residents. Consequently, many preventable mistakes take place and even lives are needlessly lost.

The Surgicon Foundation is a worldwide network of leaders in surgery with a common interest in Surgical Training and Equalized International Certificates of Surgical Skills.

The Surgicon Foundation is a worldwide network of leaders in surgery with a common interest in Surgical Training and Equalized International Certificates of Surgical Skills.

A 2008 Swedish retrospective study of medical records showed 105,000 injuries caused by hospital care in one year of which nearly 50% were related to surgery. Of the total number there were 3,000 deaths, all in a population of 9 million inhabitants. Each injury resulted in a prolonged hospitalization of an average of 6 days.

Surgicon held two congresses in 2011 and 2013. The delegates called them “The Davos for Surgeons” due to the high concentration of world surgical leaders in the same geographical spot for several days. In 2012 the non-profit Surgicon Foundation was created with the goal of creating the needed curriculum to standardize surgical training and drastically reduce preventable mistakes and deaths. In 2013 Surgicon was invited to collaborate with the World Health Organization.

What do you need to move this passion forward?

Everytime I find my passion, I invest all my efforts, time, energy and money into it. This is no different. I’ve spent the last five years working overtime just to organize these two major medical congresses and I’m now involved in fundraising to create the curriculum. We are looking for corporations, non-profit organizations, and governments interested in taking this project to the next level. It will highly benefit patients and their families around the world. And it will help drastically reduce medical costs.

You can connect with Dr. Margareta Berg via:

Twitter: @SurgiconProject

Email: congress@surgicon.org

Website: www.surgicon.org