Ultimate Software, a Tech Company Ahead of the Rest

Ultimate Software, a company that provides Human Resources solutions, is way ahead of the competition. Boasting nearly 50% female leaders in an industry where that number is in the single digits is a testament to the company’s lifelong focus on equality and inclusion. This is what makes Ultimate different!

Ultimate Software is the 2019 Red Shoe Movement Tech Lead. And there couldn’t be a better partner. They lived by our 7 Red Shoe Principles even before they ever met us! The strength of our partnership is evidenced in our interview with two of Ultimate’s top talent, Cecile Alper-Leroux, VP of HCM (human capital management) Innovation, and Heather Geronemus, Senior Manager of Media and Community Relations, who share what makes Ultimate a frontrunner for advancing women’s careers in tech.

Valeria Mendoza— When you think about female leadership at Ultimate Software, what do you see that is different from the tech industry?

Cecile Alper-Leroux of Ultimate Software

Cecile Alper-Leroux of Ultimate Software

Cécile Alper-Leroux—

At Ultimate, half of our employees are women, and approximately 48% of our leaders are women. It has always been that way, since our inception over 28 years ago (we began with four employees: two women and two men). That is a remarkable state of affairs in any industry, but it is unheard of in the tech industry!

Ultimate offers a unique working environment, where women feel they have an equal voice in decisions and are more likely to voice their opinions, disagree, or raise alternate suggestions, without fear of repercussions. Women feel they belong and are welcomed and encouraged tobring their best selves to work. It also means that we have a broader, and I believe, more innovative view of the future of work. Our HR management products are in large part being chosen by women decision-makers, and we believe we can always be better. Including other voices and viewpoints that influence our product creation and services strategy makes our product more competitive.

Scott Scherr, CEO, Ultimate Software, honored on 2019 Hall of Fame

VM— Can you share the story of a successful stretch assignment you had at Ultimate Software?

CAL—The most satisfying stretch assignment I’ve been given at Ultimate was to create a new team—the HCM Innovation team. We knew that, to make the thought leadership applicable for our sales teams, we would have to connect future and theory with the concerns of decision-makers in our prospect and customer organizations today. Because I was given significant creative license, we created a center of excellence and knowledge that has helped not only our standing in the marketplace, but has also elevated the conversations our employees have with customers and prospects. That is helping to shape the conversation about the future of work in a rapidly changing world. If I had not had a leader who trusted me and was patient as we designed the new function, we would not have had the courage to push our limits.

VM— Which ones of the RSM principles do you relate to most and why?

CAL—I relate most to principles 1 and 5, because I believe that they are inextricably linked and can have a significant impact on women at work. Principle 1: “Mentor younger or less experienced women whenever you have a chance.” Mentoring women is important, for all women at all levels and stages of their careers. I’ve learned from every mentoring relationship I’ve had, whether I was the mentor or mentee. Mentoring others helps us crystallize our thoughts and refine our beliefs, which makes us better mentors. Every person can use support and mentorship in their work lives, as it provides a necessary alternate perspective and enriches our thoughts. But I believe mentorship is a critical first step for women’s careers, and we all need to take the next step to become sponsors of the women we mentor. Principle 5: “Celebrate the accomplishments of women publicly.” Sponsorship is more than a one-on-one relationship. It requires a public endorsement of another person. It becomes a relationship in which a sponsor advocates for the mentee/sponsee to propel them forward in their careers. It requires a sponsor taking on the risk of publicly endorsing someone else, and the effect can be career- and life-changing. We need more sponsors for less experienced women in the workplace to ensure a future with equal representation of women in leadership roles.

Ultimate Software team

Ultimate Software team

VM—What is the mission of the group Women in Leadership at Ultimate Software?

Heather Geronemus of Ultimate Software

Heather Geronemus of Ultimate Software

Heather Geronemus—The mission of Women in Leadership is to help women at all stages of their careers at Ultimate reach their maximum potential and support one another. One of the most inspiring traits of female leaders at Ultimate is their willingness to spend time mentoring other women in the company. No matter how busy they are—whether it’s through our formal mentoring program or simply taking the time to give advice, provide encouragement, or answer questions—they’re always available or willing to make time. Our leaders are constantly helping the next generation of Ultimate leaders thrive. They are genuinely warm, caring women who are always ready to share their knowledge and experience with their colleagues, whether they have been with Ultimate for years or days.

VM—Can you share some of the benefits you derived from being part of the group?

HG— There are countless benefits to being part of the Women in Leadership (WIL) group at Ultimate Software. We provide opportunities for personal and professional growth, service to our communities, and networking with peers. I recently participated in one of our mentoring cohorts both as a mentee and a mentor. Without a doubt, this was one of the most rewarding opportunities WIL has provided to me. Naturally, the ability to have a mentor was amazing. But, the most surprising part of the experience was learning how much I had to offer my own mentee who is in a completely different part of the company than I am, and, more importantly, how much we were able to teach each other. Additionally, as a leader in the WIL organization, I have grown tremendously. Working and collaborating with a group of inspired, passionate women who are dedicated to helping other women at our company thrive has been so rewarding.

On March 8, 2019, International Women’s Day, Ultimate Software’s employees and customers join the Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas. They will conduct bell-ringing ceremonies in 18 locations in North America, Europe and Asia! On this day, a company whose color is green, is stepping into red shoes, ties and accessories to support our mission to accelerate the representation of women at the top. That’s just how they roll. Welcome aboard Ultimate Peeps!

Viv Maza, Chief People Officer

Viv Maza, Chief People Officer

 

 

 

On International Women’s Day 2019 We Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas

International Women’s Day 2019 is an important day for organizations to take a stand on gender parity. To show their support for an inclusive workplace. Join us in a unique celebration that resonates worldwide!

International Women’s Day 2019 is the perfect platform to celebrate the professional, political, social and cultural achievements of women while shedding light on the need for more women in top leadership positions. And although this is exactly what we do year-round with our #RedShoeTuesday campaign, on Friday, March 8, we kick it up a notch.

Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas on International Women's Day

Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas on International Women’s Day 2019

For the second year in a row, we will “Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas” with Celebrity Cruises, a Red Shoe Movement® Gender Equality global initiative. We echo the UN Global Compact “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” with stock exchanges. An initiative that brings the attention for the need of more involvement by the private sector to elect women on boards.  But we will not only ring the bell on the 7 seas, we will do so on the 7 continents as well.

“We are thrilled to team up once again with Celebrity Cruises. This year we actively set sail for gender equality.Working with Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO, we get to see her innovative style in action as she thinks in inclusive terms from the design of a ship like the Edge to the Captain at the helm. It’s exciting to see the entire Celebrity fleet and offices around the world take part of this International Women’s Day event,” said Mariela Dabbah, founder and CEO, Red Shoe Movement.

International Women's Day women on the bridge

International Women’s Day women on the bridge

Lutoff-Perlo will join Dabbah for the ceremony on the Celebrity Edge and the Celebrity Reflection. The two ships will be anchored side by side in Grand Cayman so that guests and crew can participate in a joint event on the top decks of both vessels. The ceremony itself entails an introduction to International Women’s Day and to the Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas initiative, followed by the captain of the ship reading the Ring the Bell Manifesto and ringing the bell by several people. As it can be expected, everyone wears red shoes, ties, and accessories to honor the Red Shoe Movement’s mission of accelerating the representation of women at the top.

“We couldn’t be more excited to partner with the RSM for a second year to carry out this initiative and bring the message supporting gender equality to every corner of the world with our ships. As a female executive in a field that continues to need more women on the bridge and in leadership positions, I am devoted to this issue one concrete action at a time. For our guests and crew to stand together as they Ring the Bell for gender equality is quite special,” shared Lutoff-Perlo.

International Women’s Day 2019— A Special Award

On International Women’s Day 2019, Captain Kate McCue, the first North American female captain of a cruise ship, will be honored with the Red Shoe Leader Award as a role model of inclusive leadership. Not only is she part of a small group of female captains of cruise ships, but she has also developed a global reputation in the industry. Her passengers, crew and colleagues adore her unique style. Come meet her on our Instagram Live on Friday, March 8.

Viv Maza, Chief People Officer Ultimate Software

Viv Maza, Chief People Officer Ultimate Software

Ultimate Software joins International Women Day’s 2019 event

Part of the coverage of the 7 continents will be delivered by the Ring the Bell Tech Lead Ultimate Software. The organization, a leader in the creation of Human Resources solutions, and recognized as one of Fortune 100best places to work for, will conduct bell ringing ceremonies in numerous locations throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

“Ultimate’s women leaders have helped build and shape our business from the beginning,” said Scott Scherr, CEO, president, and founder of Ultimate Software. “A culture of equality—where we value, respect, and care for all individuals, every day—has been one of the main drivers of our success. We’re proud to join this movement and celebrate International Women’s Day together.”

Ultimate Software, tech lead of the Rings the Bell on the 7 Seas

Ultimate Software, tech lead of the Rings the Bell on the 7 Seas

Clearly, Ultimate Software is not your run of the mill tech company. They demonstrate day in and day out that they care for 10% of their associates.

In a time when there are only 5% of women in leadership positions in the tech industry, nearly half of all women at Ultimate Software are leaders. It’s the reflection of CEO Scott Scherr’s commitment to equality and that’s the main reason why this year we honor him with our Hall of Fame. “Ultimate is a leader by example, proving that a companywide focus on equality brings real change,” said Dabbah.

Celebrate International Women’s Day 2019 with us!

Moving the needle in female representation at the top doesn’t happen by remembering the issue once a year. But International Women’s Day offers a global platform to continue to elevate the conversation. Don’t stay quiet on March 8. Join our conversation on social media using #GenderBell#IWD2019 #IWDleader.

Don’t miss our Instagram Live with Captain Kate McCue and Mariela Dabbah on March 8, 2019.

 

This International Women's Day join us with our hashtags #GenderBell #IWD2019 #IWDleader

This International Women’s Day join us with our hashtags #GenderBell #IWD2019 #IWDleader

 

Iris Bohnet Promotes Changing Design Over Mindsets

Iris Bohnet, is the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, the Academic Dean of Harvard Kennedy Schooland author of What Works: Gender Equality by Design. Don’t miss an equal parts insightful and inspiring interview!

An indisputable leader in the field, Iris Bohnet is a behavioral economist who combines insights from economics and psychology to improve decision-making in organizations.

She has helped companies and governments across the globe use behavioral design research to de-bias how we live, work and learn. We had a chance to meet her at a recent conversation at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

Iris Bohnet at Council on Foreign Relations

Iris Bohnet at Council on Foreign Relations

Red Shoe Movement—At the recent Women and the Lawconference at the Council on Foreign Relations you mentioned that you are hopeful about the state of the gender equality conversation despite the fact that we keep talking about the problem when there are already very well researched solutions. Where does your optimism come from?

Iris Bohnet—My optimism is based on the demands that I see for the solutions. I did not see this 10 years ago. Back then, we didn’t have evidence about what worked. And we didn’t have a demand from companies and governments from different countries asking for help with these interventions. However, let me qualify my optimism because I fall prey of what we call selection bias. I’m responding to organizations that are reaching out to me. So, this is a self-selected group of organizations interested in this issue, and it’s not a representative sample of companies in the U.S. But by now I’ve worked with 50-100 companies around the world. Apparently, there’s enough movement in the space for all these companies to reach out and ask for help on this issue.

RSM— What are some good practices for women who don’t work in HR who wish to contribute to de-biasing their organizations?

IB—Let’s start with people who are not in managerial roles. Everyone can be a micro-sponsor. Everyone can play the role of watching out for micro-inequities or -aggressions. For example, if you make a comment in a meeting and then it’s repeated by John, I could bring this fact up easier than you can. And hopefully I can do it with tact and not in an adversarial manner. That’s an example of micro-sponsorship. I can thank John for building on your comment and then, bring the discussion back to you so that you can own it. And it can be done by women and by men. Everyone can pay attention to these patterns of exclusion.

When you have a managerial role you have more responsibilities in leading meetings, giving feedback during appraisals, and offering people opportunities to grow. Women may not be sent to leadership training or not offered a higher salary because they don’t ask for it as they fear backlash. Unfortunately, feedback is fraught with bias. Women and people of color often get less useful feedback. Managers can check that they help everyone grow. The best predictor of people’s satisfaction with their job is a good manager, so they have a great role to play every day.

Iris Bohnet award winning book

Iris Bohnet award winning book

RSM—Of all the interventions you propose in your book, which ones have you seen consistently implemented successfully?

IB—Probably the one picked up most is the debiasing of language in job advertising. It’s easy to do because HR doesn’t have to reinvent their practices. It’s an ad-on to what they are already doing.  The second advantage is that is a no-brainer because organizations want to cast a wide net and attract a wide range of talent. This intervention is not costly.  You can develop your own algorithm or work with one of the start-ups such as Applied or Textio offering the tool, and the system then does the work.

RSM—Do you see a major shift in gender dynamics as Generation Z enters the workplace? How do you think the current dynamic will change or not?

IB—I truly don’t know. I haven’t studied this generation specifically. It appears from surveys that both men and women are more interested in work-life balance. They have more demands about the time they spend outside of work. They are looking for self -fulfilment and self-realization. The younger generation asks a lot about purpose at work. The meaning of what they do is important to them. This will likely impact gender dynamics but we don’t really have the data yet to show how.

Iris Bohnet on gender equality design

Iris Bohnet on gender equality design

Advice by Iris Bohnet on reaching men

RSM— What do you say to men who are “tired” of all the gender equality talk. The pushback of the #MeToo movement? It seems to force women to once again, protect men’s feelings before their own.

IB—It depends on the men. I’d say there are two categories. On the one hand you have those men who care but are tired because we’ve talked about it for so many years, they’ve gone through diversity training programs, they’ve seen their companies implement leadership programs for women and still don’t see a change. To them, I’d say, we’ve done the wrong things. We tried to change mindsets or women. What we’re doing today is different than what we’ve done so far. Our approach is based on research, it’s new and different from what we’ve done before. It builds on evidence of what works.

On the other hand, there’s the category of men who don’t care and don’t think we have a problem. People who love homogeneity and are comfortable with people who look like them. This is a bigger problem and it requires a different approach. This group needs less talk and more action. These are people who don’t want to move from A to B. They are comfortable in A. For them, we need to look at a social movement. Figure out how to promote change even when people don’t see that gender inequity is real and a violation of human rights.

RSM—For many years, we’ve all looked at the business case for inclusion and encouraged women to bring up the metrics to conversations around this topic. Do you believe that’s still the best approach to get an organization to get behind inclusion at the highest levels of decision-making? Or have we arrived at a place where you can answer “it’s not just good business is the moral and ethical thing to do to support 100% of your talent”?

IB—I think we need to use both approaches. We always have to talk about human rights. But the business case is helpful. But even the two approaches together are not enough. There is a third piece that we need to add: We have to help people follow their virtuous intentions. It’s like healthy eating. We can make the case that it’s good for you to eat healthily but even if you believe that eating more vegetables is the right and the smart thing to do, it doesn’t happen automatically. We have to help people work through their intentions in a practical way. You have to debias systems and not start by debiasing mindsets. Eventually, good behavior changes mindsets. But it takes time.

Iris Bohnet sharing about gender equality by design

Iris Bohnet sharing about gender equality by design

Iris Bohnet’s suggestions for best inclusion practices

RSM— If you had to recommend one best practice for fostering gender inclusion in an organization, what would it be?

IB—I don’t think there is the one silver bullet that will solve all our issues. And which one you start with depends on where the organization is in its journey. If an organization is at the beginning of its journey, I’d say measure. Understand what’s going on before you throw money at the problem. Who are you hiring, what are the pay gaps, who’s leaving, what’s the climate? What doesn’t get measured not only doesn’t count but it also can’t be fixed.

RSM— If you had to recommend one best practice for women to reach the highest levels of decision-making, what would it be?

IB—Build a support network inside and outside your organization. People who lift you up and help you navigate the system. It should include mentors, sponsors, friends. And make sure you also have a support system at home. Don’t try to do this alone.

RSM—What do you think of our #RedShoeTuesday campaign?

IB—I like the idea a lot! The red shoes are a signal —the more people wear red shoes the more others will wear them. That’s just human behavior. I like that it’s something visible. My biggest concern is whether enough people own red shoes. (Laughs.) Maybe, you have to decrease the barriers to entry a bit and allow people to wear anything red, a scarf, a hat, a tie. But the idea is great. I often say: seeing is believing!

A Female Leadership Conference Unlike Any Other!

It’s an experience. We aim for guests to leave with a sense of self-discovery they hadn’t expected. With new insights about their own career journeys and contacts who can be an integral part of those journeys. That’s what our female leadership conference is all about!

This past November marked the seventh annual RSM Signature Event, a day-long female leadership conference geared to a mixed audience, unlike anything you’ve seen. The vibe, the energy, the intense interaction never fails to turn the day into a memorable, shared experience.

Group picture at RSM female leadership conference

Group picture at RSM female leadership conference

What’s different about the RSM female leadership conference

From the beginning we built this event on three principles:

  1. We all have something to teach and something to learn from each other at all times, therefore, there wouldn’t be a distinction between “speakers” and “audience.”
  2. Audience and organizers would co-create the content of the event.
  3. It would be a mixed audience. Women and men, all backgrounds, a wide range of roles, ages and abilities from college students to the C-Suite.

True, this is not an easy feat to achieve. And it’s much harder to maintain your principles when people who only know traditional female leadership conferences constantly ask you to adjust your model. Yet, year after year we persisted, tweaked and improved our delivery, and here we are. With a hyper successful event that never fails to surprise and to teach each one of us something new and unexpected.

A female leadership conference that involves all stakeholders

Female Leadership Conference unlique any other

Female Leadership Conference unlique any other

One of the aspects that strikes participants from the get go is the wide range of career stages and backgrounds of attendees. It’s by design. Our method only works when you have people at every experience and hierarchy in the organization, the most diverse the better. So it’s a very unique opportunity for an analyst or a recent college grad to sit at the same proverbial table as a senior vice president or Chief Marketing Officer and give each other advice. It’s an exchange that enriches them both and leaves them with an entirely new perspective on what’s possible.

Engaging leaders in two distinct roles

Executives get to practice a different role at the RSM female leadership conference

Executives get to practice a different role at the RSM female leadership conference

It can be a challenge to engage leaders in a learning model that requires that they wear a different hat than they are used to. We interview our keynote guests, and they interview the audience. We ask executives to play the role of Explorer, asking questions instead of providing advice. We are really lucky to count on a remarkable group of influencers at every conference who not only play along but also help us create an even better event.

Aha moments shared by guests of the RSM Signature Event

We can tell you how wonderful the event was until we turn blue in the face. Yet nobody can describe the experience better than individuals who went through it. So here are a few insightful testimonials.

Claudia Vazquez of Prudential shares her insights from the RSM Signature Event

Claudia Vazquez of Prudential shares her insights from the RSM Signature Event

“The RSM event reminded me in a very vivid way that we all have the ability to add value based on our expertise and unique strengths. That I should always find that one thing that makes me different and that is the same thing that makes me stand out from the rest. That I should continue to be bold on expressing my aspirations and be resilient on the pursuit of them!”  — Claudia Vazquez, Director, Product Management, GI/WSG, Prudential

Maria Jose Gomez Silva, Novartis, at the RSM female leadership conference

Maria Jose Gomez Silva, Novartis, at the RSM female leadership conference

“Excited, inspired and empowered by the Red Shoe Movement  panel demystifying Failure. Failure is the key to grow! So instead of focusing on avoiding failure, re-learn, re-tool and re-engage!” — Maria Jose Gomez Silva, Commercial Director Latin America and Canada, Novartis Pharma

Beth Marmolejos strikes a pose at the #RedLookBook

Beth Marmolejos strikes a pose at the #RedLookBook

“It was a transformational experience and reminder that we need to use our influence and power to support each other.” — Beth Marmolejos, Executive Advisor and IT Account Manager, Anthem, Inc.

Lorena Kuri, Novartis Oncology, at the RSM female leadership event

Lorena Kuri, Novartis Oncology, at the RSM female leadership event

“In one of the mentoring circles I was able to see the healing power of a group of women that never met before, and how they impacted someone in need. Collective love, collective, true selves.” — Lorena Kuri Murad, AD Jakavi Brand Lead / D&I Champion Latin America and Canada Region, Novartis Oncology

The extra touches that make a difference

You can’t have the words “Red Shoe” as part of your company name and take yourself too seriously. That’s why we remind people we are at the intersection of self-empowerment and fashion. The fashion piece gives us the perfect excuse to keep humor as part of the courageous conversations we inspire. A little lightness goes a long way to get men and women to work together towards a more equal future.

Farylrobin's designs for different Red Shoe Movement Signature Events

Farylrobin’s designs for different Red Shoe Movement Signature Events

As every year, we gave away over 50 pairs of red boots and over dozens of ties to participants.  Thanks to our committed partners Farylrobin, once again, many of our female guests walked away with a new pair of boots to celebrate #RedShoeTuesday. And many of our male guests took home our new Signature Tie, by our partner Cyberoptix. Now they have the perfect accessory and a specific hashtag #RedTieTuesday to take a stand for gender equality every Tuesday. You can read more about the meaning of the tie here.

Our RSM Signature Tie for #RedTieTuesday. A great way to engage your male champions.

Our RSM Signature Tie for #RedTieTuesday. A great way to engage your male champions.

We also added a little extra sweet touch. Thanks to our partner Charbonnel et Walker, fine chocolatiers to the British Crown, we put a small “handbag” of chocolate stilettos in the hands of every attendee. Mmmmm… chic, and delish!

Charbonnel et Walker stilettos gave the female leadership conference a special touch

Charbonnel et Walker stilettos gave the female leadership conference a special touch

A female leadership conference as a culminating event

Patricia Mejia of Microsoft, attended our RSM Signature Event to receive her Red Shoe Leader Award. In the video she shares how the Step Up Program helped her grow in her career and gain additional visibility inside and outside her organization.

Patricia Mejia of Microsoft, attended our RSM Signature Event to receive her Red Shoe Leader Award. In the video she shares how the Step Up Program helped her grow in her career and gain additional visibility inside and outside her organization.

Year after year we work with scores of female talent inside medium and large organizations to provide specific tools that elicit self-leadership and mutual mentoring. It’s particularly poignant to see one of our past participants win the Red Shoe Leader Award for the work she’s done to promote inclusion inside and outside her organization, Microsoft, as a result of her involvement with the Step Up Plus program. More exciting yet, to have the chance to meet her in person —she’s from Guatemala— as she joined us in New York City for the Awards Ceremony and the RSM Signature Event.

Here’s Patricia Mejia of Microsoft in her own words (in Spanish.)

So you see, it’s not just one thing that makes this female leadership conference unique. It’s a constellation of people coming together to think about the experience of participants. What they are taking away. How they are truly transformed. How they will pay it forward by impacting others with their new insights. And as that experience is a moving target, we try to always be ahead of it, offering what guests didn’t know they needed and they are so happy they found.

 

 

Leadership legacy: a journey built on details and values

When your leadership legacy is a 130,000-ton cruise-ship that redefines the meaning of luxury, there’s little wiggle room for mistakes.

At the end of a two year journey ideating, designing and building the Edge, Celebrity Cruise’s CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo can be proud that is almost impossible to find any areas that need improvement. Celebrity Edge is so close to perfection that probably only Lisa can detect the deviations from her vision.

So much so that when a guest who was walking out of a Spa shower said: “This doesn’t work,” I asked astonished: “Did you actually find something that is wrong on this ship? Do tell!”

The woman said that there weren’t any hooks to keep the towel handy after you showered. Wow. The ship is missing a few hooks in convenient places. Take a second to digest that. A 130,000-ton ship, with the most innovative technology you have seen anywhere, let alone in a ship, it’s missing a few hooks. I’d say, mission accomplished, Lisa!

Celebrity Edge leadership legacy is in the details

Celebrity Edge leadership legacy is in the details

Building a memorable leadership legacy

I was invited by Lisa herself to join the inaugural sail of Celebrity Edge. And to describe my experience on the ship is to minimize it right away. Because some things are hard to put into words. After a few minutes on board, the Wows and OMGs don’t do justice to what you’re feeling.

For starters you should know that I’m not a frequent cruiser by any stretch of the imagination. If you ask me to choose, I’ll arrive to my destination by plane and walk once I arrive to my destination. But Celebrity Edge completely changed my mind. When you step into this self-contained universe, you quickly realize not all ships are created equal.

Magic Carpet on Celebrity Edge. A very unique detail created that undoubtedly is part of Lisa Lutoff-Perlo's leadership legacy.

Magic Carpet on Celebrity Edge. A very unique detail created that undoubtedly is part of Lisa Lutoff-Perlo’s leadership legacy.

When she took the reigns of Celebrity Cruises, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, or LLP, as she’s known to her team, had a powerful vision. She wanted to revolutionize the cruise industry and particularly redefine the luxury category. She got started right away. One of her first decisions was to increase diversity and inclusion on the bridge and at the executive level in the organization. (We talked to her about this in her Hall of Fame interview.)  That step spoke volumes about her commitment to affecting change in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

But pushing boundaries is never easy, whether it is gender stereotypes or established ideas of what a luxury experience should be. And here, LLP’s inability to hear “no” is without a doubt one of her strongest assets to push forward. She threw away the book and invited her team to think as if the sky were truly the limit. And she did it with a level of care and intentionality so all associates could take her at her word and be at their best proposing innovative solutions and totally out of the box ideas.

A deliberate focus on facing the sea includes the Gym's equipment.

A deliberate focus on facing the sea includes the Gym’s equipment.

The cave: The secret place were a legacy is built

When I visited Royal Caribbean’s offices in Miami for our “Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas with Celebrity Cruises,” a Red Shoe Movement Gender Equality global initiative, I saw The Cave. The secret place to which only a selected group of Celebrity executives and designers with special “clearance” had access.  They got together with their counterparts in other parts of the world and used virtual reality to ideate and design the Edge. Every detail of the ship from the cabins to the chairs, from the circular theater to the incredible art pieces was created in this space.

An unimaginable number of hours and sharp attention to detail went into this process. The result is pure magic. It’s a magic you feel in the smile and polite “hello” of every crew member you meet; in the ocean-facing lounge chairs; in the way the infinite veranda in the staterooms brings the sea indoors, and in the three story Eden— the garden-like bar where actors are in a seamless interaction with the guests. One of Lisa’s most remarkable legacies might be the sense of awe that this ship inspires at every turn, a hard task if there ever was one. At a time when sensory overload seems to have dulled our senses, you feel them come alive on Edge.

A number of iconic villas that range in size up to close to 250 square feet offer an amazing travel experience.

A number of iconic villas that range in size up to close to 250 square feet offer an amazing travel experience.

Highlight of my trip

One of my most memorable experiences on the ship was dinner at Le Petit Chef— an unassuming restaurant with just a small, one-page menu. The dinner was arranged for a group of six and as we sat at the table, we noticed each plate was lit up from above. We would soon find out why.

As the lights in the restaurant were dimmed, a projection over each plate and seating area began. It was the animated, brilliantly illustrated story of a competition between four chefs. While all of us stared in utter joy, laughing like five year-olds the little characters walked across our plates in an endless back and forth preparing a specific dish. Once the dish was finished and the image of it projected on our plate, waiters would simultaneously place the real food— which looked exactly like the illustration— on everyone’s plates. Voilà.

The food tasted delicious but the immersive experience was incomparable to anything I had seen before. And that’s the point. The constant surprise, the lasting feeling of having been through a unique moment, the relentless upending of assumptions. And underneath it all, a warm sensation akin to… love? Yes, you feel the love with which each detail has been planned. The love that every person involved with any part of this ship, has put into it. I know it sounds corny, but it’s true.

Animated and interactive dinner at Le Petit Chef on Celebrity Edge

Animated and interactive dinner at Le Petit Chef on Celebrity Edge

Building a leadership legacy that redefines what can and can’t be done on a ship

When LLP and her team set out to redefine luxury, it’s not only the luxury segment of the cruise industry that they ended up redefining. In the end, they are part of a larger industry: Travel and leisure. You feel it in your bones when you step into the Spa, my second top highlight of the trip. A 22,000 square feet area that has nothing to envy the best ones in the world. And very likely as close to walking into paradise as you and I are ever going to get. The kinds of treatments that they offer hail from all over the world. You can tell that they’ve researched the most innovative, effective and pleasurable treatments out there to bring onboard not only the best, but also the least well-known.

I lay down on a warm waterbed while I got rubbed down with a special brush that activated my metabolism and then got covered in a seaweed paste. Wrapped in foil like a human taco, the music in my headphones was helping synchronize the right and left side of my brain while my feet were being massaged. By engaging all my senses I was transported to a different dimension.

An unforgettable massage session on Celebrity Edge

An unforgettable massage session on Celebrity Edge

This is what legacy looks like

One evening, Adora English Avalos, LLP’s PR person, and the woman behind a lot of great things that happened on the Edge’s inaugural trip, shared a very revealing story with a group of us. We were ending a wonderful evening together and we headed to the rooftop bar. After a round of stories about the ship and how we each had met Lisa, Adora said: “You know, I was with her on the bridge when the Edge came into Port Everglades for the first time. She stood there, leaning forward, hands on deck, staring ahead and I could clearly see that she owned the moment. She was probably thinking, ‘Yes, this is it. This is my legacy.’ It was beautiful to see.”

What does it take to get to that point of sheer satisfaction with your work? Knowing that you brought to life your vision, that you steered your team in the right direction? What does it take to fully own that accomplishment so you can build on it?

It takes a solid, humble leader who knows that the most important legacy you can leave is a set of unbreakable values that outlive you. Values like passion, a sense of fairness, and real love for those around you. Values that point North regardless of where the winds blow from. That keep your hand firmly on the steering wheel looking forward, always leaving the future behind.

The circular theater on Celebrity Edge offers top innovations in technology like the rain curtain.

The circular theater on Celebrity Edge offers top innovations in technology like the rain curtain.