*Julia Brown and Marie McKenzie are two women at the top of their game at the Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest leisure travel company.
Operating 10 global brands (including Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Seabourn), Carnival Corporation has nine of the most popular cruise lines with 103 ships (considered the world’s largest fleet) and visits over 700 global ports.
According to Carnival, they project that over the 27.2 million cruise passengers in 2018, nearly half of those guests will sail on one of their brands.
Brown, who has been the Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) of Carnival Corporation since 2015, told the EUR in a phone interview that working for the best in the industry is, “Pretty amazing. I spent 26 years in consumer products, and don’t get me wrong because I love those experiences and worked for great companies, but this business is dynamic. There is lots of opportunity and we’re doing great things from an innovation standpoint and so it’s not too bad.”
Brown oversees strategic sourcing and supplier relationship management, which equals to quite a bit of responsibility.
“I am responsible for about $9 billion dollars of the company’s ongoing purchases and about a billion of capital purchases,” Brown said. “That expands to everything from fuel, to food and beverage, to hotel items and marketing. Each day is very different depending on what’s happening in the business and what the priorities of our brands are.”
British born of Jamaican heritage, Brown was raised in a small town in western Canada settled by Hungarians and has lived in the United States for 25 years. Her upbringing made her hone her top management skills and easily adapt to change.
“I find that what I get inspired by is drive and change,” she said. “Creating transformation and creating breakthrough resolves. So, as I looked at different job opportunities, I was attracted to companies that either had a major transformation that they wanted to go through, a problem they wanted to solve, or a role that had been open for a period of time.”
Brown continued, “So with the last 6 companies I worked at the last 5 were newly created roles for me. This role was created back in April 2015. I was brought in to help accelerate the leveraging scale on the cost side and the value side with external partners and suppliers.”
Marie McKenzie is Carnival Corporation’s Vice President of Global Ports and Caribbean Government Relations. With over 21 years of experience in the cruise industry, she started with Carnival in 1996 and in late 2016 was appointed to her current role, which she relished in because, “I am originally from Jamaica, and I’ll be honest, I do have a personal passion for the region. I love the islands. I’m a true island girl.”
McKenzie represents the Carnival Corporation group of brands in engagement opportunities with government, regional and local community organizations.
“We have 34% of our capacity in the Caribbean region between all of our brands. Carnival Cruise Line is our year round brand in the Caribbean and we have other brands that are seasonal in the region, “ she said. “What that means is based on our presence in the region that I work to make sure that we have open and ongoing dialogue with the government in each of the countries in the region.”
She continued, “I engage with the community in a deeper, immersive way beyond just the ships bringing our guests in. I’m always on the ground looking for partnership opportunities.”
It is not lost on Brown and McKenzie that they are both black and women – two factors that are not seen often enough in major corporations. However, they both agree that not paying too much attention to the obvious will work for everyone in the end.
“I actually talk about this when I mentor younger women coming up in the business world,“ Brown said. “There are three things that I think are invaluable regardless of what function what industry or business you’re in – curiosity, confidence, and courage. I don’t have a trademark on those terms but I think having a healthy curiosity about how you make a difference and how you create value and opportunity is critical. I look for that in everybody that I hire.”
Brown continued, “Here’s what I would say as a black woman is that we standout regardless so if you’re curious about how to make the business better and you have the confidence and the right support in the organization to do something like that then why not? The people that really accelerate in their careers do not maintain the status quo – not the ones who are going to make a difference. “
McKenzie added, “Always go out doing your best, and never assume that doing the basics will get you by. I’ve been known to be very hard on myself. I’m always asking, ‘Did I really deliver or exceed the expectations of what I was supposed to do.’ I‘ve always been that way (growing up).”
She continued, “I hesitate sharing this sometimes because I think its perceived in the wrong way and that’s not my intention – I am a proud black woman. I’m proud of my heritage but I don’t feel like I need to enter a boardroom or meeting and make that my focus. My focus is I have a job to do and I’m going to deliver. When you’re focused on that then that’s what people see first. I made that my mantra.”
The CEO of Carnival Corporation is Arnold Donald, who is also African American. At the helm since 2013, he has driven record-breaking growth and financial performance. For more information on the Carnival Corporation, go here.