Carmen Corvos-Roig shares how her real life experiences impacted her success.
Latin Business Today partner Gabriela Alcantara- Diaz sat down with Latina cruise line industry executive Carmen Corvos-Roig.
Carmen can you tell us about your family heritage and childhood?
I am the daughter of Cuban immigrants, who came to the U.S. in 1966. My father was a radio broadcaster, delved in poetry and had a great love and talent for punto guajiro (folkloric music) of Cuba. My mother was an extremely gifted tailor and clothing designer.
I like to think that they passed their inquisitive and creative natures along to me, along with their penchant for hard work and dedication that has propelled my career. I began working at 15 years old and never looked back.
Each new challenge is so exciting and I believe I get this spirit of optimism and passion for life from my parents.
When we arrived in Miami, this immediately became “home” – I cannot imagine living anywhere else! The energy and opportunity I found here inspired and motivated me at a very young age and continues to every day.
I love the melting pot of cultures here, as it nurtures a sense that we’re all in “it” together in this vibrant city. When I got married in 1993, my roots in Miami only deepened, as my husband and I have raised our two children, Christian and Sophie here and we love investing our time and efforts in this community.
My parents sacrificed their “dreams” to leave their home and pursue freedom so my sister and I could have a better life. Their unselfish sacrifice provided the opportunity for us to grow and prosper in their honor!
Please share the key factors which shaped your career and business aspirations.
When my family moved here from Cuba, my father worked on a loading dock at a factory. He never gave up on his dream of playing punto guajiro and he appeared on a local AM radio station during my childhood. I grew accustomed to – and quickly fascinated by – spending time in the studio listening to him sing. I loved the energy in the studio and my interest in media and journalism was born during those days.
In Miami, my mother worked in a factory as a seamstress. She also made my clothes and I adored wearing these garments because they were so lovingly created.
They both taught me that the American Dream is achieved by hard work and ensuring the next generation strives to continue the legacy.
Did you have mentors? If so who were those who influenced your career?
I have been fortunate to have many great mentors over the years. A couple of people do stand out as offering guidance and attention at pivotal points in my life and my career.
In high school, then Florida Governor Bob Graham gave the commencement address at Miami Senior High School. He chatted with me about my goals and activities. I really felt a connection with him because he was genuinely interested in my success. We had followed similar paths in school, both having served as newspaper and yearbook editors and involved in many of the same activities. He asked me where I planned to go to college and I told him I was hoping to go to Stetson University.
A few weeks later, I received a call from Stetson saying that Governor Graham had reached out on my behalf to follow up on my acceptance to the school. I was so honored, of course, that he had done this, but more so, I was impressed that someone of his stature, after one conversation, had helped me. It was a teaching moment for me and has shaped the way I approach my interactions with the people I deal with every day.
Governor Graham has remained someone I admire and look to for example in many facets of my career, and our paths have continued in somewhat parallel fashion. My family lives in the same Miami neighborhood as his family, and coincidentally, my children attended the Bob Graham Education Center in their earlier years.
Later on, working for Carnival Cruise Lines, former Carnival President Bob Dickinson, also became a professional mentor to me. He was never shy about sharing his expertise and encouragement, and really motivated me to push myself further.
Bob also gave of himself to help others through his philanthropic work. He encouraged me to find ways to be of service to our community as well. His charity work as Chairman of Camillus House and his commitment to eradicate homelessness in our community is so inspiring and I served on the Board of Camillus House at his request.
What sparked your interest in the cruise industry?
First industry job
At age 15, I got my first job with Carnival Cruise Lines working embarkation and disembarkation at the Port of Miami. Then I held positions in flight coordination, guest bookings and as assistant supervisor over the next several years. When I returned to Miami to complete college at the University of Miami, after one year at Stetson University, I also returned to Carnival Cruise Lines, working in its corporate offices throughout college where I worked in the reservations department Monday through Friday, then at the Port of Miami and Port Everglades on the weekends.
While at the University of Miami studying Broadcast Journalism, I did an internship at then NBC-affiliate Channel 7 assignment desk, which nurtured my passion for journalism, but also honed my abilities to work in fast-paced environments and think quickly on my feet – a skill that has served me well in my career since then.
After I graduated, I went to Bob Dickinson to let him know that I planned to give my notice to work in TV and I thanked him for the great experiences and opportunities over the years. He reminded me that I had spent seven years with Carnival and only a few months at the TV station and Carnival is where I belonged.
He was so right. I spent 30 wonderful years with Carnival Corporation in various roles and at several of its brands before I joined Royal Caribbean’s Azamara Club Cruises in 2011 and then moved onto Crystal in 2015, the pinnacle of my career in hospitality!
What has mentoring meant to you? Please share your experiences on how mentoring young professionals can make a difference.
In my view, there is no limit to how much difference mentorship and encouragement given to young people can make. When we invest time in young professionals in our communities, we are empowering the future, which will eventually make those communities better for all.
I have seen this firsthand, as a board member for the Academy of Hospitality & Tourism (AOHT) for more than eight years. AOHT is a wonderful program that prepares students with post-secondary education in this industry. Students can start as early as high school and have a wealth of internship and educational opportunities at their fingertips.
I have been passionate about this program and those like it for many years, as I truly believe that empowering students and young professionals with a spirit of determination and belief in themselves can literally change lives.
I know that this kind of mentorship made a huge impact on my life and I am honored to be in a position to pay it forward to the next generation.
What advice would you give those who want to make a difference in coaching/mentoring the next generation of business leaders and small business owners?
I would say that while mentoring is one of the most powerful things leaders in business can do for the next generation, it absolutely must be genuine. Like any relationship, mentoring is a two-way connection, one that requires sincere care about that person’s path. I have found that helping young people recognize the potential within themselves is extremely powerful.
Regardless of where someone is in their career path, a “can do” spirit will always serve them, and having a mentor can often give people that extra encouragement to strive to do more.
I also feel it’s imperative to go beyond nurturing the success of young people and demonstrate the importance of giving of themselves from the beginning of their careers. It’s never too early to invest in others, and this is a value that I try to instill in my own children and anyone else whom I mentor. When young people believe in and respect themselves wholly, they are fully capable of passing their gifts on to others.
I have a life mantra of “Carpe Diem,” which translates to “Seize the Day” to ensure that I do not take this life for granted, and the many people along the way who helped pave the way for my success and happiness.
About the author
Gabriela Alcántara-Díaz is partner in Latin Business Today responsible for all marketing communications efforts. A thirty-year advertising veteran, she founded her agency, Semilla AD following 25 years as Partner/Chief Strategy Officer for MGSCOMM and Executive VP at The IAC Group. She is recognized for managing agencies’ multiple disciplines and cultivating client relationships. Her expertise includes ensuring brand sustainability and growth potential by providing strategic communications guidance to marketers navigating the complexities of an evolving Upscale segment with innate cultural distinctions. Alcántara-Díaz was instrumental in introducing and solidifying brand leadership across the Hispanic sector for companies including: Johnnie Walker, Jim Beam Global Brands, Boston Beer, BB&T, Publix Super Markets, Birds Eye, ATT’s YP, Visit Orlando, Regions Bank, Mercy Hospital, Pfizer-Zoloft, FPL and AMSCOT Financial. Gabriela served as Education Chair/Board in Miami Advertising Federation, FIU’s President’s Council and Treasurer of CMC. Co-Strategic author in AHAA-Nielsen’s America’s New Upscale Segment and Upscale Latinos 2.0 as well as contributing author in WIN! The Hispanic Market Strategies for Business Growth.Website