Jennifer Love, Royal Caribbean’s security chief and senior vice president for safety, security, environment, and medical/public health, is well practiced at taking care of people.
Her protective skills were honed in places far from the tiny Mississippi town where she spent her childhood. She learned them in a real world most people know little or nothing about, one populated by unspeakably cruel antagonists, genuine bad guys and true believers.
Love knows what she knows because she spent most of her adult life as an FBI agent. She began as a street agent in 1987 and retired in 2012 as the bureau’s assistant director for the security division. That made her the person responsible for the physical safety of the FBI’s personnel, confidential information and internal police department, and both the U.S. attorney general and the FBI director.
“So I had a pretty good career in the FBI,” she says, understating it after mentioning the President himself handed her the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executive Service.
She had put in her 25 years, left and worked for three years providing much of the same security service for a New York cable company before deciding to “retire for real and watch the grass grow.”
Then a former FBI colleague intervened.
Love thought of writing a book about her experiences and called to talk about it with Gary Bald, who was set to retire as RCL’s security chief, a job he held after his own noteworthy FBI career. When she told him of her retirement, Bald said she’d be a great choice to replace him. They talked, and Bald sold her hard on the company. She interviewed with RCL CEO Richard Fain and RCL President Adam Goldstein, was offered the job and took it.
Love was persuaded by cruiseline’s commitment to the environment, by its drive to be ABC – Above and Beyond Compliance – in the regulatory realm, and by its culture of relentless innovation.
But a childhood hurt, one she cites as a driving force throughout her life, made Jennifer Love take particular notice of RCL’s diversity.
In the 4th grade and used to getting all A’s, she was devastated to get a report card with all C’s. Her parents, both educators, said it must be a mistake and they visited Jennifer’s teacher.
“She said, ‘It’s no mistake,’” Love recalls. “She said, ‘There’s no way a black child can ever be smarter than a white child.’ That was the first time I realized somebody didn’t like me because of my skin color, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to change that.”
With employees from scores of places around the world, she found, RCL counts diversity as a defining factor of its corporate culture.
“It opens you up as a person, even as worldly as I thought that I was,” Love says. “And of course it moves beyond professional to personal. You start talking about how people grew up or what their experiences are, and you realize how big the world really is.”
“Particularly,” she adds, “for a small town girl like me.”