By Riley Kaminer

Royal Carribean’s Martha Poulter named CIO of the Year

Read Time 3 Minutes

Martha Poulter, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Royal Caribbean, has received an 2021 Miami CIO of the Year ORBIE Award in the Global category.

Poulter was recognized for taking an innovative approach to drive business for the cruise line during one of its toughest years.

“We are very excited and encouraged by winning this award,” Poulter told Tech Hub South Florida. “This is great recognition coming out of a period that was really challenging for this industry.”

She said the award reflects the success of her team above all: “it’s rewarding because I think it’s a great reflection of what the organization and the team has accomplished.”

The award’s selection process is competitive. It requires sponsorship from CEOs and includes rigorous interviews with past winners.

Poulter explained that the CIO touches all aspects of Royal Caribbean’s business, dealing with a diverse range of stakeholders. From customers to engineers and external vendors, it is Poulter’s responsibility to ensure that technology is being deployed effectively. 

You might be surprised to learn the diverse, innovative ways Royal Caribbean uses technology. For instance, they are tackling food waste using technology. And every ship has a data center on board.

Three main factors drive Poulter’s strategy as CIO: financials, regulatory issues, and innovation. “We always think about the financial impact, whether it’s top line or bottom line – thinking how does something we do affect the balance sheet,” Poulter said.

Regulation in such a complex industry is also crucial, according to Poulter. This broad category includes sensitive issues such as data privacy laws.

When it comes to innovation, Poulter said that in many cases she looks at a technology and “can’t quantify” its value yet “knows it’s important to invest.” That investment can take many forms – procuring from a third-party vendor, building it in-house, and anything in between.

Poulter expressed excitement around a few technologies in particular. “There’s lots of interest in the new entrants into the satellite space,” she said. Royal Caribbean is always looking to “push more bandwidth to consumers through untethered solutions.” Connectivity is key, Poulter says, in a context where their main products are “non-static, small floating cities.” She was particularly optimistic about SpaceX and Amazon’s foray into satellites.

Miniaturization is another key tech trend that Poulter is following. It’s the idea that tech is getting smaller. Poulter offered the example of “smaller sensors and other devices that you are able to draw information from.” She said that these technologies can bring significant cost savings to Royal Caribbean in cases where they can shorten maintenance downtimes and optimize fuel consumption.

Royal Carribean is headquartered in Miami, with its tech campus in Miramar. Poulter said that South Florida’s growth as a tech hub is “only good news” for companies based in our region.

“Three years ago it didn’t feel the same way,” she said, explaining that today’s tech ecosystem feels much more vibrant.

From an employer’s perspective, Poulter said that “you have to be able to attract the talent, and have people understand that they can have a great lifestyle and a great career here.” Previously, she explained that talent might be concerned about their career trajectory in South Florida. In her view that is now changing, with an increasing talent pool bringing more opportunities to the region. “This is what we need – it’s what we’ve yearned for,” she said.