Martin Van der merwe Career Highlight
Reflecting on my career with Global Casino Operations is something that makes me feel incredibly proud – and also pretty old. I have now been part of the team for more than 18 years, and certainly the journey, though not easy, has been very rewarding.
I decided to join Carnival in 2005 after some cursory research and encouragement from colleagues at the casino I was working at in South Africa at the time. Back then I was looking for a limited engagement (I thought one contract), so applied as a dealer – and was promptly assigned to the Statendam (not the Nieuw Statendam, mind you, still the old, now retired, one). I distinctly remember walking up to this huge ship in the port of Juneau. It was a while before I realized that I was actually on one of our smaller ships at the time.
My second contract saw me “tricked” into becoming a host – I really thought my career lay elsewhere. But I was already hooked on the cruise life – I knew within days of getting back after my first, nine-month long contract, that I wanted to do more of this traveling – and I trusted my manager and the host onboard that they saw something that I didn’t really see at the time.
My third contract saw me sign on as a host and I knew that this is the career that I wanted to pursue. This was early days still, and we did not have the marketing machine we have today. I saw some opportunities to make things more efficient, and quickly was noticed by the Executive Hosts at the time. I was assigned some special projects, including preparing for a new ship at the time, the Carnival Freedom, even though I was not scheduled to that vessel. This gave me more insight and a lot more access to folks in the (small) marketing department of the time.
Meanwhile, I was working hard but also enjoying the friendships, traveling and experiences – a perfect mix for someone who was facing the end of his twenties and I felt like I was contributing in a meaningful way. This soon led me to become first a senior host – which was a roving position at the time – and then not too long after becoming Executive Host.
When the marketing department was expanded to bring in a new Director and a Promotions Manager, I started to gain even more valuable information and really it is still the bedrock of a lot of what I have learned and how I conceive of what I can do to drive the business. I learned that you have to be flexible and willing to make mistakes – and I was supported by folks like Dave Thomas and Marty Goldman that encouraged us to not be afraid of errors in the effort to do more and better. This allowed me to really continue to grow and push my own limits, with a lot of additional training and development being made available to me.
After nearly a decade onboard, the next chapter beckoned and I was offered an opportunity to join the team shoreside. Again, I was fortunate to have a lot of peers and leaders who invested in my growth and development at every stage. This was coupled with a sense of truly being empowered and trusted to do what I do well. I was allowed to assemble a team and take on new challenges, taking on not just our strategic marketing initiatives with all our brands, but also growing our groups and events, setting up our player development efforts and overseeing the team responsible for our partnerships. Being able to see us continue to grow not just as a marketing team but also as a casino partner for our brands, has been very rewarding and I am extremely proud.
On a more personal note, I want to acknowledge that this company has allowed me to be who I am. I am very fortunate and grateful to work for a company where I can be an open gay man and not be afraid to share every part of what makes me, me. Being able to be a part of this company has seen me grow on a professional and personal level – and now I am happily married and living with two cats and a dog. Being able to live a full life, where I am able to have a meaningful contribution in my professional life, supported by leadership and so lucky to have one of the most talented teams of professionals that support what we now do, and also supportive of a healthy work-life balance has created an environment in which I feel that I am still able to develop and grow.
And that is probably the defining quality of my time with Carnival and Global Casino Operations: being part of an organization that is truly invested in me as a person, committed to diverse viewpoints and an inclusive culture, and one of continued growth and learning. I look forward to learning and developing more in the years to come!