Alumni News

Ron Phillips, L’94, likes puzzles. When he isn’t clocked in as senior vice president of human resources for Carnival Cruise Line, Phillips gets his thrills from escape rooms, where participants are locked in a room and must solve timed puzzles in order to earn their freedom.

“The process of trying to solve puzzles … keeps you sharp,” he said.

But more difficult than locating clues and deciphering codes are the puzzles Phillips faces every day at CCL, a division of Carnival Corp. With about 37,000 employees from around the world working as sailors, comedians, cooks, and more, CCL presents a challenge to its human resources department. But it’s perfect for Phillips, who invites any chance to problem-solve.

Phillips spends most of his time coaching employees, managing conflict resolution, interpreting maritime law, and devising ways to better engage employees. He boards a ship about once a month and hosts town halls to meet the workers he serves.

“We know happy employees mean happy guests,” Phillips said. He would know; he has been on more than 20 cruises, traveling to destinations such as Europe, Alaska, and the Caribbean. His familiarity with the cruise industry was part of his attraction to CCL.

Before working for CCL, Phillips had human resources positions at companies such as McDonald’s and Comcast. But the field hadn’t always been on his radar. After graduating from Richmond Law, Phillips moved to Washington and began studying for the state’s bar. He picked up a local human resources job to support himself while he prepared to launch his law career.

“While I was studying and working this job, I quickly realized that HR was for me,” Phillips said. “I love to help people achieve their potential.”

Phillips is an unmistakable people person, and he couldn’t have picked a more diverse, bustling place to anchor himself. On any given day, Phillips could meet a chef from Jamaica or an audio technician from England. Each ship is its own unique little town, each with its own puzzles waiting for Phillips to solve.