Coronavirus Updates

Bryan Herdé, ’11, was helping to launch a new cruise ship in China as head of digital strategy for Royal Caribbean when he turned on the TV and saw the news: the city of Wuhan was going into quarantine. As the cruise industry shut down due to COVID-19, he could already see the writing on the wall. He was laid off in April. “It was tough,” he said. “I had to go through a grieving process.”

But after a month or two, he considered that losing his job might give him a rare chance to reassess his career trajectory. Before then, his career had been an unrelenting sprint. Originally from Aruba, he studied computer science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and worked as a software systems architect at Verizon before coming to Booth for his MBA. Following graduation, he traveled the country advising corporate executives as a strategy consultant for Booz, and for PwC once it acquired Booz. 

In 2017 Herdé connected with a fellow classmate working at Royal Caribbean through the Booth alumni network. At the time the company was placing a big bet on digital, and Herdé’s background was perfect. He helped design new digital experiences for guests vacationing onboard the cruise line’s ships. For example, the team used cutting-edge facial recognition technology to accelerate the guest check-in process and developed a mobile app to give guests the ability to plan activities and play augmented reality games onboard. 

When he lost his job this spring, he recognized the opportunity to pivot and prioritize flexibility to spend time with his wife and their two young children in Miami. “Compensation is important, but so are freedom and the independence to make my own schedule,” he said. Once again, he turned to the Booth network, scheduling virtual coffee chats with alumni and helping to organize a network for those impacted by the pandemic to share contacts and moral support.

“There’s sometimes a narrow definition of what success can be. ... It took a pandemic for me to pause, and think about what I really wanted to do with the back half of my career.”

— Bryan Herdé

Researching positions in industries from ed-tech to health care, he realized many available jobs would require him to move. One industry that offered the potential to thrive anywhere, however, was sanitation. “The market was huge, and only continuing to grow,” he said.

He identified an underserved niche between residential services and large commercial cleaners—small mom-and-pop retail stores, restaurants, and other small businesses were in need of increased cleaning. Discovering a company, ecomaids, in the midst of franchising, he realized he could become a small-business owner. He was also attracted to the company’s selling point of using all environmentally friendly products, which protected its workers and customers.

Investing in an ecomaids franchise this summer, Herdé spent the fall hiring and training, and seeking out clients. “I’m probably working as much if not more than when I was consulting, but now I have control over those hours,” he said. He can wake up early and work before helping get the kids ready for school.

Preparing to finally launch this winter, Herdé feels the business is the perfect opportunity at the right time. It will allow him to grow the franchise over a year or two, while he continues to assess other opportunities and advise tech startups. “There’s sometimes a narrow definition of what success can be,” he said. It can be easy to think you need to push forward down the storied paths of banking or consulting without ever taking stock. “It took a pandemic for me to pause,” said Herdé, “and think about what I really wanted to do with the back half of my career.”