Opportunities and Adventures: Mary Rose Martinez

Business News

people, sustainability, IT

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Leadership Style

Mary Rose Martinez believes in the power of energy and the power of positive thinking. While she didn’t map out her career path at an early age, she did keep an open mind as the opportunities and adventures came her way.

“I have Mary Rose-colored glasses,” said Martinez, Vice President, Chief Information Security Officer of Marathon Petroleum. “I like to see the possibilities in everything. And I like a challenge.”

The Energy Industry

Martinez moved to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1986 to attend school at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, where several of her family members lived. That decision to move to Houston, a global energy hub, led her to a career in the oil and gas industry that she’s found extremely fulfilling.

“I have stayed in this industry because of the importance of energy and humanity’s reliance on energy,” said Martinez. “Think about the power needed for everything – from a neonatal intensive care unit to providing affordable energy in developing countries. What better way to help make an impact than to be a part of the energy industry.”

Martinez is responsible for cybersecurity strategy, operations and risk management and works in close alignment with leaders across the company. With more than 30 years of experience, she has held various leadership and strategic roles in information technology (IT), software research and development (R&D), and marketing. She serves on several advisory boards, is a public speaker and was named one of Houston’s Women Who Mean Business by the Houston Business Journal in 2019.

"Working in cybersecurity at Marathon Petroleum allows me to have a small part in helping protect the critical infrastructure of our country. I keep the bigger picture in mind to guide the impact we make."

A Passion for Excellence

Martinez said that a love of learning and striving to give her best inspired her to pursue multiple degrees. When she started college for computer science, she did not plan on earning a degree in mathematics. She enrolled in extra math classes because she enjoyed them and wanted to learn more. Nearing graduation, she built up enough credits to double major in computer science and mathematics. She continued her education and added two masters degrees to her resume. She has carried that internal drive with her into her career.

“If I had a job cleaning bathrooms, they would be the cleanest bathrooms ever,” said Martinez. “I feel fortunate in my career to have had the challenges and opportunities that have come my way. I didn’t plan to be in IT or cybersecurity, but I kept an open mind and learned from each experience. I’m always adding to my tool belt.”

Martinez said she believes in making an impact in the world that is bigger and broader than her job description.

“Working in cybersecurity at Marathon Petroleum allows me to have a small part in helping protect the critical infrastructure of our country,” said Martinez. “I keep the bigger picture in mind to guide the impact we make.”

There are a few words that do not apply to Martinez, according to those who work with her: controlling, constraining or limiting. Sarah Cherian, Manager of the Cybersecurity Governance, Risk and Compliance team at Marathon Petroleum, has worked with Martinez directly or indirectly for more than eight years at Halliburton and now Marathon Petroleum. She shared that Martinez is not the type of leader who simply tells others what to do.

“Her approach is more of a collaborative thought process and then the nurturing of an idea,” said Cherian. “It’s always ‘How can we do this?’ and ‘What are your ideas?’ There’s a sharing of ideas that brings people together and allows others to do their best work.”

At the same time, Martinez is direct when she’s offering her perspective as a leader.

“All through her coaching me over the years, she’ll say ‘Mary Rose is going into coaching mode,’” said Cherian. “She calls it out and makes it obvious that she is going to explain something and give guidance. She’ll say ‘This is why I’m saying this.’ It’s a very effective way of capturing people’s attention.”

Martinez enjoys being a leader of people and strives to focus on her team’s needs. She explains that when you become a leader of people, there’s a mental shift that has to happen. Individual contributors are responsible for producing work each day. As a leader, she says you learn to harness people’s potential and make a difference through them.  

“A critical leadership skill is influence,” said Martinez. “Hard influence is when you can get work done through your direct reporting structure. Soft influence is much more difficult; it involves making an impact through people who don’t report to you. That’s where the true efficacy of a leader grows.”

Cherian said Martinez remains humble in everything she does, something that Martinez tries to be intentional about in her daily life.

“The greatest compliment I have ever received came early in my career,” said Martinez. “In one of my first jobs, I was part of a team of three. The other two people were more experienced than I was. As I was getting ready to move on to a different role, they told me in our final meeting ‘Mary Rose, you never made us feel stupid.’ I had a master’s degree from Rice University, and they didn’t have college degrees. I’ve carried that with me for more than 25 years.”

Adventures Outside the Workplace

Outside of the cybersecurity world, Martinez thrives on enjoying nature. She loves to travel with her “outdoorsy” family. Her husband of almost 27 years and their two college-age sons, who are both Eagle Scouts, have joined her on adventures to Peru, Iceland, Canada, Colorado and other locations.

“I’ve gone whitewater rafting in Costa Rica and hiked a glacier in Alaska,” said Martinez. “We’ve done waterfall rappelling, canyoning, via ferratas and kayaking. I find ziplining calming. This summer, we are planning to hike and climb via ferratas in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy.”

Cherian believes that Martinez’s love for travel and being with her family makes her a better leader who understands that family comes first. In a world where it is easy to lose the work-life balance, Martinez encourages people to find what they love and pursue it with passion. 

Waterfall Image
Martinez rappels down a waterfall during a family vacation to Costa Rica.
Martinez rappelling down a 300-foot sink hole in Belize.
Martinez and her family traversing a via ferrata in Colorado, about 600 feet above the forest floor below.