Meet Staci Cross of the Strategic Transformation Office at Carnival Cruise Line, who shared with us her background, how she got started in her career path, tips for women starting out in a male-dominated industry, and her personal experiences being a part of the Knight Foundation funded Women in Technology Executive Forum.
Q: Could you tell us a little about your background, please?
SC: I have over 30 years in technology and business solutions, with leadership positions at companies such as Carnival Cruise Lines, WellCare Health Plans, Emory Healthcare and Time Warner. I also spent 10 years as the CIO for the City of Bradenton and was named CIO of the Year for Tampa Bay at the 2009 Tampa Bay Technology Forum’s Industry Achievement Awards. I am known for cross functional collaboration, building exceptional teams, employing creative solutions, and delivering results.
I have an MBA from the University of South Florida, a BA from Georgia State University, and graduated as a Certified CIO from Florida State University. I am a native of Florida. I have two grown children and four grandchildren. My hobby is renovating very old homes.
Q: What made you interested in pursuing a career in technology?
SC: My career in technology was accidental. I put myself through college by working in the technology department of a manufacturing company. I have worked in a variety of industries, but always in technology. I find technology challenging and rewarding. I have never had the desire to work in any other field.
Q: Who were your role models/mentors?
SC: My first mentor was my mother. She was a single mom, raising three kids, while working as a paralegal and getting a law degree at night. She loved working and had a really great work ethic. I grew up watching my mom juggle the demands of motherhood and work.
Throughout my career, I have had a variety of men and women as role models. The most influential mentor continues to be my best friend, who is a very successful executive. She is different from me in that she excels at politics and is comfortable with ambiguity. I have improved in these areas thanks to years of coaching from her.
Q: What do you accredit your success to?
SC: I have a unique skill set for my industry. I have strong people and communication skills and I am surrounded by people with strong technical skills. I often volunteer to do things they don’t want to, which makes them value and appreciate me. I built my career by filling a void and leveraging my strengths.
Q: What are some strategies you use to maintain a healthy work/life balance?
SC: First, I schedule my time. Time for myself and my family has to be as important as work. Second, I remind myself that it’s just a job and there is no such thing as loyalty anymore. Third, “balance” is not a steady state, but more like a tightrope walker who bobs back and forth to maintain balance. If I need to spend more time at work now, I spend more time at home later. Finally, I don’t allow myself to feel guilty. Women often feel guilty, which is not productive or beneficial. Instead, I reframe it. I ask for help, knowing I am giving someone else an opportunity to make a difference, whether it is a project at work, caring for my children, or taking time for myself.
Q: What has been one of your biggest challenges as a businesswoman?
SC: Like many women, I suffered from the Imposter Syndrome. I have always been in male-dominated environments. Over the years, I have learned to embrace being female and to value my uniqueness. I have confidence from years of experience and I see being a female in a male-dominated world as an advantage. I often bring skills and perspectives that balance those of the men around me. I’ve also learned to work the politics in order to be included. I am now recognized for my confidence and valued for my expertise. There are still times when the Imposter Syndrome sneaks up on me, but I remind myself that I have earned my seat at the table. I am smart and can do anything I set my mind to.
Q: How has being a part of the Knight Foundation funded Women in Technology Forum benefitted you, and how could an Executive Forum benefit other women?
SC: The leadership classes offered through TCI were some of the best I’ve ever attended. The women were impressive, the presentations effective, and the content relevant. I would really encourage other women to participate if they are given the opportunity.
SC: It is incredibly beneficial to be able to seek council from women who have been on a similar journey. They quickly understand the context of my challenges, are able to provide relevant insights, and often have a different point of view.