Skip to main content

HT Talks Tech: Staci Cross, Sr. Director of IT Planning and Strategy, Carnival Cruise Line

In this exclusive interview, Cross discusses some of the hurdles women face in IT and the importance of knowing what you want from your career.

At the beginning of November, Carnival Corporation was named for the second consecutive year as one of the World’s Top Female-Friendly Companies of 2022 by Forbes. Carnival Corporation was ranked among the top 400 female-friendly companies in the world and was the only cruise company recognized on the list. The recognition builds on a series of other distinguished honors Carnival Corporation has earned this year from Forbes for companywide operations and dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion, including the World’s Best Employers of 2022 and Best Employers for Diversity for 2022.

With this in mind, Hospitality Technology reached out to the company and secured an interview with Staci Cross, Sr. Director of IT Planning and Strategy at Carnival Cruise Line.

Advertisement - article continues below
Staci Cross at Carnival Cruise Line

Was there anything early on in your life (or in your schooling) that drew you either to IT or the cruise industry? 

For me, it was total coincidence – a happy accident, if you will. I got a job in the IT department of a manufacturing company to put myself through college while I was living in Atlanta and studying business management. 

I was working full-time through school and loved it. I realized I was good at it and enjoyed growing my skills in it through those early years. Technology is problem solving, and I am energized by solving problems. 

The fact that I could make a good living doing something that made me feel fulfilled, it was fate!

Have there been any specific hurdles you've had to overcome to get to where you are now in your career?  

I started my career in technology in the manufacturing industry, an industry that was dominated by men. Throughout my career, I have many times been the only woman in the room. Even today, that is sometimes true. But it’s changing. It’s a slow change, of course, and one that takes conscious effort – especially for leadership roles. 

There has also been a long-held bias to only hire technology professionals with experience from the same industry. The truth is that technology jobs are transferable. There are technology jobs everywhere, in every industry and every sector of our economy – from retail to hospitality, etc. I’ve been in different industries and I’ve found that in my work and in my own hiring, people from different industries give fresh perspectives and that often yields more creativity.

What type of professional goals have you set for yourself recently and how are you working to achieve them?

The ability to contribute is hard to beat and its very rewarding. That is paramount to me and a big part of why I am here at Carnival Cruise Line.  What I do every day makes a difference to the people I work with.

Many people think of their career as a ladder to climb, but I’ve found that sometimes it is necessary to make a lateral move or even take a demotion in order to get what you want out of your career. 

When you prioritize the environment that you want to be part of, the kind of team you want to be on, opportunities will open which will be helpful to your career and your life overall. You must know what you want.

What is one piece of advice would you give to women who are looking to advance their IT careers?   

Stand out so people remember who you are and what you bring to the table and, though it may sound cliché, be yourself. I think sometimes women feel the weight of gender bias so severely that they are forced either into a sort of shyness because they’re weary of judgement, or to a sense of combativeness out of fear they’ll be diminished. But no one should be pressured to be anything but their true self. 

Everyone everywhere has workplace politics to learn and navigate.  Politics doesn’t have to be a dirty word.  Think of politics as learning what people want and helping them get it. It’s about learning and aligning.

Have you had any mentors to help guide your career development? If so, please discuss why that was an important support system for you.  

I’ve certainly had many role models in my career – leaders I wanted to be more like and leaders who I learned not to imitate. I think that kind of active observation is key for anyone. 

I think for mentees, it’s important for them to know what they want out of a relationship with a mentor. 

Personally, I like the idea of coaching better than mentorship. Coaching is more organic. Issues come up that lend themselves to teachable situations – especially problems that need solving. Those situations create more genuine moments of memorable and impactful mentorship. To me, that’s more valuable growth.  

I do think good role models are invaluable along with maintaining good relationships with people on every level. Eventually, your colleagues from the young people working in lower positions end up taking on leadership roles alongside you – or above you.  

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds