Shannon Chapman, Director of IT Service Delivery, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

Shannon Chapman is a first generation American born and raised in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and a citizen by descent of the beautiful Caribbean Island of Barbados. Spending many summers on the island of Barbados with family, she has a very island spirit growing up surfing and at the beach. She is now a mother to a fun and funny 6-year-old boy who keeps her on her toes but is the apple of her eye! She also enjoys being outside in nature whether paddleboarding, hiking, biking or relaxing to a good book.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Outlook Magazine, Shannon shared her professional trajectory, insights on the three major trends in the IT industry to watch out for, the secret sauce behind her success, personal role model, favorite quote, future plans, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Shannon. Please tell us about your background and areas of expertise.

I started my IT journey during my associate’s degree with a class in introduction to programming which came naturally to me and led me to major in Information Technology and minor in secure computing and networks in my Bachelors. After I earned by BS degree, I started as a Network Operations Center engineer and quickly excelled into IT and Enterprise Service Management with extensive certifications in ITIL earning my ITIL Expert certification in 2015. I held roles ranging from technical Change Manager to the IT Application and Service Portfolio Manager and then was promoted to team manager in 2020. While I earned my MBA between 2016 and 2022, I learned how to streamline processes, implement agile development, manage different application platforms including their databases and architecture (ServiceNow, Apptio, BMC Service Desk Express, Moveworks, homegrown web apps, and .net homegrown tool used for Change Management), manage vendor relationships and engage in contract negotiation, all while building and leading diverse as well as globally dispersed teams. I’m specifically focused on the user experience across people, process, and technology.

What do you love the most about your current role?

In my current role, I work with many areas of the business ranging from Finance to HR and IT. I help them to solve their biggest technological challenges while trying to get work done. We utilize our capabilities to streamline, automate, and orchestrate business processes to ensure consistency, accuracy, and speed for our users. All of this helps to put a big smile on their faces when we achieve more than they even dreamed!

What are the three major trends do you foresee in your industry in the next 12 months?

As far as the IT industry, I think we will see more brands utilizing Generative AI to deliver curated and customized experiences based on the user’s interests, preferences, and past experiences. Along with this, we should see an increase in data security of employees’ and customers’ data to ensure the AI experiences they opt-in to use will leverage their data responsibly. Data and AI governance committees will be formed to deliver and protect companies’ use of AI models to deliver products and services. This governance may come in the form of opt-in confirmations, contracts with AI vendors, and/or disclosures on websites to warn the use of AI models to generate information. Lastly, we will see the use of more voice enabled AI when contacting the companies we love during times of need. While we’ve seen a shift to the chat bot for many companies and lowered staffing of the phone option, the phone option just isn’t going away, so companies will look to take advantage of further cost savings by leveraging AI voice in the call center.

Working in a historically male-dominated industry, what has been your journey breaking down barriers and stepping into leadership roles?

When I graduated high school, I had not decided what I wanted to study in college, so I entered with a proposed major in general studies and took a different course elective each semester. I dabbled in family law, chemistry, and photography to name a few. But it was not until I attended an introduction to programming course that I really knew what I wanted to do. The concept seemed to come naturally to me, and I excelled in the class. After that class, I changed my major to Information Technology. Once I started my bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida, I had not thought about the fact I would be the only girl in most of my classes, in the two years there, I only had a few where there was one other woman. Unfortunately, it was hard to find study partners in my classes and felt I needed to sit at the front of the class to be noticed by my teacher. The school engineering department did start a woman in engineering group but in my last semester and only three of us showed up, it was a bit too late for me but good that the need was recognized. Then after I started my first IT role at Citrix, I was one of a few women in a 100+ IT department globally. In my first role I worked switch shifts monitoring the network globally and needed to train my peers across the globe. I encountered one recruit who would not acknowledge me during our 1-1 training sessions, verbally laughed at me on the phone, and ended up sending me sexually explicit videos. I was so uncomfortable but was able to notify my management and they handled the situation immediately. It was humiliating and felt I was a liability to the company. Thankfully, I never had another similar encounter and excelled in my role to which they promoted me into more of a leadership position only after 1 year. This was difficult as I guided my older more experienced male peers who quite frankly did not take me seriously. I left work in tears on several occasions, trying to stay strong to ‘earn’ my position with my colleagues. I had a male director at the time that mentored me and would help defend me to reiterate the support from leadership in my new role. While it still took time to build my credibility, I was met with more respect from my peers with the backing of our leadership. Over time the company hired more women, and these experiences taught me to never allow adversity to keep me from my dreams, even though I had these challenges I never backed down and kept moving forward. I never gave up because someone else felt that I could not do it. I knew I was good at this field and enjoyed the work, which is what kept me putting one foot in front of the other. I was determined to earn credibility with my peers in my field. As a leader, it reminds me of the vital role that leaders must ensure all employees are met with respect regardless of their race, gender, or anything else.

If you could have a one-hour meeting with someone famous who is alive or dead, who would it be and why?

I would meet with Will Guidara who is the author of the book ‘Unreasonable Hospitality’ and former owner of the world’s number 1 restaurant in the world, Eleven Madison Park, in New York City. I would want to meet with Will because we share the same vision of hospitality in any business, and that should be unreasonable. I believe we can bring hospitality into IT and into any area of the corporate world and that our users are expecting this experience. Why can’t we treat our employees as good if not better than our customers? They certainly would treat our customers even better and retain even better talent when everyone wants to work for you. I would love to brainstorm ideas and share a meal with Will at EMP one day.

You were recently recognized as one of The Top 50 Women Leaders of Miami for 2024. Our readers would love to know the secret sauce behind your success.

Honestly, I have experienced a few not-so-great leaders in my tenure, and this has really shaped what kind of leader I became. I knew what I wanted from a leader and tried to exemplify that every day with my teammates. I will always help my team to grow, apologize when I make a mistake because we all make them, check in with them when things go awry, and always remind them that their health and family are the first and most important thing, work comes second. Another aspect that I feel has earned me respect and has blessed me with the best and brightest team is that I love to have fun! I will come up with creative ways for each team member to express themselves such as by naming Agile sprints, presenting their career development plans to the collective team, and holding fun work-free virtual or non-virtual team get togethers full of laughs!

Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?

I am especially grateful for my late grandfather, Clifford Chapman, as a foreign consulate of Barbados for the United States, he taught me the importance of honesty, humility, and respect for everyone. Along with this, I was blessed with his gift of speech and writing. He consistently mentored and coached me throughout my life and during my initial ascension in my career after college. If he were still alive today, I think I would make him very proud of my accomplishments.

How do you keep your mind healthy and stay resilient? And how do you motivate your team?

To stay healthy and resilient, I read often, switching from fiction and non-fiction each time so as to learn but also innovate with creative ideas that sometimes only fictional stories can inspire. Along with this, I focus on getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night and no alcohol consumption which keeps me fresh and focused each day.

Regarding methods of motivation for my team, I will develop a new personal development plan for myself and present it to my team each year. Then they are expected to build a personal plan or update theirs and present it to the entire team during a team meeting. The personal plan includes aspects of wellness, financial, career, and purpose goals such as “I want to travel more”. This plan helps the team to not only get to know each other on a deeper level than their job descriptions but also inspire each other to want something more than just a promotion and think about what they need to do to achieve their goals. Following this, I will help them if they want and honestly whether they work for me or not. Another motivator of my team is that I will structure the team and work to keep them in a place where they want to be, which is being creative. I will spend more time and remove obstacles for my high performers so they can run, this motivates the other team members to succeed to gain more support in the ‘fun stuff’.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is by Steve Jobs, “There’s no point in hiring smart people and telling them what to do; we hire smart people to tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I see myself working for a growing company as a VP of IT, helping them to create the best-in-class technology enabled experiences that increase revenue through happy employees, attract top talent, and put a smile on employees faces everyday reducing attrition and achieving better mental and physical health.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out on their career in your industry?

My advice would be to connect with a mentor and build a personal development plan, set definitive dates for over the next 5 years for key milestones. Review the plan with a mentor and get advice. If you don’t currently have a mentor, I highly recommend using Upnotch (an online mentorship tool) to connect with mentors and be a mentor to individuals all around the world. Achieve your goals and create new ones, always continue to invest in yourself and be consistently growing.


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