Members On Their Way

Members On Their Way: Cassandra Scott

The expert communicator and speech writer shares how to utilise the power of story.

By Becky Hansen

Members On Their Way

The expert communicator and speech writer shares how to utilise the power of story.

By Becky Hansen

Cassandra Scott is the Founder and Managing Director of Contextual Communications, a leading consulting firm that helps some of Australia’s largest companies articulate their vision and strategies.

A natural wordsmith, Cassandra has a novel in the works and has navigated the breadth of the corporate world. Her experience spans senior positions in the private and public sector, through to being a speech writer and adviser for State and Federal politicians.

Cassandra lives in the moment and joins us for a Q and A that will leave you feeling excited for the next step in your career, and your life.

What are you reading at the moment? I always have a few on the go and now more than ever largely thanks to Fiona Glaskin, an extraordinary woman who I met at the inaugural Future Women Executive Summit. Fiona founded Bibliophiles, an amazing personalised book subscription service. The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman is a big favourite thanks to Bibliophiles. I can’t recommend more highly a couple of neuroplasticity books by Dr Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing. Likewise, Ursula Le Guin’s The Wave In The Mind, a perspective reset on the value of stories and oral storytelling. Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee was delightful and made me bawl my eyes out. I’m reading Maria Popova’s The Velocity of Being at the moment to my youngest son at the moment which is brilliant. Reading and girlfriends = everything will always be ok.

What are some of your favourite podcasts? I have to confess I’m more of a reader than a podcaster but I stumbled across Julia Gillard’s A Podcast of One’s Own, and one that stood out was with Caroline Criado-Perez, who uncovered the stark gender gap in clinical research data that beggars belief. In podcast world, it’s pretty hard to beat Claire Kimball’s amazing efforts on The Squiz .

Who is most remarkable woman you’ve ever met? Helen Lynch because she bashed through all of the glass ceilings and lifted women through the shards. She put structure around the empowerment of women.

Why did you join Future Women? Because I’d seen Helen McCabe in action, at Parliament House and then at Australian Women’s Weekly.  She has the courage to take complex public policy and make it meaningful to people who normally wouldn’t engage. She’s a master at framing stories and anything she does I’ll sign-up to.

What was the biggest challenge you overcame when starting Contextual Communications? Quoting for jobs, working out what I’m worth and what people will pay. It’s one thing to ask for a salary as an FTE but quite another to put a dollar value on yourself. I also struggled to define my service offering, a strategic consultant, a writer and a funeral celebrant – a tad unconventional.

What advice would you give to women who are considering starting their own business? Draw on your networks for guidance and referrals.  Find out what men charge for the same service and match it. Do the hard yards to get on procurement lists for corporates and governments. Spend time on your pitch and rehearse it. When you get scared, put your fear in perspective.

You’ve worked widely across the public and private sectors. What skills and habits have been essential to your success as you move between roles? Manage expectations – always deliver what you promise on time. Get to know and value the executive assistants as they are among the most overlooked and influential people in any workplace. Build teams where everyone feels genuinely motivated because they are empowered. Ask the CEO to be your mentor. Stay curious and read all you can, nothing beats information in context. Manage your guilt in caring for young and old.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges for women in the workplace? Not having a domestic wife. Self-confidence, unconscious bias and being judged on your appearance.

What is a quote/motto you live by? #You only live twice. I drowned at the beach in 2012 and was resuscitated after no heartbeat for 15 minutes. It was a perspective reset to say the least.

Throughout your career, when have you been most vulnerable? And how did you come out of it? When I started my own business I was most vulnerable as I didn’t have a regular salary. There’s nothing that beats hard work, as it’s the best way to get more of it. In my darkest hours of doubt, I spent time with my dear friends who mean the world to me.

You have one piece of advice to give for young, ambitious women. What is it? Nourish your friendships face-to-face, read paper books before bed, spend time in nature, use your breathing to control your nerves, understand your fears. Is that one piece?

If you weren’t directing Contextual Communications, what would you be doing? Finishing my first novel (it’s on the way) – Lover Mother Other. It’s about a politician who is trying to navigate her complicated private and public life. Her best friend is a former journalist whose world is in slow motion domestic drudgery. It is a fictional yet honest account of confidence, self-esteem, love and sexual awareness. Things you wish you’d known earlier that can’t be Googled. Stay tuned! 

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