As the global CEO of Engine, a data-driven marketing solutions company that helps brands, publishers and agencies transform their businesses, Kasha Cacy, knows a thing or two about reinvention. Joining after a decade at UM where she ended as US CEO, Kasha has enjoyed stops along the way at McCann Erickson, Ogilvy, Cheil Communications, Wunderman, and Accenture. But like all successful leaders, she didn’t get there without some help and good advice. Read on to learn why being fearless also means asking for support when you need it.
How did you get to where you are today?
It has been a long-and-winding road for me, personally. Titles never attracted me to opportunities, rather, the common denominator was really a desire to make things better. Most of the steps in my career were simply a result of me looking at an organization, capability or function and saying, “I think I could improve that”.
What pivotal moments have you faced along the way?
"...do not waste time talking or even thinking about all the reasons that you might fail."
I took over as the US CEO at a media agency during the “Year of the Pitch.” We had just lost two clients and four went into review during my first six months. It felt like I was being whacked in the head at every turn but I learned two things that year: first, do not waste time talking or even thinking about all the reasons that you might fail. It is easy in a competitive situation to “set expectations” by talking about all the factors against you. It is also a massive waste of time and energy, so do not bother – just go for it!
Second, let the people around you help you. There were days when I just wanted to walk out the door and never come back. Luckily, on each of those days, I shared my feelings with someone who helped me through it. I am forever grateful to those who listened to me yell and cry and give voice to all my fears. I could not have survived without them and it made me a better leader today.
What do you see as the major opportunities and challenges for women today?
I think that the industry is actively trying to create more gender-balanced organizations which is amazing to see after all these years. We do still have some work to do at the top. For example, while there may be lots of women getting senior roles at agencies, there are far fewer leading the groups and holding companies that manage those agencies.
What advice can you share?
Be fearless. I always tell my employees that if you do not have a slightly uncomfortable feeling in your stomach every day, you probably are not pushing yourself hard enough. This industry changes so quickly and if you are doing the same thing you did yesterday, the same way, you will 100% fall behind.
Who has helped you in your journey and how have they shaped your thinking?
"That is the power of a great mentor – seeing the potential in you that even you might not see in yourself."
I had an amazing boss, Daryl Lee, who used to tell people that I was the most fearless person he knew. At the time, I did not feel fearless at all! In fact, I have always wondered whether he actually believed that about me or just tried to instill fearlessness by labeling me as such. After hearing it a few times, I felt like I had to live up to his expectations, so I pushed myself to take more risks, to be more vocal, and to stand up more. It pushed me to fight for things I might not have if I was not actively trying to live up to that label. In many ways, I think he gave me the gift of revealing something in me that I did not even know was there myself. That is the power of a great mentor – seeing the potential in you that even you might not see in yourself.
How have you found the right balance between your personal life and career?
I think less about balance and more about choices. My goal is to make the right choices over time so that everyone (including me) gets what they need. Some days that means I will choose to go on the school field trip rather than work. Other days it means I spend the week traveling to APAC and away from my family. Some days it just means I find a bit of time to get a mani/pedi with my best girl pal. It means I really think about every moment and how to use every second of my day most effectively.
Knowing what you know today, what one thing would you have done differently early in your career?
I actually would not change anything. Every experience I have had has led me to the place I am today and, upon reflection, I needed all of the skills gathered at each stage in the journey to navigate what I’m facing today.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, money or talent would be no object, what would you be doing?
I have a son on the Autism Spectrum and he had a severe speech delay. We found a very specialized form of speech therapy called PROMPT that literally made the difference between him being capable of normal speech or being non-verbal. There are not enough therapists trained in PROMPT and it is difficult to find a therapist, especially if you are a family who accesses services through State or Federal programs. If I was to choose an alternate destiny, I would become a PROMPT therapist and work exclusively with families who could not afford to pay for these services privately. I would also advocate on behalf of all children with disabilities to ensure they are getting the education and services that will enable them to live up to their full potential.