What I’ve Learned So Far: Cassandra Pye

By Laura Braden Quigley

I first encountered Cassandra Pye at a communications event where she was a featured panelist. I couldn’t tell you where or who hosted – it was her words that stuck with me for weeks after. Her perspective was so refreshing and honest, and she has since become one of my favorite mentors.

She currently runs 3.14 Communications (wordplay!), which provides strategic counsel and executive-level support to a broad range of clients, including corporations, trade associations, non-profits, government agencies, senior executives and political candidates. Prior, she was Senior Counselor to APCO Worldwide, Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Vice President (Public Affairs and Political Director) for the California Chamber of Commerce. In her spare time (ha!), she serves as the State Board President for California Women Lead and on the Board of Directors for Street Soccer USA and the Sacramento Region Community Foundation.

I was so thrilled she wanted to participate in this feature – check out her sage advice!

How do you define success? Personal fulfillment?

I had a boss (Allan Zaremberg, CalChamber CEO) who used to say, “Cassandra doesn’t have a job here; she’s being paid to do what she loves.”

I think that still sums it up for me. That’s the definition of success for me: waking up every day and doing something you’re passionate about — that also pays the bills.

What is the driving force in your life?

I’m motivated by family. I will be completely honest with you: if I hit the Powerball tomorrow (which won’t happen, because I don’t play), I would spend half my time volunteering around my favorite passions and the other half of my time figuring out how to spend quality time with my husband and (adult) children. I live to spend time in their company.

One of your most life-defining moments? 

I am a person of deep and strong faith. Thus, there are many, many moments in my life where I put my faith to the test and God delivered. I witness miracles almost every day.

Biggest work-related lesson you’ve learned?

I have never once regretted taking the high road, even when you really don’t want to. Now, by that, I don’t mean take the hits lying down. Know when you need to fight for yourself, your team or something you believe strongly in. But just because you’re in a fight doesn’t mean you don’t have to aim low.

Biggest personal or health-related lesson you’ve learned? 

There is no downside to unplugging your laptop, turning off your phone and getting a few good nights’ sleep. Your mental health is as important as your physical health. If you don’t unplug, clear your head and get some rest, you simply cannot be your best self — for family, friends, colleagues or clients. Rest.

Biggest life lesson learned from a failure? 

Life goes on. I’ve screwed up. I’ve put my foot in my mouth. I’ve made big mistakes. I got the numbers wrong, misread someone, didn’t get the deal right. Those mistakes don’t define me. And, I’ve learned that, if I dwell on them for too long, they’ll settle in my bones and start to take over. Turn the page. Tomorrow is just another day (to quote Scarlett O’Hara). Move on. Learn from the mistake. And promise yourself not to make the same one again.

What are your thoughts on work/life balance? Advice on how to achieve or what to focus on?

Once you start a family, only YOU can really know how you want to parent and how you want to work. Most of us know what that looks like but we’re afraid to ASK for it. In my case, I wanted to spend as much time with my children as possible when they were very young – but I still needed an income.

So, I asked my boss to allow me to work part-time and asked for a reasonable salary and benefits. Guess what: he said ‘yes.’  Imagine if I hadn’t asked. I think we all know what balance looks like for us but we rarely make the ask and, as a result, suffer silently.

What’s been the most surprising thing about how your life/career turned out?

I never thought I would start my own business.

What do you value most in friendships?

Humor and great taste in handbags.

What do you wish someone had told you about marriage/committed relationships?

On my wedding day, my mother-in-law told me the secret to a long marriage was to, “…Grin and bear it.” At the time, I thought it was such a horrible, cynical thing to say. Now, almost 35 years later, I have to admit she was right. Most of it has been great but her wise words saved me in those moments when it was less than that. 😉

What is your most treasured experience?

The births of each of my four sons. I remember each, in detail.

Best advice you’ve received?

From Jane Kelso, Dean of the McGeorge School of Law. I wanted to drop out of law school to start a family and was conflicted about the decision. Her words: “Go start a family. Having children will be the most intellectually stimulating thing you will ever do.” She was absolutely right.

What historical figure do you most identify with? And why?

I don’t consider myself worthy. But I do want to be Toni Morrison when I grow up.

Fantasy dinner party scenario: you can invite five people (alive or not) – who do you invite? 

Dorothy West, Barbara Jordan, Rosa Parks, Harriett Tubman, Condi Rice. A brilliant writer, a phenomenal leader, unselfish agent-of-change, courageous heroine and remarkable contemporary.

What would you tell your 16-year-old self?

To drive more slowly.

What is your motto/personal credo?

“For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

What Sacramento woman do you most admire? And why?

Martha Lofgren. One of the smartest women I know. Committed to the success of the region, teeming with integrity, dedicated wife and mom and an authentic, old-school, feminist.

Biggest opportunity/challenge facing Sacramento in the next 5 years?

I’d like to see us get the housing thing right — build enough to meet the demand for everybody, not just the well-heeled. If we get that right, we’re well on our way to becoming a world-class city.

Latest Sacramento guilty pleasure? (i.e. new shop, dish, drink or park)

It’s nothing novel to many but I had dinner at Taylor’s Kitchen the other night, adjacent to the Market. The food was delicious but I was most impressed with the intimate, neighborhood, local feel — like a corner diner but with panache. I’m going back…soon.

“What I’ve Learned So Far” is a new feature for women to share life lessons and advice – based on what they’ve learned…so far. If you’d like to participate or “nominate” your mentor or shero, hit us up at girlsonthegridATgmail.com.

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