Faces of AWNY: Meet Cassandra Kelly, AM

Spring is here, and with it a brand new Faces of AWNY introducing another inspiring Aussie woman living and thriving here in New York City. Cassandra Kelly is a female leader who has worked globally to encourage male leaders to challenge the status quo. She is now focused on accelerating women’s success and advancement for humanity’s benefit. With her experience, compassion, and commitment to action, she aims to inspire women to take action toward their goals. Read on to find out more about Cassandra.

Where are you from in Australia, and what did you do before making the move to NYC?
Grew up in the Northern Beaches, so I ate ice creams and body surfed, played tennis, and did folk dancing, ballet, jazz, drama, and netball. I began working there with Bankers Trust and McKinsey before moving overseas. Then returned to Australia once I had learned and had something more to offer the country I loved, and cofounded Pottinger—a corporate advisory firm.

What inspired you to move to the US and New York?
I love new cultures, adventure, and a challenge. I believed that Pottinger would do well with some fresh energy and perspective and so felt a new CEO would bring that and that this would also allow for me to fulfill my desire to seek the “new” and move back overseas whilst also giving my children the beginnings of global citizenship. 

We all get homesick for Oz sometimes—what do you miss most?
Friends, hugs from friends, impromptu BBQs with friends, the ocean, the taste of the produce, sailing.

What have you found helps while you are here in the city?
I don’t try to make New York, Sydney. It can’t. Just in the way that Sydney cannot be New York. So I focus on the extraordinary that is the city and the launch pad to many other opportunities and adventures. On the friend’s side, I have made new friends who are very special (including BJ), and I have (pre-Covid) continued holding dinner parties to bring people together and to laugh. On the water side of things, I haven’t managed to solve this as much as I would like—but instead, I have discovered more mountains, hiking, and immersion in nature, which is a wonderful addition to my life for now.

Tell us about your career and role in NYC...
I have a few different hats: I advise organizations and leaders, sit on some boards, and, importantly, work to accelerate women’s success in my WomanUp programs.

Which neighborhood do you live in, and why is it special to you?
I live in Harlem. I started off in the Upper West Side, which I loved. But there was a draw to Harlem which was more diverse culturally and had a greater connection to my experience of living in Africa…the music and the food. I wanted my children to be in a more diverse living environment than Mosman, NSW. The architecture is wonderful, the locals joyful, and the park we live near is a delight.


What were your first impressions of NYC, and how has that changed since you have lived here?
I still pinch myself when I walk out the door. It is a wonderful mixture of cozy and exciting. Not much has changed except I feel as if I belong and less like a visitor. Two things that I particularly admire NYC for are its resilience, generosity, and kindness. This has been tested significantly during COVID and has become even more pronounced, not less. 

–        Kind (people helping you get around when they think you look lost)

–        Generosity (people giving of their connections)

–        Resilient (from 9/11 to hurricanes to Covid)

Are there any big likes or dislikes about NYC for you?
I miss good Thai! I love how close NYC is to nature. It is so much more than a big city. I adore Broadway! I LOVE the music scene. E.g., Shrine in Harlem.

What’s the biggest challenge or roadblock you’ve been faced with since being in NYC?
The Pandemic forced me inside and changed my ability to connect with people. I did what many did and joined the zooms, but largely what I did was embrace walking in nature and wait it out.

What’s your biggest achievement since living in NYC?
Watching my children grow and develop in NYC. Seeing how they have adapted and done their best to embrace is humbling. Belonging myself.

What are some ‘only in New York’ moments you’ve had?
Most days, when I walk outside. It can be as simple as taking a taxi down the Highway on either side of the island and looking at the view. Moments on Broadway when we rise for a standing ovation to acknowledge and celebrate excellence. The people that you meet and the connections you make are truly extraordinary.

What do you like to do in your spare time in NYC?
Eat out, grab a cocktail with friends, and head off for hiking or adventure.

How did you land your job in NYC? And what have you found the main differences to be from working in Australia?
I didn’t have one before I left. I had some clients who were interested in international expansion, but largely, it was through networking/cold calling.

People are very generous with their connections. Outlook is more global. You can’t put something in your diary…it is your calendar! I have been struck by how few people put “out of office” in their emails. It is not a city that never sleeps but rather an understanding that business is not 9 to 5, 5 days a week, and somehow among the responsiveness, there is flexibility in people’s work hours. More diverse culturally. More nationalities are represented. More languages.

How has being in NYC changed or developed your career?
A bigger pond has meant that I can observe many more styles of working and behaving and extend my own range and explore more fully my own potential, I have the opportunity to participate in more global discussions and forums, e.g., the EU Global Tech Panel, Aspen Ideas, etc.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about living/working in NYC?
Don’t forget that Manhattan is an island, and outside of it deserves exploring.

What advice do you have for professionals working in NYC?
Know what you want to achieve or explore and find people and networks that wish to help you in your search. Be generous with who you know. Don’t forget to have fun!

What advice do you have for professionals who want to relocate to NYC?
Draw upon networks to help you get a mobile phone and a bank account and find somewhere to live. Do an audit of where you are versus where you would like to be and commit to closing any gap whilst here. At the same time as being intentional, allow for spontaneous moments, as some of those are the most rewarding. Accept help, push yourself to find new connections, and don’t forget to breathe and take it all in.

You were recently awarded an AM—can you tell us more about this honor? What was it for? What was it like receiving the award, and how did you find out you had made the list?
It was incredible. I was in Africa working at the time and on safari and received an email. I was amazed and humbled. I realized that behind the scenes, someone had taken the time to nominate me and create an entire application with the help of other supporters.

Have you connected to other ex-pats here, and what does your community of Aussies in NYC mean to you?
Yes. There are shared backgrounds and quirks, and there is a shared sense of excitement for what we are doing…for our courage and daring.

What is the biggest difference between home and NYC that comes up in discussion?
The melting pot of talent and global connection. It is easier to do it from NYC than from home, given the conversations we have, the network you can draw on, and the proximity to other parts of the world.

Tell us about some of your favorite NYC haunts…
Favorite New York City places:
I love my local restaurant, Clay, and my local music venue, Shrine, but I love Café Wha also. Broadway is a must. I just love The Met Museum! I also love Neue Galerie.

Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice:
Again, this has changed given Covid as I increasingly appreciate local. I really enjoy Sugar Monk. I don’t mind a Corpse Reviver #2, but at the end of the day, a well-made gin and tonic is hard to beat.

Favorite place to escape the city:
Definitely Upstate New York for some hiking and fresh air.

What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NYC?

  1. You need to see a show on Broadway. 
  2. Go to a local music venue. 
  3. Find a museum or gallery that fits what you enjoy.

What do you like most about being part of AWNY?
The shared understanding and the goodwill that exists to lift each other up and celebrate our wins.

To stay in touch or connect directly with Cassandra, please email via her site or follow her IG @cassandralkelly.

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