Inspirational Woman: Ellen Cavell-Clarke | Strategy Director, Strat House

Ellen Cavell-ClarkeEllen is strategy director at strategy and planning practice Strat House whose clients include adidas, Dove and WPP.

She has more than 15 years’ experience in planning and strategy having held roles at agencies including VCCP, Havas and SapientNitro. She has a passion for working with businesses committed to enlightened and sustainable practices.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am a Planning Director working for Strat House. Strat House is a strategy practice set up by Melanie Welsh and Rachel Clarke and is consciously a practice rather than an agency or consultancy. We work in different ways: by slotting into client teams as their strategic department or voice, or by running strategic projects for our clients. We tend to nurture long term relationships and have worked with most of our clients for years.

I work specifically in brand planning and comms.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I didn’t. As a younger person I wasn’t hugely ambitious or confident, and I didn’t leave university knowing the journey or destination I was heading for. Steve Jobs said that it’s only when you look back you can join the dots: so from producing events for an arts festival, to volunteering at the Samaritans and then moving through agency land with a talent for writing, a knack for understanding people and the fortune to be there when social media launched into our lives, I just ran with it.

Obviously now I’m ancient and don’t even have a TikTok account but, you know, I’ve developed other skills.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes – I basically didn’t really know what I was doing for quite a lot longer than is reasonable. I had no formal training and so I would say I’ve have had more than my fair share of ‘aha!’ moments along the way. I expect there are more coming.

I’ve worked with some challenging people: sometimes my experiences meant I slipped and fell, but the better ones left me stronger, clearer and more capable.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I don’t feel like I’ve had one big massive win I’m thrilled with, more like handfuls of smaller achievements as I’ve gone along the way. Unlike lots of people in this industry I’ve never been interested in awards and so on. I get my kicks from making connections: insights. Stepping outside my world and frame of reference and into someone else’s.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Slowing down. Knowing myself. Committing to the process. And all these things have come as I’ve got older.

And I’ve a knack for an insight.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I haven’t mentored and I don’t have one. I should totally get a mentor: *That’s* what’s been missing! Mel, one of our founders, is probably the closest I have; I’m very lucky to work with her.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I really believe that none of us win unless we all win: that we need to rise together. Agencies are all about winning and rising but it is often – in the broader and smaller picture – about achieving at someone else’s expense. In the long term I believe it to be a flawed strategy: Our opportunities, our vantage point, our ability to understand and create all expand when we reorganise to succeed together.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Not one piece, but one dossier of all the things I have learned along the way. And I’d say: breathe. Pause.

Actually that’s advice I use now. I’ve a post it note on my monitor that says: PAUSE.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I am working with a hair care business in Greece, aiming to bring their product under a new brand which I’ve created to the UK.

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