Taught by women, teaching by example
“I am woman, hear me roar.”
Her work speaks for itself. She has moved around within AT&T for more than 30 years — not because she had to but because no one could or would deny she was the go-to, first-choice when it came to transforming the unworkable to workable — in a way that included not alienating people.
She was born to be a leader, and her mother would attest to that. Casson pointed to the matriarchs of her family as the catalysts who propelled her forward and after her dreams — undaunted by the glass ceilings of the world. To that end, she said emphatically that her “inspiration is, was, and remains my mother.”
Casson grew up with strong women, in a time when Helen Reddy sang her call to arms for women — her message was king — actually, queen in this case. Reddy’s inspiring lyrics, “I am woman, hear me roar” have stayed with Casson on her incredible journey, her own invisible but powerful shield to keep naysayers at bay. Perhaps that is part of what makes her a great leader, giver and problem solver — she doesn’t mince words, she roars truthfully and diplomatically. She’s transparent about her views and her decisions, her failures and her successes, and that transparency has translated to a career where she has mentored countless others and openly learned from them as well.
Casson is not about ego. She’s about the work — doing your best work and not giving up. “You have to roar a little bit to become the queen of your destiny and conquer the business jungle,” she said. Casson has transformed the business world into a tamer jungle because of her example and tenacity — one without so much fear or limiting boundaries — one of only challenges and solutions.
She credits her mother and grandmother with teaching her all she needed to know, and be, to roar and chase her own dreams. They instilled in Casson the confidence and self-worth to know she could do whatever she wanted to do as long as she worked hard enough.
“All the women in my family worked. My grandmother owned a clothing store, and she was there every day and so committed to her customers. She was the first one who taught me about customer service and how you make someone feel special and how you take care of a customer. And it was my mother that taught me about persistence and grit and sticking with it and going after your dreams.”
Throughout her career, which has spanned 36 years at Bell South, now AT&T, Casson has chased her dreams — only to discover new and different dreams along the way. It was the unexpected challenges and her resolve to problem-solve that’s carried her through a journey of both career and human success. It wasn’t always easy to do, but it was always done, and done well.
For many years, Casson held fast to the idea of a future fed by her passion for her career alone. Constantly learning and pushing herself, she enrolled in the Goizueta School of Business where she discovered more than she’d expected. Goizueta seemed a kismet choice for her. She attributes her experiences and education at Goizueta for helping further develop her existing qualities and educate her on both business and people.
“The whole world stopped and life flipped upside down.”
She formed lasting relationships from her time there and has given back to the school she values for numerous reasons. It’s been 20 years this year since Casson was the president of the Goizueta Business School alumni association board. She was instrumental in executing on the new goals of the board to include more alumni involvement and interaction to make sure their needs were served, and to work with the school to keep improving its stature and reputation — a move that would improve all Goizueta’s degrees. Under her leadership, the board established an alumni networking program within the Career Management Center. No simple feat, but a necessary and impactful one that has helped countless other Goizueta alumni find a way to reach their dreams and beyond.
Casson came back to help others go beyond, and she did it her way and, not surprisingly, it worked —because she worked tirelessly (“hard enough” as her mother had taught her) to ensure it succeeded.
When you talk to Casson, you can’t help but feel her positive energy. She’s a self-described open book — a book that could, no doubt, teach us a thousand invaluable lessons. It’s full of a life of learning, transforming and persevering. Each chapter would show her expanding perspective of how much further she could go, not only in her career but in her character.
She was once a self-proclaimed bachelorette, but fate had different plans. She couldn’t say no when she met her match in her now-husband. He had two daughters from his previous marriage, but before long the four were a new family, starting a new chapter of their own. As their lives melded together, Casson became a catalyst for her new daughters, pushing them to work hard both inside and outside the classroom. They did and they excelled (and will surely thank her for it later — she taught them the invaluable lesson of hard work —that only those who carry their own water know the value of every drop).
Unfortunately, Casson’s story had an unexpected “plot twist” — a new chapter began suddenly and changed her life, and her family’s life, forever. No one could have anticipated what happened next. Her youngest daughter developed a blood clot in her brain and the condition was dire. She was hospitalized in serious condition, but rallied and recovered — that strong roaring determination ever alive in her.
She improved — until she didn’t. The next diagnosis was even harder for the family — her blood clot had triggered a stroke. In that moment, Casson said, “The whole world stopped and life flipped upside down.”
She looked inside herself and listened again to the voices of her mother and her grandmother. She could handle this and handle it well.
This chapter had its truly tragic parts. No one can deny that seeing anyone you love (especially those who have just started their life’s journey and are discovering the wonders of the world) suffer is nothing short of unbearable. It was as unfair as anything could be in life. But the story doesn’t end here. Life wasn’t over and in time it shifted to a lighter, more positive place.
Casson noted how much this situation changed her trajectory in life. She looked inside herself and listened again to the voices of her mother and her grandmother. She could handle this and handle it well. She already had the skills to make the difficulty of this situation one that was bearable for everyone — and so she has, not alone, but with the help of many.
And her tell-it-like-it-is mantra now serves a different role — to share the story of her daughter, who despite everything, is following in her “mom’s” footsteps — conquering challenges, changing her perspective to see other options and dreaming new dreams.
Casson said she is constantly awed by her daughter’s determination to live a full life, to chase her new dreams and never give up. Her optimism is contagious but, in truth, the pair already shared it.
Who else could support her daughter better? Who could teach her to roar and be a force in this world?
An energy has grown and is shared between the two, focused on moving forward with unrelenting determination to live and love life like never before.
And so, Casson is still being inspired by the women in her family. Now it is from someone who calls her mom and who looks at her as a mentor, matriarch and friend. Their story has begun anew.
This new chapter has changed her dramatically, she said. Her career was already successful. She’d accomplished goal after goal, and it was time to put that aside and focus on life beyond business — helping, inspiring and giving strength to others through her actions and her character.
She set up a website to share her daughter’s story — one where others can relate and find comfort and support for their own journey.
Looking back, Casson’s life has been vividly colored by each fork in the road, each detour that led her somewhere amazing. Today her path takes her along the CaringBridge, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help those in need, like her daughter.
You cannot speak to Casson and not be a little awed. She is humble and honest. She has a way of always leaving everything better than she found it — whether that’s a job or her alma mater, Goizueta. She is a beacon of business success and an example of the evolution of the human spirit. It’ll be hard for her to top how far she’s gone beyond in business and in life, but there’s no doubt she will. It’s — literally — in her DNA and her decisions.