Stephanie, 25, Head of Communications, The Collective

stephanie cornell the collective

I didn’t meet Stephanie through someone I had interviewed for this blog, but through my manager/friend Charlotte, who I should probably start paying agent fees to now because she always puts me in touch with her interesting friends. I’ve worked in fashion PR for about a minute and I was THE WORST (they seemingly populate our fashion media landscape and it’s a national hobby to make fun of them but honestly I don’t know many people working as many hours for that little recognition), so I was interested in learning more about someone in charge of communications for a cool, interesting new project.

What is your job, exactly? The Collective is a property development and management company, founded by 25 year old CEO Reza Merchant during his last year at LSE. We’re pioneering a new form of high quality, affordable shared living for young professionals in London. With prices sky high, there’s a huge need for this type of accommodation. Our model is such that rent includes room clean, linen change, all bills, 24/7 security and concierge services. Residents will also have access to restaurants, spas, and gyms – all under the same roof.  My official title is Head of Communications, which basically means I’m responsible for ensuring The Collective story is effectively communicated externally (and internally) to target audiences, from media to consumers to politicians, and raising our profile amongst these stakeholders. However, due to the nature of the organisation my role has evolved and includes wider strategy management. Most recently I’ve been heavily involved in setting up The Collective Elevator, a fund we’re about to launch to invest in start-ups.

How did you first hear about the Collective? One of my clients was an architect on a scheme from The Collective; he introduced me to Reza and following initial discussions I drafted a proposal for him and he hired FTI to support on the communications around a planning application they were in the process of submitting. In the end it transpired FTI wasn’t the right cultural fit for The Collective so the services were discontinued. However, Reza offered me the chance to join his team and the rest, as they say, is history.

What were you doing before? I used to work at FTI Consulting, a global business advisory firm. I was in the PR department, in the property team, which involved building the corporate profile of developers, architects, contractors… anyone in the property world, managing their reputation and advising on their communications strategy.

What did you study? Did you do internships? I studied French and Philosophy at university: completely unrelated to what I’m doing now! I spent a year in Paris as part of my year abroad where I did an internship at Financial Dynamics, a financial PR firm which was my first real office experience.

If someone wanted to get your job, what would you tell them to do? To back off! Seriously though, I would tell them to be proactive. Just because a company isn’t actively recruiting for a specific role, doesn’t mean they won’t welcome new talent, which is especially true of a start-up. If you really want it and can show how you will add value to the team it’s always worth getting in touch, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I remember when I first came across The Collective I thought it seemed a great company to work for and contemplated picking up the phone to Reza and asking for a job straight up but for some reason thought it wasn’t the conventional way of doing things. Luckily he offered one a few months later anyway and I’ve since learnt to challenge convention!

What did you want to be when you were a kid? It changed year on year – one summer I decided I wanted to be a detective and refused to wear anything other than my trench coat.

Is there someone in particular whose career you admire? My sister has a really impressive career, particularly for someone who is only 27. She’s done everything from investment banking to being CEO at an online cosmetics company, and she’s now about to launch her own clothing line. I admire her because she’s never afraid to try something new and is always ready to take on any challenge.

Have you ever been discriminated against at work? No. But as a young female you are treated differently – particularly in the property industry which is dominated by white, middle class males. It just pushes me that extra bit harder to prove my worth, not that I should feel the need to!

What is your work schedule? Do you stay late/work weekends a lot? I’m in the office at 8am and usually leaving between 9 and 10pm. I’ll bring my laptop home on weekends to catch up on emails, but usually try to keep weekends free. It’s important to take a break.

What do you wear to work? Do you think it matters? I wear smart clothes – usually a dress because it’s so easy to throw on in the mornings! I think it’s important to exhibit confidence in the workplace and I personally feel it’s easier when I feel good in what I’m wearing.

Who should I speak to next? My sister, Kate Cornell (Ed. note: coming soon)!