Interview with Caitlin Hayden

To mark our 15th year in business our founder Wayne Reynolds is interviewing a wide range of highly accomplished corporate affairs leaders about their experience and views of the function. This interview is with Caitlin Hayden who heads up communications at multinational defence, security and aerospace company, BAE Systems.


Group Communications Director, BAE Systems (current)

Senior Vice President for Communications, BAE Systems, Inc. (2019 to 2022)

Vice President of Communications, Aerospace Industries Association (2018 to 2019)

Executive Vice President, Edelman (2015 to 2018)

National Security Council Spokesperson, The White House (2011 to 2014)

Deputy Public Affairs Officer and Embassy Spokesperson, U.S. Embassy Kabul (2009 to 2011)

What advice would you give to yourself 15 years ago?

15 years ago I was working in the White House and about to go off to Afghanistan. I would encourage myself to get more sleep and take better care of myself, because you can’t be effective and take care of everybody else if you’re worn out. I still don’t do it brilliantly today, but I know how important it is and am more intentional about taking time out when I need it. I’d also tell myself to be authentic to who I am and trust that I’ll be recognised for my achievements and potential, because there isn’t just one path to get places or one kind of person that can become a leader.

How has corporate affairs changed over the last 15 years, and what do you expect next?

There has been a dizzying pace of change in the external environment. Reputational issues can come from almost anywhere and the expectation to respond to things quickly is incredibly high. It’s rare to have the time to regroup, consider all the angles and find the perfect response, even though we try. In terms of what next, AI is clearly a big deal. My view is that it will help us to be better informed by crunching more data, getting better information and generally making us more efficient. Some people worry that it will replace jobs but I think there’s so much to do in our space that it can only be additive.

What three skills does a modern-day corporate affairs director need?  And if you could pick only one, which would it be and why?

First, and probably most important, is the ability to set out a clear strategic vision, bring people along and empower them. Second is the courage to hold up a mirror to the organisation and bring the outside in, diplomatically and at the right time. And third is the ability to keep things in perspective and keep a level head when things get tough.

What do you love about the job?

The people, hands down. The colleagues I get to work with make it a joy every day, from my team in Communications to the incredibly smart people who design and engineer and build the things we do. And my boss, who recognises the value we bring to the business. Everyone is so committed to our mission and that’s inspiring.

If you didn’t work in corporate affairs, what would you do instead?

I like to think I could be an executive coach. I really love to listen to people, to get to know them. And I think I’d be able to help them figure out how they’d want to show up, how to advocate for themselves, how to be authentic and effective.

What was the last book you read?

I tear through audio books on the tube during my daily commute and my favourite ones recently have been from the Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman. What’s more entertaining than four pensioners solving mysterious murders?

What would be your specialist subject on Mastermind?

As an American, I’ve never seen Mastermind. But, I have watched every episode of the TV show Law and Order, US and UK versions! So, maybe that’s my subject.

What do you enjoy doing away from the office?

I love nothing more than hanging out with my six-year-old daughter and husband and enjoying London together.

If you enjoyed this you may also like Wayne’s interviews with:

Lisa Tremble, Chief People, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Officer at British Airways

Matt Ridsdale, Group Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Sky


19th March 2024

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