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2020 Star Women in Grocery winner Catherine O’Brien (Q&A)


Senior level star

Catherine O’Brien
Sr Vice President of Corporate Affairs
Nestlé Canada

Best advice received?
I think as we all develop in our careers we can periodically suffer from “imposter syndrome” and someone very wise once reminded me that regardless of who you are in front of, you are the expert of what you are going to say, you bring knowledge and experience to the table and people want to hear your point of view. That has served me well in many situations.

How did you get into the grocery business?
I had worked in a few different industries earlier in my career but always aspired to work in an industry I could be passionate about and I knew that was the food industry. The industry is dynamic and food plays such a critical role in people’s lives related to our physical, social and emotional health so I knew it would be rewarding.

Biggest challenge faced in your career?
I find that challenges are really just precursors to opportunity and challenge usually brings out the best in us. When I embrace challenge, when I turn problems upside down, when I seek inputs from a variety of people, when I truly listen, I find that I end up in a much better place than if everything were smooth sailing.

Career highlight/greatest achievement?
There have been so many great projects and milestones that I have been fortunate to be a part of but I am most proud of the relationships I have formed throughout my career. I would be nowhere without amazing mentors, colleagues who I learn from every day, a team that delivers beyond expectations and so many groups and organizations that I have the good fortune to collaborate with. I put a very high premium on my relationships and each one is unique. Even those relationships that are contentious are valuable and by building strong relationships it often leads to the most rewarding outcomes.

How would you describe your leadership style/philosophy?
When you surround yourself with great people like we have at Nestlé, leadership is really about three things: be accountable to have your words match your actions, set a high bar for yourself and others and support those around you to be successful. A fundamental truth is that everyone wants to be great and it’s my job to encourage and support and then get out of the way.

What do you like most about your job?
In this industry and in my function, there is never a dull moment and for me I thrive off the energy of change. So many opportunities to make an impact on Canadians’ lives whether that be focusing on fighting climate change, supporting the health and nutrition of families, partnering with community groups to build strong communities, helping shape future policies, telling stories, consulting with experts and I could go on but don’t worry I won’t! I work for the best company, with amazing people and every day I learn—so what’s not to love.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Having our products on our customers’ shelves and in the cupboards in Canadians homes is a huge honour and every day I am grateful to be a small part of it.

Click here for the full list of 2020 Star Women in Grocery award winners.

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