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2021 Star Women in Grocery winner Danika Johansen (Q&A)

Rising Star

Danika Johansen

Director of eCommerce and Emerging Channels
Unilever Canada


How did you get into the grocery/CPG business?

My dad had a long career in Canadian retail, and I grew up listening to grocery tales at the dinner table. He had and still has a true passion for food and the grocery industry, and it rubbed off on me at a young age. His stories always focused on the importance of product quality, strong brands and brilliant execution. His passion fuelled my curiosity, and I decided to pursue a career in CPG upon university graduation. I was lucky enough to start my career at Unilever as a retail rep. I remember my dad telling me that I would draw upon my experience working in retail for the rest of my career, and he was right. I have used that valuable experience to inform decisions in my subsequent customer development and marketing roles at Unilever.

What are your career highlights/greatest achievements so far?

My greatest career highlight to this point has been leading the Dove master brand for Canada. Managing Dove is a true privilege: the brand is synonymous with purpose. It was a career highlight to be given the responsibility to grow a world-renowned brand that not only says the right thing, but does the right thing. I loved being able to see the purpose come to life, leading a Dove Self Esteem Program through our employee-led volunteer program for school-aged children. It was a career highlight to grow both sales and market share for Dove, all while reinforcing the brand’s purpose.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?

The biggest challenge that I have faced is learning to embed more calculated risk-taking into my work. Leading e-commerce for Unilever, I am challenged each day to think different, question traditional ways of working, and invest in new proof-of-concepts that could lead to significant future growth. I have to make decisions with much less information than I would have in other business functions, and it often feels uncomfortable. Almost a year into my role, I am finally starting to feel comfortable with feeling uncomfortable!

What do you like most about your job?

I love working with people and leading teams. In my current role, I have the privilege of leading an agile scrum team. This team is agile in the truest sense of the word, using human resource principles that include daily stand-ups, retrospectives, and demos for stakeholders. The agile scrum team includes individuals from all parts of the organization, and were brought together to bring exceptional value to the business and turbocharge e-commerce. I am a firm believer that the whole can be bigger than the sum of the parts, and this team proves this to me every day.

What is your proudest moment?

When I was managing the Dove Men+Care brand, I was asked to attend a roundtable discussion with the Status of Women Canada. I was a corporate representative sharing the positive impact that brands can make on people. At the time, Dove Men+Care was supporting the call to action for Canadian fathers to take the newly established five-week paternity leave. I was so proud to represent the brand in the roundtable and share the brand purpose.

What is your best quality?

I think my best quality is that I always try to consider other peoples’ views. I try to approach challenges and decisions with empathy for individuals first, and be flexible in my own understanding and preconceived notion of problems that I may face. This quality has led to a high level of trust with the teams and cross-functional partners that I work with.

Anything else you’d like to say?

I consider myself to be a work in progress. Each day I have the responsibility to choose whether I want to be better than the last. I am including this here to increase my own personal accountability to continue to grow and develop my leadership.

Click here for the full list of 2021 Star Women in Grocery award winners.

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