2021 Star Women in Grocery winner Gabby Nobrega (Q&A)

Senior-level Star

Gabby Nobrega

Breakthrough Communications Inc.


What are your career highlights/greatest achievements?

I’m fortunate to have had several highlights both in and outside of the grocery industry, having worked on Fortune 100 brands, SMEs, not-for-profits and foundations across virtually every sector. On the grocery side, one of my greatest achievements is raising money for hungry children with the annual Toonies for Tummies campaign, in collaboration with many industry partners. I’m indebted to The Grocery Foundation, its board of directors and the community of companies that support this vital work. Another achievement is helping to create the Toronto chapter of the Network of Executive Toronto (NEW), which helps support the development and careers of women in the industry.

What do you like most about your job?

The scope. One day I’m working with a brand team on reinvigorating a key product or launching their newest innovation, the next day I’m helping an executive team and their legal counsel manage a crisis, which is followed by a celebrity red carpet event or influencer campaign. It’s never dull, and I’m able to leverage my strengths and interests across a range of sectors. Throughout my time in agency, I managed the consumer, healthcare, corporate practices and specialized in business development, crisis and media training. I get to leverage it all today with an amazing industry and talented folks I admire and learn from all the time.

What is your leadership style/philosophy?

I subscribe to the ‘work hard play hard’ mentality and place a huge premium on being accountable. I equally subscribe to the value of transparency and mutual respect, which often means working through stuff to get to a place where you can effectively collaborate with a range of people, and acknowledge your unique points of view and styles. Life is bigger than your ego. No matter how right or smart you are, there are others smarter than you who are equally, if not more, passionate. Give them space. Take a seat and listen openly. That includes listening and making a safe and trusted environment, especially for emerging leaders. I try to spend as much time as I can nurturing this type of environment in all aspects of my professional and personal life.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your career?

I found myself in the wrong fit. The challenge was recognizing early on that my skill set and passion were not really what they wanted or needed for the long haul. However, it led me to taking the opportunity to play to my strength: special projects. In the end, I moved on after accomplishing a great deal and building my knowledge and experience that I continue to draw on.

What is your proudest moment?

It’s difficult to isolate one; it really depends on the forum. My proudest moments are rooted in the feedback from clients that you’ve made a difference, from the student nutrition programs that tell you your work is having a tremendous impact on their ability to feed kids, and it’s every new course you master on your continued journey in a digitally driven business landscape. On a personal level, it’s every time I master a new sign taught by my hard-of-hearing, intellectually disabled, fiercely independent, and brave daughter.

What is your best quality?

For my professional career, it all boils down to big ideas and solving issues. A CEO in the CPG industry and former chair of FCPC referred to me as an integrator: I can see the big picture inside out and move throughout the entire enterprise. Whether it’s executive coaching, internal/engagement-focused communications, or marketing communications, if you can see the big picture and pull the right levers, that’s when the magic happens.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Thank you for the nomination, thank you to Canadian Grocer for the forum and congratulations to my fellow nominees. I have to share: one of our family’s favourite pastimes is to recite lines from a movie. If you’ve seen Jim Carey in The Grinch, you may recall the line “an award, no one said anything about an award.” Suffice it to say, that’s been played back to me a few times around the kitchen table.

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

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