2021 Star Women in Grocery winner Heather Pereira (Q&A)
Canadian Grocer staff
Director, HR – Store Operations
Longo Brothers Fruit Markets
How did you get into the grocery business?
As a new graduate, I was eager to begin working full time. I was blessed to be given an entry-level role in HR at a national grocery company. I met many wonderful people and thoroughly enjoyed traveling all over southern Ontario meeting our store teams. My passion for retail, and specifically grocery retail, grew quickly—and when an opportunity with Longo’s arose, I was very excited to continue my career path with a different organization, but still focused on grocery retail.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
To ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” It’s easy to get caught up in focusing on negative outcomes and worrying about “what ifs.” I’ve seen and experienced missed opportunities when we spend time overthinking things. During a period of formal coaching, my coach would often encourage me to think about “what’s the worst that could happen?” … if something doesn’t go as planned, be committed to learning from it—showing the courage to make the attempt means you are growing. Asking “what’s the worst that could happen?” has certainly helped me refocus and take some chances.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
The COVID pandemic learning curve! During a period of extremely rapid change in an area of what, at the time, was completely uncharted and uncertain, delivering a thorough COVID response for the safety of our teams, ensuring my team was personally OK, and dealing with my own personal concerns and fears was a pinnacle of personal and professional challenges. Reflecting on the early days of the pandemic has taught me so much; I have never experienced a period of greater personal and professional development. While it was the most challenging time, it has also been the most rewarding time by giving me the opportunity to experience such strong collaboration and unity towards a common goal, as well as developing a deeper connection to my own team.
What are some of your biggest career highlights/greatest achievements?
Growing and developing a team of talented, committed individuals. The greatest achievements for me have been those occasions where there have been times of discomfort, and you must grapple with how to keep the team together, motivated and engaged—it’s the excitement and pride of accomplishing this, and seeing a team support each other and flourish in their respective roles. As difficult as COVID has been, a career highlight for me has been the feeling of pride in the team at Longo’s—the collaboration to ensure our front-line team members remain safe and cared for, and the immense pride in our team members who continued to serve our communities during a period that was scary and uncertain for most people. The strength and resilience of our entire team has been incredible: despite the physical distance, it has brought people closer together than ever before and with a deeper, more genuine care for each other.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Being in service to my team and others is something that is very important to me. I believe my role is to support and elevate those I interact with. I also think, now more than ever, a leader’s purpose is to be truly aware of how people are doing and how we as leaders can support them. Robin Williams once said, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” Approaching everyone with this in mind allows you to be in a space of service and kindness to those around you—no matter what capacity you are interacting with them in.
What you like most about your job?
I am blessed to work with amazing people! My team, my peers, my partners; everyone is striving for the same goal. At Longo’s, that goal is to support our team members in fuelling healthier, happier lives. Having a clear north star, being supported by our executive team and being trusted to do the work we are here to do is highly rewarding. Nothing gives me more joy than being with our team members, who are equipped to be successful and engaged in their work.
Anything else you would like to add?
I am honoured and humbled by the nomination for this award. My goal is to work hard and have an impact, and I think our entire team does that every day!
Click here for the full list of 2021 Star Women in Grocery award winners.