Vice-President, Centre of Store Replenishment & Space Planning
Loblaw Cos. Ltd.
How did you get into the grocery business?
I went to school for industrial engineering and knew I wanted a career supporting a company, opposed to consulting work, which was common in my field. From there, it came down to pursuing the retailers I had a vested interest in. I chose to start my career at Weston Bakeries because of its strong Canadian roots and my passion for food, and from there, moving to Loblaw was the natural choice.
Best advice received?
The best advice I’ve received is twofold: one, confidently communicate your goals to your leaders and two, be open-minded about future opportunities. It’s so important to discuss your goals with your leaders so they know how to support your development. It also helps them think of you when opportunities become available. Speaking of opportunities, jobs may evolve over time. Your next role, or the role after that, might be different in a few years than what they look like today – and you may work and lead differently than the current incumbent. So, it’s important to be open-minded about what your next steps may look like so you don’t limit yourself based on perceived roadblocks that might be present today.
Biggest challenge faced in your career? And how did you overcome it?
This past year challenged me in ways I’d never expected. There is no guidebook for how to operate during a pandemic; so many things were uncertain and we learned how to adapt in real-time. COVID-19 has global reach and affected all aspects of our supply chain, including vendor supply and employee attendance, and caused extreme changes in demand patterns. Ultimately, succeeding under these circumstances has been a team effort. Identifying our priorities and what’s important to our customers helped guide us, and as the year progressed and we learned more, we were able to support our customers through recurring waves with more precision. Balancing work with personal responsibilities is also a must. From having aging parents to being a mom, I’m keenly aware of the challenges the pandemic thrusted upon working families. Loblaw’s culture of authenticity and transparency helps me manage and provides a framework that I lead with.
Career highlight/greatest achievement?
I’m most proud of my work designing Loblaw’s distribution network. It was a huge project in terms of budget, time, and scale, and was highly complex. It involved determining the ideal size, placement, and layout of each Loblaw distribution centre, relative to vendor and store locales from coast to coast, optimizing cost and logistical factors. I spent much of my early career with Loblaw on this project. It’s close to my heart because I was able to apply my industrial engineering degree, and humbling because our current distribution network still reflects my work from years ago.
What do you like most about your job?
Whether I’m spending time with my team (aka my “work family”), mentoring colleagues, networking or even shopping in our stores as a customer, a significant part of my job revolves around people and a sense of community. I love challenging others and having them challenge me, learning from others and learning about them. And, I take great pride in knowing I serve Canadians in the community I live in.
How would you describe your leadership style/philosophy?
In a word: collaborative. I try to be the type of leader I would want to work for, which is one who trusts their team, gives them latitude to learn and make decisions, and one who supports their growth and development. Part of what helps me build that trust is understanding their logic, cultivating open and honest communication, and being willing to work together to find solutions that are best for the business.
Click here for the full list of 2021 Star Women in Grocery award winners.