2021 Star Women in Grocery winner Wendy Outram (Q&A)
Canadian Grocer staff
Vice-president, North American Procurement
How did you get into the grocery/CPG business?
After graduating from university, and spending a few years teaching university-level business classes, I was fortunate to be recruited into a rotational leadership trainee program by Bimbo Canada’s previous ownership, Maple Leaf Foods. The program even took me as far as the operations in the U.K.—an early international experience that was transformational. Through that program I became instantly hooked on the industry and on my now chosen function of supply chain and procurement.
What are you proudest about in terms of your work?
When I step back and watch my team shine. When those who you work with knock it out of the park, and they no longer need your guidance, that’s the most rewarding. I love developing our future leaders and am very proud of the culture we’ve developed.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
The one that many of us face: how to balance it all. There’s times when I feel I can’t do it all, but I remind myself that I can’t do it all “right now.” The one great thing COVID has taught us about work is that we can work from anywhere. My team knows my approach—family and life outside work is important, face time in a physical office space is less important.
What has been a career highlight or one of your greatest achievements?
This past year has been a year of professional growth for me. I had been leading the procurement team in Canada for more than four years until fall 2020, when I worked with the leadership teams of Bimbo Canada and our sister company, Bimbo Bakeries USA, to develop plans to bring together the U.S. and Canada in a centralized North American Procurement organization. I’m very proud to be promoted to this role to lead our North American efforts. This is a significant challenge as we become a highly efficient shared-services organization, but a challenge I’m very proud to lead through.
What is your leadership style/philosophy?
I believe in empowerment and engagement. I want associates on my team to enjoy what they do, and have real responsibility. I craved that throughout my career, and I flourished under that model. Engagement happens when associates feel they are part of a bigger mission and purpose. I’m very open with my team and others in the company, and believe deeply in development and coaching. I’ve got great people on my team, and many times I just have to get out of their way!
What do you like most about your job?
There are two pieces of my job I like the most. First, I’ve become a firm believer in the mantra of “your job is not your job.” My job is not what it says on the job description, my job is to help the company win, like everyone in the company. Anything I can do to help ensure we have amazing-quality products, fully stocked in amazing packaging, is my job one and something I’m very proud to do. Second is coaching within the company. I’m extremely lucky to have exceptional team members.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I’m humbled to receive an award such as this, knowing the calibre of great people in our industry. I’ve benefitted from the guidance of many in this industry, from suppliers educating me on commodities and key supply chain challenges, to the encouraging managers and leaders coaching me through strategy and difficult conversations. I can’t wait to continue my learning journey.
Click here for the full list of 2021 Star Women in Grocery award winners.