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2022 Star Women in Grocery winner Nicole Murray (Q&A)

Rising Star
Nicole Murray

Nicole Murray

Director of Marketing and Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Lead
Smucker Foods of Canada Corp


How did you get into the grocery/CPG business?

Luck! I grew up in a small town with parents (and mentors) who were successful entrepreneurs in the service industry. From them, I inherited my innate curiosity about all things business and my high respect for leaders who aren’t afraid to “roll up their sleeves,” and companies that truly care about their consumers, customers, and people. I was fortunate to work at many great companies in different industries from hard goods (Canadian Tire Corporation) to OTC (Johnson & Johnson Inc.) to confectionary (Wrigley Canada) and now food and beverage (The J.M. Smucker Co.). Nothing has been more fulfilling in my career than helping build brand brands consumers love and creating win-win strategies with retail partners to ensure our businesses thrive together.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome it?

I was the marketing lead for the Canadian integration of our most complex acquisition—Big Heart Pet Brands. My focus was to rally the teams around a clear vision to drive growth. We had an amazing cross-functional team that was passionate about the opportunity to grow a business we believed in but upon acquisition had been experiencing declines. Through compelling marketing plans, strategic retailer relationships, and category-building innovation, we revived our iconic Milk-Bone brand and built the premium dog food business , Nature’s Recipe. The overall pet portfolio has achieved 27% growth in the four years post acquisition.

What is your best quality?

I have been told my best quality is my strategic agility. I think that comes from my background in a variety of generalist and specialist roles across a range of industries, which allows me to take more of a holistic view of any situation. I believe that change is constant and I enjoy looking at an issue or opportunity from all angles and hearing different points of view to arrive at the best possible solution.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

As you progress in your career, running the business becomes a much smaller part of your responsibility as you spend more time coaching and supporting your people. Smucker encourages us to be resonant leaders – to put people first, to lead with emotional intelligence and to encourage everyone to bring their whole self to work. As leaders this means we need to do the same and lead with vulnerability and authenticity. This last part was foreign and particularly tough for me, as early in my career I was taught to take the emotion out of it, especially as a woman. Thankfully, I have been surrounded by other women leaders, mentors, and employees who created a space for me to evolve in this area. That said, I think this is life-long, on-the-job learning. I will never be done growing as a leader, and I will always be striving to be better tomorrow than I was today.

What do you like most about your job?

Definitely the people. I get a lot of energy from being around people – collaborating, building off each other’s ideas and having healthy debate. I also enjoy the relationships - hearing about others’ personal lives and bringing a sense of humour to work. When we shifted to a remote environment due to the COVID pandemic, I was concerned about how I was going to “bring it” every day to work. I was so impressed in how we transitioned to this virtual environment without skipping a beat, and so thankful we were able to preserve and build on our connections.

What are your passions outside of work? 

My family – especially my nine-year-old son Conor - he is my world. Every day he teaches me how even the simplest of things can bring joy and lots of laughter, and how to be silly and express yourself freely. And I try to teach him important life lessons, like how to treat others and how to have courage. Being a mom and wanting him to grow up in a better world has made me want to take those life lessons to the next level, which is why I was inspired to take on a leadership role for our Inclusion, diversity and equity efforts. I believe ID&E is not just an HR effort and requires commitments from leaders across the organization to be involved in developing meaningful action plans and providing support to ensure every employee feels welcomed, valued and encouraged to reach their full potential. Working in this area has become one of the most fulfilling things I do every day.

Click here for the full list of 2022 Star Women in Grocery award winners.

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