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2023 Star Women in Grocery Award Winner Neda Esmailzadeh (Q&A)

Rising Star
Neda Esmailzadeh
Neda Esmailzadeh

Neda Esmailzadeh

Director, Legal Affairs
Danone Canada

What are some of your greatest career achievements?

I have been lucky to be part of some of the biggest transformational projects for Danone Canada in recent years. I was heavily involved in the acquisition of our plant-based business and our transition to becoming a B Corp. Both changes brought incredible growth and depth to our commercial activities. Becoming a B Corp was a major commitment, and I’m proud to have contributed to that project. These initiatives required important cross-functional work which gave me valuable learning experiences while allowing me to have an impact on the direction of the business.

Why is it important to you to develop female talent?

I know what it’s like to feel intimidated to speak up, and I had amazing mentors throughout my career to help me feel more comfortable and find my voice. I feel compelled to pay it forward and contribute to this space, and this is why obtaining the Women in Governance Parity Certification for Danone Canada was important to me. Ultimately, I am convinced that women bring a necessary and important perspective to any meeting or decision. Despite recent progress in female representation, women still face challenges in the workplace. I believe we have to continue deploying efforts for removing barriers so that women can succeed at the highest levels.

What do you like most about your current role?

The benefits of my role are twofold: working with amazing people and doing a job that allows me to have a holistic view of the business. I work with different stakeholders and engage with various people from different sectors. The culture at Danone is unique; people are collaborative and passionate, in addition to being smart and competent. My role is also dynamic and ever-changing with the new challenges we face, which means I am constantly learning, looking for solutions and finding opportunities. 

What is the most challenging part of your job – and how do you deal with it?

The legal landscape in Canada is constantly evolving, and when paired with a fast-paced industry such as food, it demands a lot of agility and humility. My team and I strive to not only adapt to our new realities as they come, but also to question the status quo and find opportunities as a result of change. We also have to be extremely creative to support our business in order to achieve its goals within the legal framework.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Early in my career, I was told that empathy is the key to success. I have come to learn that when you have empathy, you can tackle any challenge. You are not only able to understand others and find solutions, but also be relevant. Empathy allows me to ask the right questions and leave no stone unturned. It helps me communicate my points effectively depending on my audience. This advice continues to guide me and serve me well.  

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love to spend time with my family and friends, and travel. My kids and my husband keep me grounded and make me enjoy the small, everyday, normal moments. I am also a major tennis fan and love to play and watch matches.


Click here for the full list of 2023 Star Women in Grocery award winners.


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