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2024 Star Women in Grocery Award Winner Monica Chan-Strauss (Q&A)

Shining-Level Star
2024 star women
Monica Chan-Strauss

Monica Chan-Strauss 

Customer Director, Sales
The J.M. Smucker Co.

How did you get your start in the CPG business?

I started in CPG straight out of university, and it's the only industry I know! I began as a field sales rep, learning the basics and have been fortunate enough to work my way up and across different sales, marketing and category strategy roles throughout my career. Working for both large and small companies has given me exposure to some amazing brands and categories but, more importantly, the opportunity to work with strong leaders, retailers and passionate people. This currently holds true for my experience at Smucker Foods.

What keeps you motivated at work? 

Striving for continuous professional and personal growth is a driving force behind my work and how I choose to show up every day for my team and my family. Whether it's learning how to become a more effective leader or diving into market data to glean unique insights, I am committed to improvement and strive to lead from where I am. As a woman of visible minority in sales, I recognize the importance of my voice and perspective, particularly in the context of the evolving Canadian demographic in both consumer trends and the labour market. While progress has been made, I believe women and individuals from under-represented groups still face barriers in the workplace. I am fortunate to work in an environment where everyone's opinion is encouraged and heard, allowing us to address these barriers and provide opportunities for people to succeed. 

What is your best quality?

The ability to remain calm and positive even in the most challenging situations. This enables me to cut through the noise, think clearly and identify the root problem, allowing me to formulate actionable solutions with my team. Whether facing unexpected events or navigating tough negotiations, my capacity to stay objective fosters a sense of reassurance and facilitates effective problem-solving. I firmly believe there is a solution to be found when a problem is approached with rational and sometimes creative thinking.

What is the best advice you have received?

Early on in my career, one of my mentors shared with me that “your career is a marathon and not a sprint.” Understanding career progression is not always linear or a race, I have taken this advice to heart. I believe in the importance of embracing lateral moves, cross-functional roles, or even taking a “step back” to, ultimately, move forward. This helps to build both breadth and depth in skills and capabilities. This is the same guidance I offer to others who are beginning or midway through their careers. 

What is a career highlight or greatest achievement?

I have been fortunate to experience numerous highlights and achievements throughout my career, but the most exciting moments have revolved around launching new brands and products into different categories. Several of these brands have evolved into inspirational master brands. As someone in sales, there is a sense of fulfilment whenever I see these products proudly displayed on the shelf, knowing I played a key role in their journey to market. From Milk-Bone dog treats to the recent addition of Smucker's Uncrustables in the frozen aisle, each launch represents a culmination of teamwork, innovation and dedication. These successes represent strategic planning and execution, but also reaffirm my passion for driving impactful change within the industry. 

What do you like most about your job? 

What I love most about my job is the incredible people I have the privilege of working with as we collectively share in solving problems and achieving results together. Whether it's providing guidance, sharing knowledge or simply cheering them on, watching others succeed brings me the most joy.

What do you like to do when not working?

I have the honour of raising two young women who are entering their teenage years, and they require a lot of chauffeuring and support for their competitive sports and musical activities. When I am not with them, I try to tap into the creative side of my brain by delving into crafts, sharing delicious meals with friends using ingredients I have grown, or enjoying a live concert. If time and money were not limiting factors, I would travel the world more and immerse myself in local cultures, tasting all the flavourful cuisine other countries have to offer.

Click here for the full list of 2024 Star Women in Grocery award winners.

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