Discover how Stephanie’s years of experience as a female leader have helped expand Maple Leaf Foods’ digital innovation efforts
Stephanie Godin is the Director of Information Solutions (IS) User Experience. She joined Maple Leaf Foods in 2000 as a Marketing Manager with Think FOODSERVICE, and then became a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt heavily involved in transformation projects, until she transitioned into her current role with the IS team.
Here, Stephanie reflects on her wide range of experiences interacting with various operating units and functional teams that help run the business.
What brought you to Maple Leaf?
At my previous job, any major career progression would involve relocating to another country which I was not overly interested in at the time. A friend who was already job hunting shared an interesting job posting that was too senior for them. On a whim, I applied and took the interview instead, landing the Foodservice Marketing Manager role at Maple Leaf Foods for myself. Being a Canadian-based company, my new role with Maple Leaf Foods came with direct involvement in all aspects of the business and created autonomy for the development of strategic plans. It turned out to be the right move for my career.
What made you stay?
My younger self never would have predicted that I would someday be sharing stories about being with the same company for as long as I’ve been with Maple Leaf Foods. However, throughout my career, my internal support network was open to discussing opportunities with new assignments or role transitions which continued to provide new growth and development. I was ultimately accountable for managing my career path, yet I really did appreciate the sponsorship which came from many different sources over time and not just a one-up manager.
I’m not one to be content with repetitive duties, so having a variety of innovative and transformative assignments has kept me engaged. The combination of ongoing investments that Maple Leaf makes in our business operations, plus professional development, are key factors to keeping the work interesting and being able to provide meaningful influence on outcomes. When sharing work experiences with peers in other industries, their response is often in line with, “You’re doing all that, at a meat company?”
Why is gender equity so important in the workplace?
Gender is a basic factor shared by all humans and drives undisputed inequalities. It’s important that we learn to tackle this fundamental factor and close the gaps so that we’re in a better position to apply the learnings and new behaviours in different ways to address other factors (age, disability, ethnicity, etc.) which also contribute to creating inequalities. We need our people set up to succeed, and diversity brings so much more to all of our experiences.
How do you define your purpose at Maple Leaf?
“We will embrace a digital future across our business to create shared value” is a pillar of our Blueprint Strategy which resonates strongly with me. Improving the digital employee experience and exploring innovative ways to apply technology to solve business problems enables our people to do their best work.
While my team is accountable for collaboration and productivity apps such as Microsoft 365, we’re always working to better understand the evolving needs of our various personas to create the best user experience for our team members. There are very different priorities and considerations if working from the plant floor versus a boardroom setting, for example.
Personal interests draw me to the Change Management aspects of our work. This includes leading the people side of change to achieve desired outcomes, along with implementing process and technology updates. The shift to a hybrid work model and ditching paper for digital processes requires a new mindset and skills. Being a part of the project teams who influence these and similar transitions in how we work is very rewarding to see in action.
What advice do you have for women in the early stages of their career?
Don’t be shy about asking questions to learn more about new concepts, the stakeholders you’re working with, or related past experiences. I’ve generally found people to be very generous with sharing information or advice when you’re respectful with your approach and use of their time. Dig in and really understand how the business operates so you can provide meaningful contributions.
On a personal level, watch your energy reserves. It can be a fine line between thriving and surviving at times. Periodically, you may need to prioritize your commitments, delegate, or ask for some help both inside and outside of work. It’s a constantly moving scale, and how to balance it is personal for everyone.
During your career, what kind of progress have you observed in opportunities for women? Are you hopeful about the future?
With the massive shift to work-from-home a few years ago, my teenage girls were able to “meet” my co-workers. Their initial perception was that I worked with a LOT of male colleagues. I made a point of talking about or introducing them to the different women I also interacted with so they could develop an appreciation for the range of positions held by women. Shortly after, their observation was upgraded to, “good job at finding more women to work with, yet it’s still boring to listen to.”
The topic of gender equity is being discussed more openly in our company, and women have visibly increased their representation in some levels of leadership. When recruiting, hiring managers are encouraged to expand their searches to include potential female candidates where possible. At times, I’ve struggled to find a qualified candidate with specific tech skills which makes me believe more needs to be done earlier on in the education process to encourage interest in a broader range of skills that are not typically promoted to women.
I’m hopeful about the future as there’s building momentum to acknowledge when gender contributes to a bias or inequality. As people leaders learn more about this problem and accept accountability to influence change, our teams will be better prepared to take meaningful action to reduce its impact.
What’s one of your proudest accomplishments?
Building an inclusive team.
When I first joined the IS team at Maple Leaf Foods, I was a team of one managing a program by myself. Along with expanded responsibilities from taking on new projects and services, that team grew rather quickly into a group of many with a wide range of diversity representation and excellent collaboration skills. Some career paths have taken people onto roles in other industries, and many have evolved into technical specializations and management positions.
This team has also been running a Digital Innovation Co-Op program for a few years now in which many women have been recruited into these roles. The experience provides them with a glimpse into different potential career paths in the technology sector, with exposure to business leaders. It’s always nice to receive a thank you note or news about that first job they landed after completing school.