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Perspectives of a Professional with Loblaw Inc. - An Interview with Sara Jetta

By: Sara Jetta and Suhaana Sidhu

After holding positions in various business sectors Sara Jetta began to focus on a career in digital innovation and became the Senior Director of Innovation and Strategy at Loblaw in 2018. Sara leads a team of six Innovation Consultants to drive customer-facing and internal innovation at Loblaw by creating growth strategies, designing new business models, and developing innovation capabilities. Sara is passionate about creating a workplace that values growth through innovation.

Suhaana Sidhu: What led you to pursue a career in digital innovation?

Sara Jetta: The simplest way to put it is that I love everything about ideas from hatching them, to developing them, to executing them.

I love the learning, discovery, and collaboration that comes along with innovation demands. Most of all, I love the people it attracts. Innovators are people who believe the world can and should be a better place and are not afraid of change. It’s a very inspiring environment to work in and a humbling experience to lead.

In addition to the above what really excites me is how innovation has the power to unite a team; for instance the unpredictability innovation processes can bring, the level of risk that can come with sharing creative ideas, and the highs and lows that happen when you bring an idea to fruition can create very powerful ties between business units and teams.

SS: What is the greatest challenge you have faced in your career thus far? How did you overcome it?

SJ: The greatest challenge that I have experienced is being a woman in a male dominated industry. It’s of no surprise that men form a high percentage of those in the tech space, it can be difficult as a woman trying to compete. To overcome it I did a number of things including taking many leadership and public speaking courses as well as a number of IT related courses. In addition to that I had two mentors (a male and a female) who provided me with constructive feedback that led me to more opportunities and allowed me to speak and participate in more initiatives to gain insights and become more recognized for what I can bring. This has absolutely helped a great deal to gain confidence and the ability to grow and evolve in my leadership positions.

SS: What motivates you to excel in your professional life?

SJ: There are a few words that perfectly describe what motivates me: Challenges, Impact, Happiness, and Excitement.

Challenges: Keep me motivated, interested and inspired to always do better and deliver more.

Impact: the idea of driving value for the organization directly and indirectly keep me motivated.

Happiness: Having a positive, secure, and trustworthy environment make it very easy to wake up in the morning and give it 200% each and every day.

Excitement: Working on emerging technologies and identifying new ways to better our business and drive new value is a very exciting and humbling experience.

SS: Do you think there are certain barriers women in professional industries face that men do not?

SJ: Absolutely there are still many barriers that women in professional industries face such as gender pay gap, leadership roles, work life imbalances, ego clashes, exclusion from the “boys club”. However, the good news is that most organizations are starting to recognize this challenge and are treating gender diversity and inclusion as a business priority.

SS: How is Loblaw empowering women in the workplace?

SJ: Our commitment to gender balance is at the heart of all that we do, we have a number of groups and programs that empower women. Some examples include Go Further WOMEN at Loblaw as well as Women in Loblaw Technology – which represent our gender inclusion priority and unites women across our company at all levels. Through these forums we share insights, create networking opportunities, and provide the tools and resources necessary to empower all female colleagues.

SS: If you could give one piece of advice to young women looking to enter the corporate world what would it be?

SJ: It’s hard to select only one so I will provide a few that all women young or old should live by as they enter, accelerate, and climb the corporate world.

1. Find a good mentor. Mentorship has long been established as a huge difference-maker, especially for people just starting out or people embarking on a new professional path. This level of support has proven especially beneficial for professional women, who do best when they’re able to get insight and advice from other professional women.

2. Be prepared to spot growth opportunities when they present themselves. Become involved and chose challenges that are outside of your comfort zone it will surprise you how much you will learn and also become recognized for.

3. Be resilient. Never give up and learn from your failures because sometimes you will fall but what matters is you get up and grow from them.

4. Build your team wisely and network. It’s important to build strong relationships and work as a team to deliver multiple successes as oppose to a few alone. One quote I stand by is “You are only ever as good as the team you build, so be a talent magnet and surround yourself with the best and the brightest.”

5. Focus and project confidence in all you do. Never be afraid to ask questions or for help and speak slowly with more authoritativeness.

*Interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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