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2020 Star Women in Grocery winner Teresa Blakney (Q&A)

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Rising star

Teresa Blakney
Sr. Brand Manager
Conagra Brands

Best advice received?
The advice that has stuck with me most is “No doesn’t mean never; it just means not yet”. It means never give up. I embrace persistence and grit as it motivates me to continue to progress and stick to my goals despite challenges. And hopefully this will result in a yes, eventually.

How did you get into the business?
I studied computer science, which is totally unrelated to what I am doing today. Even though I excelled at school, I realized that I prefer talking to people rather than a machine.
I Started my career in the advertising world (Ogilvy & Mather Malaysia, Publicis China) and was poached by one of my clients back then, Nestlé Waters (China). Loved the marketing and CPG world, and have never looked back.

Your best quality?
Bringing people together to advance the same goal. It’s definitely not an easy task as teams are made up of members from diverse backgrounds with different priorities and goals. I foster team spirit by encouraging transparency and collaboration to keep team engaged and motivated. I love working with teams as we are able to accomplish so much more. We learn from each other and help expand our boundaries. I’ve personally experienced how my skill sets grew as a result of strong teamwork. And we spend so much time together at work, it’s much more rewarding and fun to work with a winning team and have a greater sense of belonging.

Career highlight/greatest achievements?
Heating up the frozen ready-to-eat meals segment by transforming the landscape through the launch of robust innovation pipeline across different brands and platforms. My relentless work has paid off and has set a precedent for the most innovation launches in the history of Conagra Canada, and is contributing to business performance. We are changing the way consumers perceive frozen foods. It’s no longer just about convenience. We have introduced modern health attributes such as plant-based and grain-free meals as well as contemporary flavours to suit different taste preferences. I also introduced a proudly Canadian product lineup–Hunt’s Heirloom Tomatoes in a commodity- driven category. This premium lineup helped to increase the brand reputation as a leader in the tomato category.

I also pioneered and head up the Women’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) at Conagra with the mission of empowering women professionally. It’s the only ERG that we have in Canada. As the group head, I have the privilege to set the strategy to help promote inclusivity and diversity, as well as creating a brave and safe space for employees to network, collaborate, and grow together professionally.

What do you like most about your job?
No two days are alike, and I like that it provides a continuous learning opportunity to advance my skill set. Also, working with amazing, talented people and the opportunity to influence
consumers’ behaviour through food. Progressing how food brings value to consumers through meaningful, healthier ingredients, and contributing to the sustainability of food system.

Anything else you’d like add?
I have the ability to translate across different cultures, thanks to working experiences in multiple countries (Malaysia, China, and now Canada). I’m a huge proponent of giving back to the community. I volunteer with the Network Executive of Women and help lead some of the events such as International Women’s Day. I’m also a career mentor at TRIEC (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, helping new immigrants assimilate into their new career journey here in Canada. And last but not least, I’m one of the rising stars in the grocery industry and was named one of the winners of the Canadian Grocer’s Generation Next Award.

Click here for the full list of 2020 Star Women in Grocery award winners.

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