Blazing A Trail Through Male-Dominated Industries: Interview with Longo’s COO Deb Craven

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For years, Deb Craven has been blazing a trail through male-dominated industries including sports and apparel, logistics and now grocery retail as the Chief Operating Officer of Longo’s.

Her career path has been unique with positions over the years with NIKE, SportChek, Marks and Purolator.

She has built an incredible career grounded in hard work, supportive managers, curiosity, and having the confidence to speak her mind, even when she was the only woman in the room. 

From her decades of experience, Craven is a treasure-trove of advice:

  • Don’t worry about what everyone else in the room is thinking about you. (A piece of advice one of her first managers ever told her. That same manager continues to be a mentor for Deb.)
  • Be curious and ask questions. 
  • Learn everything about where you are. Don’t be afraid to go outside of your swim lane.
  • Count on yourself. There is strength in being independent (a lesson she learned from her grandmother and mother, and her daughter)
  • Use your skill set to your advantage. They have many uses and give you more opportunities than you know.
  • Surround yourself with people who champion you. (Deb is still friends with a group of women who met in Kindergarten!)
  • Determine what balance means for you and get comfortable with it.
  • Make sure there are diverse voices around the table and encourage them to speak by giving them the space to do so.
  • Every complex issue is solvable if it is understood and worked through as a team. 
  • Women are unique in their ability to empathize, bring emotional intelligence, and create safe spaces, something others can struggle to do. When our team members open up to us, we can more easily unearth what is really going on and what needs to change. As a leader, we can then champion those changes.
  • People think that being strong doesn’t translate to being kind, but it does; there is a lot of strength and success in being kind. The best relationships at work happen when you take the time to get to know people and allow vulnerability on both sides. These are traits of women leaders.

Career Highlights:

  • Received her Certified Accountant designation after graduating from university
  • Chief Financial Officer for Nike Canada
  • Chief Financial Officer for Purolator Canada
  • Senior Vice President for Sport Chek and Mark’s
  • Chief Operating Officer, Longo’s
  • Receiving the peer-nominated Star Women in Grocery award

In this video interview, Craven discusses her career and advice she has for other women looking to advance in the world of business.

The Video Interview Series by Retail Insider is available on YouTube.

Connect with Mario Toneguzzi, a veteran of the media industry for more than 40 years and named in 2021 a Top Ten Business Journalist in the world and the only Canadian – to learn how you can tell your story, share your message and amplify it to a wide audience. He is Senior News Editor with Retail Insider and owner of Mario Toneguzzi Communications Inc. and can be reached at mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.

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Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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