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News & Blogs: 5 Questions

5 questions with Lori Raya

Monday, February 13, 2012  
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President, Vons
Safeway Inc.

"Own your success early in your career.”

In February 2012, Lori Raya became the first woman president of Safeway Inc.’s Vons division. She previously served as senior vice president, main meal, where she had responsibility for the company’s largest portfolio of center-store business units including ingredients, beverages and snacks.Raya joined Safeway nearly 25 years ago as a clerk in the company’s Denver division. She progressed through the retail ranks, taking assignments at the company’s corporate office, and then as district manager at Vons and vice president, retail operations in Safeway’s Northern California division. In 2009, Raya joined the perishable marketing team as group vice president, deli/food service and bakery, and was promoted to senior vice president with added responsibility for dairy/refrigerated and frozen food.

When you began your career at Safeway, did you have a plan for advancing to the company's top ranks?

No, absolutely not. I was actually coaching at a local high school during college and I needed a summer job. The hiring manager and all of the employees were great and the job allowed for quite a bit of flexibility. Also, we had a female store manager at the time who saw that I was a hard worker and encouraged me to look at management positions, or at least consider them. I wanted to be a coach, but through her mentoring and guidance I ultimately landed in management, where I was able to utilize my passion for coaching, while strengthening my business acumen. To this day I am still friends with her.

What personal traits would you say served you well as you built your career at Safeway?

I have always been a competitive athlete, either playing basketball or softball. So realizing the importance of teamwork is of utmost importance. Secondly, focus and dedication to improve myself and my team is a skill that has allowed me to accomplish the goals I have. As an athlete and as a professional, I am absolutely focused on getting better every single day. I won’t go home or quit until I’ve been able to improve a skill or discover some way of providing better customer service to our shoppers and, consequently, helping our company increase market share.

How have Safeway's corporate culture and commitment to diversity and inclusion provided opportunities for advancement?

Safeway has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, but no one moves up without proving themselves first and foremost. Hard work, fostering new ideas and challenging oneself to accomplish new goals is the way to success at Safeway.

What role did the Network of Executive Women play in your career?

NEW played a very influential role in not only my professional life, but my personal development as well. NEW provided an environment that fostered trust and camaraderie amongst professional women. Lori Proctor of Procter & Gamble recruited me to NEW and has supported me throughout my career. I consider her a dear friend and this relationship is a direct result of the NEW family.

What advice do you have for other women who are looking to advance in the consumer products and retail industry?

This is a good question and one I want to stress as very important. First, don’t ever assume your supervisor or manager knows what your professional goals are. Make sure to communicate your goals and help them to understand that you are committed to the company’s mission and you want to be an integral part of helping achieve that mission.

Second, and in the same vein, always challenge yourself and be willing to take on new tasks or jobs that may not be within your day-to-day functions. Be open to new opportunities and when you are assigned a task go above and beyond in accomplishing that job. Third, search out a mentor or support organization, such as NEW. Find someone you admire and respect in your industry and do not be afraid to ask for guidance or advice. In short, own your success early in your career. Work hard every single day to improve yourself, communicate your goals to those around you and surround yourself with like-minded people who want to see you achieve your goals.

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