For this installment of Smart Girl Spotlight, we sat down with Emilie Fournier, Sr. Manager of Strategic Projects at Walmart Canada. When she's not busy busting glass-ceilings in the corporate world, she's racing triathlons, running and doing yoga. Did we mention she's applying to grad school as well? Read about how Emilie does it all:
Name: Emilie Fournier
Tell us about your job in 100 words or less:
I am responsible for delivering the priorities of the corporate strategy by driving the execution of key strategic projects, and partnering with executives to scope and plan each of their projects. I also lead the intake and prioritization of all cost management initiatives at Walmart Canada. Last but not least, I improve processes and standards throughout the organization on an as-needed basis, which can include anything from presentation standards for items coming for execution decision to meeting cadence for monthly decision making.
Career accomplishment you are most proud of? Prior to my current role, I was a buyer for stationery at Walmart. During my tenure, Walmart held the #1 market share position for the Tape & Adhesives category in Canada for the first time since we entered the market in 1994. I picked this particular accomplishment because I’ve always considered financial analysis and data crunching to be areas of improvement for me, and I chose to go into a challenging role which requires a lot of these (see career advice below!). Seeing my business excel, and therefore myself as an extension was exhilarating.
Best piece of career advice you’ve received? Since I couldn’t pick just one (I tend to “collect” advice and quotes, both life and career), I will start with the following: one of the best pieces of advice I received was to summarize your thoughts into three points to maximize the impact of your words, and I’m choosing this method now.
1. Trust your gut, your instincts are usually right. This is a hard one for me as I tend to be a second guesser, but time and experience are starting to sink in and I’m learning to simply trust and go with the flow.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As a young driven perfectionist with sky high expectations for myself, I sometimes forget that I don’t have the answer to everything but more importantly, I forget that no one expects me to have all the answers.
3. Take on roles and projects that scare you. If you are considering a new job and it doesn’t scare you, then it isn’t the right one. You only grow when you are learning and being tested, and daunting challenges are the way to do it.
What advice would you give to other young professional women? We put so much pressure on ourselves to have a master plan, get a mortgage, find the guy, figure it all out and be at the top before turning 30. When you see it written it out like that it sounds outrageous, but this truly reflects the reality of many ambitious young women. My advice is to take a deep breath and relax – you’re doing great! Take the time to look back on your successes and appreciate how far you’ve come.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I like to keep my goals and future plans fluid enough that should a great opportunity come my way, I don’t feel obligated to stick to the “official” plan, but focused enough that I’m always moving forward and learning. In the next five years I hope to complete an MBA and join a consulting firm. My husband and I will be living in a major city in Canada, Europe, or the United States and with any luck traveling a few months a year due to the flexibility that consulting offers!
How do you like to stay active? For me, variety is key. I’m naturally curious about nutrition and exercise and easily bored by repetitive workouts. In the last couple of years I’ve tried weight lifting, HIIT workouts, running, triathlons, the infamous Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide, and yoga to name a few. Some were a success and are part of my go-to’s and others were a fun experiment but didn’t work for me. Currently, I’m doing a mix of yoga and running which are helping me stay centered as I prepare my grad school applications.
Fitness/health accomplishment you are most proud of? I was a competitive tennis player in my teens and I remember dreading the running drills because they didn’t come easily to me and no matter how many we did, I never seemed to improve! In 2013, I decided to sign up for a half marathon and ended up running three within a year. Training for these races, seeing my times improve, and crossing the finish line at the end was the most amazing feeling.
What tools and resources do you use to help you stay on track with your fitness goals (apps, journals, books, websites, gadgets etc.)? I’m pretty low key when it comes to technology and fitness. When I feel like my nutrition is getting a little out of hand and I’m in need of a swift kick in the butt to get back on track, I like to track my macros and caloric intake with the MyFitnessPal app. It’s usually an eye-opener and helps me make better food choices. I also use a Garmin Forerunner 220 to stay on pace during my runs and to track my total kilometers. The theme here is accountability; the facts don’t lie and when you have data that is easily accessible you can train smarter.
Favourite spot for healthy eats:For quick healthy eats: Kupfert & Kim, for a nice date night: Planta
Favourite spot for tasty treats: As a vegan, it can be hard to find good cheat meal options. I prefer salty over sweet, and my go to is the crispy “chicken” burger at Doomie’s. It’s greasy, filling, and savory – the perfect junk food!
Last book you read: I thought about fibbing and mentioning a trendy professional book I read a few books ago but truthfully, the last book I finished is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I am a Harry Potter fanatic and decided to read the series again in preparation for the release of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie in a few weeks!
Favourite quote: Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. – Anonymous
Do you prefer routine or spontaneity? What does a typical day look like for you?As much as I love variety and spontaneity when it comes to workouts, I crave routine and structure where possible in my day. My day always starts with a green smoothie for breakfast (my special recipe: spinach, Vega vanilla protein powder, frozen berries, a banana, and almond milk) and commuting to work. Work is filled with editing presentations, whiteboard sessions, project team meetings, and strategic debates between stakeholders: all fun, collaborative things that I enjoy. In the evening, I try to get a workout in and study for the GMAT. Before turning in at the end of the day, I like to watch a quick episode of something funny on Netflix and FaceTime with my husband who is currently living in Chicago.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced pursuing both career and health and fitness goals? The biggest challenge is excelling at both! It sometimes feels like juggling keeping work, social, and fitness up in the air. What works for me is making sure that I’m not taking on too much. If I know I have a big project at work over the next two months, I’m going to try and not sign up for a triathlon but instead focus on simply staying healthy. I’ve been burned in the past by biting off more than I can chew and consequently failing all around at work, racing, and my social life as well as feeling guilty on top of it. Reevaluating my priorities every few months and being smart about what I add on to my plate helps me achieve my personal and professional goals.
Do you believe work-life balance truly exists? I think the phrase “work-life balance” is misleading and falsely leads us to believe that time and commitment should be split 50/50 between the two. Life constantly ebbs and flows; sometimes work is more demanding and my personal life takes a backseat, and a few months later it’s the other way around. The key is being realistic about expectations you set for yourself and staying open-minded about creative solutions to make your life work for you. You can design your life to fit you and your needs! For example, I’m not a morning person and I like to come in to work later than most of my colleagues but I stay later and let traffic pass before heading home. Don’t be afraid to ask your boss for what you need, and remember that if you don’t ask you don’t get.
Why do you think committing to health and fitness is important for young professional women? I believe we are made up of three parts: mental, physical, emotional. All three parts are interconnected and neglecting one will adversely affect the others as well. When I don’t sleep well, I can’t focus, my decision making is impaired which leads to bad food choices and skipping my workout, which makes me feel more tired and guilty and so on…you get the picture, the vicious cycle is in full speed. On the other hand, when I spend quality time with my friends and family I feel energized in the other aspects of my life. Exercise and nutrition are your body’s fuel, and you can’t put cheap gas in your Ferrari if you want it to perform.