MBA ’00, Senior Director of Strategy, Maple Leaf Foods
Sarah Crawford (MBA '00) currently works as senior director of strategy at Maple Leaf Foods. Prior to this, her career had spanned a variety of areas, including information services (Maple Leaf Foods), strategy consulting (Bain & Company) and investment banking (RBC Dominion Securities). Crawford graduated from Mount Allison University, where she completed a double honours arts degree in math and economics. She is married and has two daughters.
What do you do in your role at work?
As a member of the strategy team, I work on various strategic issues and opportunities facing Maple Leaf Foods' business. This work varies, and can range from competitive strategy development, opportunity analysis, acquisition/divestiture analysis and the development of functional strategies (e.g. supply chain, manufacturing and people).
What’s a typical day like for you at work?
My work is largely project-based, and the typical day depends largely on the type of project and phase of work. There are some days where much of my time is spent on research, analysis and pulling together presentation material, and other days that are jam-packed with meetings to collect information, review findings and lead change. If I take yesterday as an example, I spent the early morning preparing for meetings and contemplating change management challenges for my project. For the rest of the morning, I was in meetings with various stakeholders, seeking their alignment and engagement with the strategy at hand. In the afternoon, I led a project team meeting, reviewing the status of deliverables and establishing the go-forward project plan. The remainder of my day was spent preparing to lead a strategy case discussion at an upcoming training session for new managers.
How has Darden impacted your life?
Darden has impacted my life in so many ways. First, it has provided me with a solid foundation of knowledge and skills that have enabled my career. Through the case method and rich class discussions, Darden honed my ability to solve problems in a structured way, to work effectively with others and to get up to speed on new topics quickly. Also, as a general management school, Darden has given me the foundation and confidence to embrace different challenges as my career has unfolded. For instance, after working as a Bain strategy consultant, I shifted course and joined Maple Leaf Foods, spending the first several years there leading a large team responsible for our information solutions (business applications, websites, programming, etc.). I had no technical knowledge at the time (in fact, I barely knew what a server was), but I knew about leadership and how to manage. Darden enabled me to do this. Second, through my experience at Darden I have met so many fantastic people from different walks of life. My class at Darden was rich with people from a variety of backgrounds, spanning military and medical professions to the more traditional investment banking and consulting professions; and with people from Brazil to the Philippines to Washington, D.C. Not only did Darden lead to a lot of great friendships, it also reinforced the value that diverse backgrounds bring to business and to life in general.
Why did you choose Darden?
I initially targeted Darden because I was interested in a case method school with a general management focus. I was also seeking a school "away from home" to broaden my experiences and network. My decision to choose Darden was really locked down after visiting the campus, seeing case discussions in action, and meeting students and professors. Through this, I got such an incredibly strong vibe on the culture of the School: ambitious (yet humble) people working together, engaging in lively debate and fostering a strong sense of community while having fun.
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
I have received a lot of great advice over the years; I don’t know where to begin. One thing that stands out for me is to stop worrying about what I cannot control. Try to identify the source of stress. If it something that is out of my control, I should acknowledge it and plan around it; but if I can’t control it, I need to let it go. This can be very liberating.
What’s your personal motto?
Always take the high road. To me, this means to always act with integrity, and to always treat people with respect, even when others do not reciprocate. This is an easy motto to live by, and one that never results in regret.
How do you measure success?
My definition of success goes beyond career success and encompasses a broader view of life and happiness. Success to me is playing the role I want to in the world — with my family, friends, professionally and within my community. Doing so requires adapting to changing circumstances, needs and personal desires. Choosing where and how to best direct my effort, giving it my best and always being true to myself — this is how I view success.
What motivates you?
This sounds cliché, but on a day-to-day basis, I am motivated by putting my best foot forward and seeing results. What ultimately motivates me, though, is to be the best person I can for my husband and children.