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Follow My Path: Voni Woods

By IDDBA Community Team posted 07-10-2020 13:24

This week's Follow My Path blog features Vice President of Deli Bakery and Prepared Foods, @Voni Woods, of Giant Eagle, Inc.! Voni is an active IDDBA member and serves on multiple committees. It is a pleasure to share her journey throughout the industry and her personal experiences. Follow Voni Woods' path below! 

1. Describe your journey that brought you to your current position.

It’s been a long but simple journey!  I’ve been a merchant, a buyer and seller of fresh food my entire career.  Lots of stops along the way to learn something new and add to my portfolio of successes. The path from Team Member for 1 year and then Deli Manager for the next 12 years at retail set me up for success. I don’t know how a person can lead a business at retail and not have spent the time to know what it takes. The roles between Team Member and Vice President was filled with beautiful learning of not only roles like buyer, merchandiser, trainer, supervisor, operations, Director, Sr. Director and Vice President but also included Leadership Skills and Customer first focus. The journey was full of passion and love for the business and people. The connection is personal and rewarding. Knowing I needed to learn every aspect of the fresh business and continually pushing myself to be first with great items to surprise and delight our guests took me around the world.

2. How long have you been in your current role and describe how your work contribute to your company and impact the industry?

I have been in my current role for less than 2 years.  I was asked to spend time in this area focused on reaching goals. I have a leadership style of setting the strategy by leading my team, letting them ‘go to it’ and relentlessly taking away road blocks that get in their way, as well as mitigating ‘off the path chaos’ that keeps you from hitting target goals. 

3. What has surprised you most when you started in the field?

What surprised me the most is I thought I was taking a job to pay my way through college. I never dreamed about the LOVE and SATISFACTION of the work. Doing a great job, working with great people, serving the community and quite frankly my neighbors, led to a career I loved. 

4. How has your career and/or personal journey shaped you as a current industry professional?

I realized early that I wanted to stay in the industry and continue to move up in leadership of this industry I loved. I was fortunate to know if I wanted to be successful, I needed to be a part of the industry and not just a witness to it. I opened myself up to those that sought the mind of a merchant and said “yes” to learning opportunities relentlessly!

5. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

It is really fun to get recognized for the work I have done and fun to travel around the world for ‘good food’, but it’s the people I’ve met along the way that welcomed me and taught me and coached me and made me better. Possibly unknowingly they taught me to do the same…to help the next ones in line. I’ve worked with many people starting their careers and watched them blossom into Leaders and experts. It’s unbelievably rewarding to get a note telling me I’ve had played a role in their success. 

6. What advice would you give someone who is considering a career in the food industry?

Don’t be anyone else than yourself on your journey to be the boss. Be authentic. Be a relentless learner every. single. day. Ask questions. Say YES. Never stop reading.  Take leadership classes.  Make sure every direct report and dotted line members of your team knows the strategy and goals and that all work they do support those goals. Save time for FUN. Laugh at work. BE part of the industry to give back (you will learn more than you give!)

7. How has IDDBA impacted you professionally?

IDDBA welcomed me with open arms and solidified my determination to stay and grow in this industry. More than the education was the collaboration and willingness to teach and share and include. My years on the board and the people I’ve met has been a silver lining of my career.

There are hills and valleys in a journey.  It’s so rewarding to have connections to help each other along those roads. The culture of IDDBA is one of service and integrity. We share a commitment to the industry bigger than individual jobs.

8. Lastly, what’s your guilty food pleasure?

Ice cream.  If I can share a moment of stress relief during this COVID19 pandemic: Our offices shut down and while I ran my business from the stores, I also worked in the retail stores 31 days straight on the front line. It was stressful. The store I was working in was across the street from a great Ice Cream shoppe that had freshly made waffle cones and hand dipped ice cream. I pulled up and ordered a waffle cone with 1 scoop of white turtle ice cream and 1 scoop with butter pecan.  “Oh…”  I realized….”I have a buy one, get one free coupon!  I’ll take 2 of those.”    ...I was the only one in the car. 

*Editor's note: If you or if you know someone who could be featured for this blog series, please email: