Maple Leaf Foods understands that leadership is not just a role or achievement, it’s an attitude and a skill that graduates can learn over time. That’s why for 22 years Maple Leaf Foods has been supporting graduates on their journey to become next generation leaders by providing them the opportunity to build a successful career through the Leadership Track Program. We explore the program, what it takes to succeed and insight from grads who’ve taken the program. Keep reading to learn more!
What is the Leadership Track Program?
The Leadership Track Program (LTP) is Maple Leaf Foods’ early leadership development program for talented, driven and ambitious graduates. The program offers new graduates the opportunity to learn about the company through various functional roles over a three year rotational period. Once graduates complete the program, successful participants continue to grow their careers at Maple Leaf Foods and often become future organization leaders.
Visit the Maple Leaf Foods employer page to learn more about the Leadership Track Program.
What does a successful career at Maple Leaf foods look like?
There is no set path. The program aims to give graduates experiences in three very different functions of the business that will ultimately help them make better decisions as future leaders. We spoke to four Maple Leaf Foods leaders who started in the Leadership Track Program and now have successful careers that are quite different from where they began.
Adam Grogan joined the program 22 years ago. He completed his rotations in sales, supply chain, and finally graduated from the program as a Category Marketing Manager. He continued to pursue several leadership roles in marketing with Maple Leaf Foods before joining Greenleaf Foods as the Chief Operations Officer.
For Adam, the biggest take away of the program was gaining a solid understanding of the business so early on in his career by working with a variety of people and quickly building experience.
“You’re actually put in a job — a job that needs to get done. So there’s accountability, there’s responsibility, and you really get to try something, and own something. It’s really foundational that you can accelerate that experience over a course of time and in so many different areas,” says Adam.
What kind of skills can the Leadership Track Program offer new graduates?
It’s in the name! The program helps graduates gain leadership experience right from the beginning of their careers. Ryan Walker is now the Vice President of Strategy at GreenLeaf Foods but when he joined the program fresh from university he worked in managerial roles in supply chain and operations. These leadership experiences were a valuable learning curve that Ryan carried to the executive level.
“I think the LTP program provides you with the opportunity to be in a leadership role or position extremely early in your career. At other places you have to earn that right–whether it’s supervision, project leadership, etc. The LT program gives you that experience up front and you’re going to use that as a base in any profession or functional path you choose,” says Ryan.
For Josh Kuehnbaum, the program helped him discover more than his leadership skills. Josh spent two of three rotations in supply chain and production before pursuing a career in sales and business development. In fact, Josh had never considered a career in sales until his one year rotation working as a Regional Account Manager in Ottawa. Now he is the Senior Vice President, Food Service Sales and Marketing at Maple Leaf Foods.
“[I discovered] how much I enjoyed being in an entrepreneurial type environment. I wouldn’t have known that as a graduate. So a benefit of the program is that you have an opportunity to find yourself in a way you may not have anticipated – I’m grateful to have had that opportunity because I probably wouldn’t have spent any time in sales otherwise,” says Josh.
What support do graduates receive in the Leadership Track Program?
For Monica Tam, a key part of her program experience was the mentorship she received from senior leaders to overcome challenges and excel in her career. She emphasizes that Maple Leaf Foods is an organization that is committed to giving new graduates real world experience, and management is keen on helping graduates learn as they work. Josh calls it “getting a real life MBA.”
Monica experienced this kind of real-world leadership from her very first rotation. When she joined the program seven years ago, Monica had to lead a team more experienced than herself and she was the only woman on the team.
“I remember being intimidated when I first started but everyone in the team really helped me gain that confidence to lead instead of looking on from the outside thinking: ‘She’s a young person just fresh out of university’,” says Monica.
Monica also worked in product management before finishing the program as a Marketing Associate. She is now the Director of Brand Marketing at Maple Leaf Foods. Throughout the program and her career she’s been grateful for Maple Leaf Foods’ culture of transparency that allowed her to connect and receive incredible support from her managers, peers and senior leadership.
“Because you work in three different functions you get to meet a lot of people throughout the three years, and I’ve been lucky to work with various different leaders too. Being part of this program, people have come to work with me and trusted me enough to give me a safety net to learn fast, to be okay to fail and try again. Their support has really helped to expedite my journey and helped me gain that confidence to lead,” says Monica.
Who is the ideal candidate for the Leadership Track Program?
Maple Leaf Foods isn’t looking for a candidate that fits into a certain box. The program is open to graduates from all fields and educational backgrounds. If you don’t yet have a career plan or if you’re unsure of what path to choose, the LTP is a great way for you to discover your strengths and forge your career. Maple Leaf Foods is invested in recruiting graduates who want to become the next generation of leaders.
However, Adam, Ryan, Josh and Monica believe that for a candidate to be successful in the program they must have these crucial traits:
Humility, and an eagerness to always be learning
“I think being a humble leader was something I gained through the LTP experience because every time I tried a different rotation I realized I didn’t know a lot, or much of anything and I had to re-learn it. That makes you more humble as a person. Also as you grow and mature as a business leader you realize there’s so much more to learn in each new role and from others too,” says Monica.
A willingness to be open to opportunity and new experiences
“I haven’t been in a single role longer than two and a half years. There’s variety, there’s evolution at Maple Leaf Foods. The elements of the program CASCADE across an entire career with the organization. We’re looking for people who understand that it’s not a three year journey and then lockdown into one role for the rest of your career,” says Ryan.
Entrepreneurial spirit, tenacity and resilience
“We’re looking for people that have a track record of success while exercising a level of humility, entrepreneurial spirit, tenacity and resilience to just figure it out because you won’t get a binder of instructions,” says Josh.
Flexibility and adaptability to grasp each new role quickly
“We want people who are REAL, who are direct, who have a bit of fun, are able to debate, don’t get too caught up in the hierarchy, and they just want to do good work, and be recognized for that. They wanna go somewhere where they can make a difference,” says Adam.