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Embracing the Journey: A Q&A With Carrie Mack, Senior Sourcing Manager, Walmart

Embracing the Journey: A Q&A With Carrie Mack, Senior Sourcing Manager, Walmart

"When you earn a seat at the table, make room for others.”

Without knowing it, Carrie Mack has given me a gift with these words—one sought after so often that it can seem elusive for those like myself in the middle of their journeys: strength of purpose.

When our own Managing Editor, Melissa De Leon Chavez, first interviewed the Senior Sourcing Manager of Walmart—responsible for all apples and pears—for an IF List, I could not help but feel the gravity in her words, both thoughtful and deeply genuine.

What intrigued me then, and still does now, is her ability to balance the scales of truth and compassion in an ever more competitive space like retail—which demands a 25-hours-a-day, eight-days-a-week work ethic. My advice is to lean in when people like Carrie speak. Her words are chosen wisely and naturally, with both warmth and spirit.

Since the questions we asked her before only created more questions for myself, Carrie was more than happy to share her time with us as we dug a little deeper into the way she sees the world.

Jordan Okumura-Wright: Carrie, thank you again for joining us on your journey and for giving us the gift of your time. To start, what gets you up in the morning?

Carrie Mack, Senior Sourcing Manager, Walmart: CONSUMPTION! I believe that if you work in the fresh produce industry, you have a responsibility to be driving the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Taking an active role in increasing affordable fresh produce for the health of families and our grower partners is critical.

JOW: I feel like that response could easily be the answer to this question as well. What keeps you up at night?

CM: Labor. 100 percent.

The availability of labor, cost of labor, and the policies surrounding labor are a constant concern. Automation and technology continue to evolve, but the solution is not readily available.

JOW: That is no small issue, if not the nightmare keeping most folks' sleep at bay. Despite the challenges, what inspires the work you do today and the way in which you hope to evolve in the future?

CM: I have a strong belief that the produce industry is fundamentally a people business. Building strategic partnerships benefiting customers, retailers, and vendors is the goal. I am grateful for the strong relationships that I have developed with growers and suppliers over my career, partners that contribute to feeding the country. My hope is that increased curiosity about food sources and connecting consumers with growers, farmers, and ranchers will move the needle on consumption.

Witnessing the rise of produce influencers fills my heart.

JOW: What advice do you have for the up-and-comers in the industry, or anyone looking for direction at a fork in the road—self-imposed or otherwise?

CM: For those entering the industry, remember we are all individuals, and everyone’s journey is unique—a mix of sprints, hurdles, and detours. Be authentic, empathetic, and curious. Embrace risk, own your mistakes (we all make them), and learn from them. Stay attentive, and when you earn a seat at the table, make room for others.

JOW: How do you create balance in your life between the work and the personal?

CM: Taking all tips, tricks, and advice on this topic! My New Year’s resolution for 2024 is saying “no” more often. Also, prioritizing meaningful projects over quantity is my big attempt to strive for more balance. #workaholic.

JOW: As a woman striving to find her identity in this industry and in life, I tend to struggle with which parts of myself to amplify and which to temper. Do you have any advice on how to navigate this kind of space or process?

CM: I struggled for years—my mouth was both my best and worst asset. Over time, I surrounded myself with supportive women, my “shoulder buddies.” I am not the best with formal mentors. They helped me develop the art of using my voice more effectively. My advice is to stay true to yourself. Embrace and amplify the qualities that make you unique and confident. Be open to learning, adapting, and growing, but never feel the need to compromise your authenticity. Finding your identity is a journey, and it is okay to evolve along the way.

JOW: Maybe a little random, but I love a good pivot. What is your favorite color, sound, or word (or all three) and why?

CM: My kids are grown and out of the house, so I am a total dog mom! The welcoming sound of the Mack Pack, their excited pitter-patter and enthusiastic panting, is my favorite. The symphony of snoring, maybe not so much.

JOW: I often wonder if those in fresh produce are born with a specific set of instincts and motivations or if the industry shapes them. Maybe a little bit of both. What inspires your love of fresh produce and the greater industry?

CM: There are so many reasons why I love produce, but one would be the constant challenges it presents.

Each day is unique, with no two crops being exactly alike. Dealing with perishable commodities brings hiccups, hurdles, and continuous learning, and is an environment I thrive in. The shared goal of increasing fresh produce consumption fosters a natural camaraderie within the industry. If we are not all moving toward that shared goal, it might be worth reviewing our priorities.

Some people navigate the path ahead in such a manner that it gives others license to walk a little taller, a little further, and to the beat of their own drum. I see Carrie Mack as one of these beacons, evolving the spirit of produce with each step.