Next time you step into Woolworths, notice how the products are placed on the shelves. Every single product, why it is available in your local store, where it is located on the shelf and how much of it has been strategically placed there for a reason — and it’s all to do with data science. Pascale Al-Khoury is the Product Manager for Range & Space which sits within Information Technology. It was fascinating to hear Pascale explain the science behind the product mapping — but perhaps what’s even more fascinating to us is her career journey at Woolworths.
Making space for great relationships
We asked Pascale to share with us little more about what Range & Space is all about and what her role involves. She says the easiest way to explain it is,
“We use data insights to determine what products go to what store to best meet local demand, determining the store layout and how many shelves we need in the stores. We then create a planogram and draft how products are arranged on the shelf. I look after a group of people within IT which includes business and systems analysts along with a DevOps team. My role involves end to end accountability of the portfolio across range and space applications and working as a close agile team to enable the delivery of business strategy through technology.”
With exceptional stakeholder management, we could say Pascale is the ‘face of IT’, translating technical speak to simple, easy to understand ways to engage the business. She is very intentional about developing and sustaining relationships which have resulted in greater project support.
We asked Pascale what it was like starting at Woolworths straight out of university.
“I studied a Masters in IT and majored in web engineering. Woolworths was my first IT job back in 2004. I started out on the service desk. I’ve always been career-driven, which is why for the first six years, I quickly progressed at Woolworths. Then I moved to Dick Smith, which was part of Woolworths at the time. I was there to shift the culture of IT and business — specifically making IT work for the business better.
Pascale says she was sad when Dick Smith was liquidated but is proud to have seen the culture transformed during her time there.
“After Dick Smith was liquidated, I moved back to Woolworths in a new role. My strength is relationship building and the beauty of returning to Woolworths was that people still knew me and we picked up with the valuable relationships that had been built across the business over the years.”
My miracle baby
A few days after re-joining the Woolworths team, Pascale was thrilled to find out she was pregnant. Four days after returning to Woolworths, I found out I was pregnant after trying for many years after having my first child. I delivered a project, and then I delivered my miracle baby.”
Pascale says there is a lot of workplace flexibility at Woolworths. When she returned to work from parental leave the first time around, she came back to a more senior role.
“I was promoted and being a new mum wasn’t a limitation in any way. People kept in contact with me throughout my parental leave. All the managers were keeping me in the loop. This is why people can spend entire careers at Woolworths – it provides opportunities to grow. Even if it’s the same job title, you can work in different projects and departments. All of my managers have been very supportive throughout my career. You saw that culture throughout COVID-19 with the level of support the business provided to all its team members.”
Diversity and inclusion is important to Pascale and she believes Woolworths is putting a lot of effort into gender equality.
“We are working on a number of avenues to promote gender balance in IT. For instance, making sure we include women in interview panels when hiring for a role and looking at the percentage of women in shortlists and leadership roles.”
Pascale was part of a comprehensive leadership program for women run by Woolworths called Elevate as part of her career development.
“Elevate was a seven-month intensive program. There were ten women from IT and ten from the supply chain team. It was a great opportunity to learn more about my strengths and better understand how to manage the things I’m not as good at .”
Don’t forget to have fun
When Pascale is not working, she loves to play the piano and watch films. She enjoys drawing and coloring in. She finds it relaxing and says it helps her think and process things better. It’s no wonder coloring-in for adults has been so popular as a mindfulness activity. When we spoke to her, she opened up her notebook to show the intricate drawings and swirls on the side of the page.
We asked Pascale to share her top tips for a successful career. She says to always have the right attitude.
“You can always learn new skills, but you have to be willing to take the challenges. It’s important you commit and deliver on that. I’m a positive person. I relate to people easily and make a conscious effort to build strong relationships with my stakeholders.”
Pascale is comfortable in her own skin and feels she can freely be herself at work.
“I like to work with my team in a fun way. I’m not hierarchical, I seek input from people. I like to joke, laugh, be real and I try to bring out the best in people by encouraging them to be themselves.”