‘I’ve Learned a New Language Every Time I’ve Changed Careers’ — Advice for Career Changers

Sponsored by Peapod Digital Labs

Carina Machain

Photo courtesy of Peapod Digital Labs.

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“It’s been such a great learning adventure, and I look forward to seeing what new adventures may come my way,” says Carina Machain of her multifaceted career, which has included work in everything from education and operations to HR and data strategy. Machain has achieved such a diverse career background by using her passion for learning to make a number of career pivots in her life— and she’s glad she did. 

Looking back, her journey started when she graduated with a Mathematics and Spanish degree and began her professional career as a teacher who worked part time at a Peapod Facility. Peapod was an e-commerce brand based in the Midwest, and part of the companies of Ahold Delhaize USA, which include well-known retail brands such as Food Lion, Hannaford, the GIANT Company, Giant Food, and Stop & Shop. 

Then, a major catalyst in her career journey occurred — she was approached by her “best mentor to date,” James Sims. He “encouraged me to apply for a Training and Development Specialist position and take over their training curriculum for all associates within the Peapod warehouse,” shares Machain. While she initially said no, she ended up taking the opportunity. 

“It was an eye opener,” Machain recalls. “I loved every second of it. I was learning day in and day out, while meeting and working with people who literally built this business. Within a few months, my responsibilities started growing. I was asked to start working on other training curriculum for transportation and customer care. Soon after that I became more of a project manager, working on process improvement, helping with leadership training and translating meetings.”

This career growth was partially due to the fact that Machain’s eagerness to learn was clearly seen by everyone around her. “Opportunities just kept popping up. I then became responsible for Training and Development for all distribution centers,” she tells us. “I started traveling to different facilities, evaluating their training procedures and providing recommendations to standardize as much as possible.”

Despite loving her work, Machain knew that she wanted a job that enabled her to be at home. So, she left Peapod for another company where she helped create a new distribution center and played a significant role in streamlining their operations across the U.S. However, this was not to be a permanent departure. Her reentry to Peapod was sparked by her longtime mentor Sims, who was searching for someone to help him run the Midwest Operations. Machain took him up his offer, becoming a Peapod boomerang employee and making another large career pivot all in one move!

“I was challenged to become a labor management expert and led huge productivity initiatives that saved the company millions of dollars through engineered labor standards, pay for performance programs and, obviously, process improvement,” explains Machain. “It was a great ride!”

And her latest position was only just beginning. Machain took on roles in the Peapod Marketing team, followed by a role as a key player leading HR in the Midwest. Then, after a little over a year, “the company decided to exit the Midwest operations and closed the facility,” notes Machain. But this wasn’t the end of her journey with the brands of Ahold Delhaize USA.

Peapod Digital Labs (PDL), a sister brand to Peapod, offered her a role as a Commercial Strategy Manager. “This was probably the biggest change I had ever made within my career,” says Machain, “and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity! It was a whole new world outside of a warehouse environment.” 

Now, a year and a half later, Machain is serving as the Data Strategy Manager at PDL, where she leads Data Strategy for their Data & Analytics Center of excellence. 

In this article, Machain took the time out of her busy schedule to tell us more about her pivoter journey, how she’s grown and her best advice for you.

You’ve had such an amazing career journey! What drives you to make career changes?

My interest and passion for learning and leading have always pushed me to take on new challenges. I have always been lucky to find leaders who believe in me and mentor me throughout my career changes. Great leaders exist! (A huge thank you to Natalie Dupill, Simon Lee and Marc Stolzman!)

How have you benefited from the skills/experience you’ve gained in your unique career journey?

I’ve grown in many ways. I’ve gone from working as a team of one, very tactical, and reactive to a leader who is a proactive, strategic problem solver that can take on any challenge. I’ve learned a new language every time I’ve changed careers. I don't just speak English — I speak Ops, Marketing, D&A, HR, Supply Chain, Customer Service… you name it, I speak it.

How did you make this switch, and how did PDL support you in this process?

This all started with others recognizing my eagerness to learn and passion for leading and helping navigate through change. I’ve always had a great attitude and desire to bring people together. I love making people’s lives easier. These are all extremely valuable skillsets that others look for. I’ve also had great mentors and amazing coworkers, whom I’ve relied on for support — many of whom I now call friends.

Speaking of great colleagues, what are your favorite things about working at PDL?

The people I work with. Through the difficulties brought on by COVID-19, the company still offers an amazing collaborative and welcoming environment. There is not a single meeting that I have been a part of where I have not felt valued and appreciated.

What’s your advice for other women who are thinking about making a career pivot?

You are more than qualified for that role. You are more than qualified to make more money. Don't question yourself and go for it. With a determined and disciplined attitude, there is nothing out there that you cannot conquer.

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