At just 23, Natalia Duane has experienced more than many people do in a lifetime.
A CRM and loyalty marketing specialist at Landover, Md.-based Giant Food, Duane was born in Japan and has lived in 10 countries, including Ghana, Morocco, Cambodia, and the Czech Republic, because of her mother’s position as a diplomat in the U.S. foreign service.
“My mother is my No. 1 role model and the strongest and most empowering person I ever met,” Duane said, noting that her politically active mother left Poland when it was under Soviet rule and became a refugee in France and then in the U.S. “She is the reason I have been able to get a global perspective on many things and she taught me a lot about the values and beliefs that I now hold and I’m super grateful for that upbringing.”
Those values include a strong interest in health and sustainability, which she hopes to enhance at the supermarket level, she said. “I’m on the younger side and bring a lot of fresh perspectives,” Duane said. “Health is already a big focus within grocery but sustainability is emerging and is not something that all groceries have taken a lead on.”
Duane initially had a summer internship with Giant Food, which operates 165 supermarkets in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia, while attending The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Following graduation and a year of travel, she began working for the company full time and manages Giant’s mass and targeted email communications and contributes to loyalty program strategies.
“Natalia brings that knowledge and passion for understanding other cultures, which is super important when thinking of things like diversity and inclusion,” said Melanie Butler, Giant Food loyalty and CRM strategy manager. “I see her as a manager one day and overseeing people. She is on our corporate council which impacts our culture and what we do for our associates and wants to keep growing, which is very important.”
Duane demonstrated her leadership potential to the company’s management when serving as an intern, Butler said. “I heard from our leadership of how impressed they were not only by Natalia’s work ethic, but also her ability to present and her passion was clear in everything that she did. At Natalia’s age, it is difficult to show that to leadership.”
The grocery sector’s reach into most households makes it an attractive sector in which to work, Duane said, but added that there are limits to what she will be able to accomplish.
“I care so much about the environmental portion of any industry, but there is only so much that I can do,” she said. “One of the challenges for me is making peace with the fact that there is so much that I can’t control in operations and the supply chain.”
Beyond sustainability, Duane said that she is ardent about providing Giant customers with the best shopping experience. “That helps me be productive because I am fueled by the desire to serve as many people as possible,” she said.