Nicole Devoe Watson, 34
Director of association relations, Hannaford
Nicole Devoe Watson became a Hannaford supermarket store manager at the age of 23. At the time, she wasn’t sure if the was ready for the responsibility of essentially running a multi-million-dollar business.
“It was intimidating but it was also good,” said Devoe Watson. “I felt like I had a lot of support, and it helped me push myself.”
Now, at age 34, Devoe Watson is the director of the company’s associate relations, a position where she oversees the employment practices for all Hannaford retail stores and the corporate office, which employ more than 10,000 people. In this new role, which she began in March, she develops strategies that advocate the rights of employees while balancing the needs of the business.
“There aren’t a lot of organizations that would take someone on the operations side and ask if they’d be interested in human resources,” she said. “Within our organization, I think Hannaford really focuses on looking for talent. They take risks on people.”
Devoe Watson, who grew up in Eagle Lake in Aroostook County and earned her business degree at the University of Maine, went to work directly for Hannaford after graduation as a retail management trainee. When she became a store manager, she would be asked about the challenges of taking on such a position at a young age.
“People would say, ‘You’re too young to be a store manager,’” said Devoe Watson. “I have not focused on that. Everyone has strengths that matter. It’s really how you focus on the things that come naturally to you and what you’re good at.”
Devoe Watson also chairs Hannaford’s United Way campaign, a role that includes planning fund-raising and coordinating their participation in the United Way’s annual Day of Caring. This September 300 corporate employees volunteered on community projects around greater Portland. She notes that it is the community that supports their stores and so she feels it is important to give back.
“I feel lucky and fortunate to have what I have and I feel like it’s my way of making a contribution in a bigger way than just financially,” said Devoe Watson. “We are successful because of the customers that come in and trust us.”