Associate Spotlight - Cristin, Training and Development Manager

You would think Cristin Sutherland has been working at Coke Northeast for years the way she is able to walk into a room and instantly connect with associates. But she actually started at Coca-Cola Londonderry just over two years ago as the Large Store District Sales Manager (DSM). Now, Cristin is the new Training and Development Manager at Coke Northeast.

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Q: You have a really special way of making other people instantly feel comfortable. It seems like you’ve known them forever. Is this a skill that is natural to you or is it learned?
A: It’s not something that came naturally to me, but it’s something I learned is important. I think people tend to gravitate towards positivity and can gain a comfort level quicker when you can establish a trust relationship and build emotional equity with people. It’s definitely helpful in all generations of our workforce, and it’s a very transferable skill that I do pride myself in. I’m a very good networker.

 Q:  Even though you started less than 3 years ago, you have a pretty extensive background that lends itself to what you do here. Can you talk about your career path?
A: I spent 23 years with Hannaford’s Supermarkets as a store manager at four of their locations. Then I went to work for BJs Wholesale Club, where I was a general manager. The last company I worked for was Price Chopper Supermarkets, and I ran three buildings for them. I worked closely with a lot of the guys from the Coca-Cola Lowell branch when I first started working for Hannaford’s so I maintained contact over the years. When I heard about the acquisition of the new territory, I dug into it a little bit more and thought that it might be a great time for me to try something different! There are a lot of skill sets that I had as a store manager that really lend me to be successful here.

 Q: You’ve been in your new role now for a few months. Can you share some of the things you’re doing?  A: I’m helping to oversee the entire company’s training and development needs. It’s exciting and something I’m really passionate about. I really think that our people are our best asset so we need to take care of them – making sure people have mentors and making sure people can really flourish in the environment that we have!

The first item that I’ve been tasked with is rolling out the performance appraisal process. It’s something that we’ve used in the past here, but we haven’t necessarily done it in a very structured way. This will really be the first year that we set expectations and put some systems in place to make sure that these are getting completed in a consistent, standard way. I want to make sure that all of our great employees are getting those one-on-one conversations that they deserve and need from their direct supervisors.

Q: What has the transition been like coming from a sales center to sitting in the corporate office?
A: I think the reason I’m such a good fit for this role is that I am a sales center person, and I do understand the challenges that they’re facing every single day. I love being in the sales centers, I want to be in the sales centers. I’m able to connect with our associates on that level and let them know that I want to be a support mechanism. I can bring things back to corporate for you and create a really beneficial two-way dialogue. So far it’s been really great! When our teams come together, corporate and sales centers, that’s when we really kind of understand each other, and the Coke Energy Blitz is a great example of that. We all have really important roles to play in this company, and if we respect and understand each other at a better level, then we can be that much more of a high-performing team.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
A: The most challenging aspect of my role is that I’m a department of one. So there’s one of me and 3,500 associates. Being able to be in as many places as possible, interact with as many people as possible, and positively impact those people as best that I can, that’s the most challenging part of this!

Q: Would you recommend working at Coke Northeast to someone? If so, what would you say to them?
A: Yes! I think that the things that are going on here are just tremendous. I think that the company and our leadership really cares about our employees, and that’s what separates us and puts us in a best–in-class situation. I think that we’re uniquely situated to be very successful in the future too because of that, so it’s a great time and great place. It’s a company that you can have a full career with. I’m going to retire here, and I want other people to feel that same way.

Q: What’s your favorite product that we distribute?
A: I like Gold Peak Unsweetened tea, and I’m super excited about new Honest Tea “Just” Black Tea. I like all of the smartwater flavors, but at heart I’m a sparkling water girl. I would say right now my favorite is Canada Dry Peach Seltzer.

Q: What do you do when you’re not working?
A: My husband Lee and I have two daughters Katelyn, 13, and Caryssa, 10 and two dogs, Piper and Bruin. I just recently got into CrossFit and feel like working at Coca-Cola Londonderry has given me an advantage there.

Thank you, Cristin, for your positive attitude and dedication to our associates’ growth! If you or someone you know is interested in career opportunities at Coke Northeast please visit careers.cokenortheast.com.