Alicia White grew up with visions of going to court and practicing law, inspired by her dad’s best friend. That’s until she went to law school.
“I got into law school and thought I’m never going to court,” she says with a smile. Instead, White developed an interest in contracts and in the governance side of law. Plus, with an undergraduate degree in management, she found herself drawn to the business world. She realized a law degree would complement her business acumen no matter where she ended up.
White’s five years in private practice only further deepened her interest in business, especially when she got a chance to support Whole Foods as outside counsel. She learned about the company and formed key relationships, but she wanted more.
“That’s when I realized that I would much rather be in-house,” she recalls. “You would be assigned a contract to review and only get a small piece of the puzzle.” White wanted the inside perspective to understand the company’s risk tolerances, providing her with the full picture and the tools necessary to make the best possible decision for the company.
So, in 2006, White joined Whole Food’s ranks as an in-house attorney and has been with the company for nearly twenty years. Today, she serves as deputy general counsel for operational transactions, corporate governance, and regulatory compliance. In her role, she manages a team responsible for merchandising, supply chain, retail operations, and corporate governance legal support. Further, she oversees incident management and compliance for food safety and quality.
This position has allowed her to achieve her long-time dream: merging her love for law and business.
“What’s special about my role is the diversity in it,” she says. “I’m not just a lawyer anymore. I’ve become a business leader, which is what I wanted to do in the first place.”
The majority of White’s team are not lawyers and paralegals but instead members of supply chain food safety and quality, facilities safety, and incident management. Because of the variety of people that she works with, White gets to influence many areas of Whole Foods’ business and collaborate with leadership from different teams.
Throughout her time at the company, White has evolved a lot. When she joined, she was just one of three lawyers on a small-but-mighty legal team and spent years taking on a variety of responsibilities in the department. As she became a leader, she was tasked with transitioning some of her peers to work beneath her. While situations like that were difficult, they helped to shape the empathetic and inclusive leadership philosophy that she holds today.
She wants her team members to feel safe speaking up and to know that they are welcome, valued, and heard. “If someone’s not talking in a meeting, I think they don’t feel comfortable and I’m going to address that,” she notes. “I also make sure that each of my team members have my undivided attention when they reach out to me.”
As a leader, White also places emphasis on the importance of work/life balance and draws from her personal journey to relate with others.
“My family fuels me to be successful as a role model for my children,” reflects White, who is a mother of four. “This has also helped me as a leader. You never know what someone else has going on in their personal life that impacts them at work. You may have aging parents you are supporting, your own health issues, children, a partner to care for, etc. I always provide work flexibility when I can.”
Further, White serves on the company’s higher purpose committee, which works to align on the social and environmental impacts the company wants to make. White and her team are focused on compliance efforts related to the Food Safety Modernization Act for the foreseeable future. White and her colleagues have an abundance of exciting projects on the horizon at Whole Foods and even more potential to make a strong impact.