“I love working for a company that places full trust in our ability to do what's expected of us.” 

Valerie Ntinu

Communications Manager, Leadership & Strategy

Communications Manager, Leadership & Strategy

Valerie Ntinu was born in Kenya to a Nigerian father and a Kenyan mother and was raised between Nairobi and Toronto. Her career at Ahold Delhaize started in the company’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) department, where she stayed until she moved to the Corporate Communications team in late 2022. “My goals are constantly evolving. I love my current job and life, but I could also be running a cafe in Montreal in a year from now.”

If you had asked Valerie 10 years ago whether she could picture herself working at a corporate organization like Ahold Delhaize, her answer would have most likely been a firm ‘no’. As an International Studies student, she envisioned herself working in the non-governmental sector. “It was my dream to work for the United Nations (UN) one day. She moved to the Netherlands in 2014 to study. “After finishing my master's in Media, Culture and Society, I was fortunate enough to land an internship at the UN African headquarters in Nairobi. I was over the moon! This was it: I would do my internship, get a permanent contract and work for the UN for 30 years – at least.”   

But life had other plans for Valerie. Six months at the UN left her slightly disillusioned. “I thought we’d be going into communities and really helping people, but I didn’t feel like we really made much of an impact. After the internship finished, I returned to the Netherlands, absolutely clueless about what it was I wanted to do next, but determined to figure it out.” 

Where corporate and activism meet 

A few months later she started at Ahold Delhaize, a company that had never really been on her radar but that offered her an interesting position in their European Diversity & Inclusion department. “I won’t lie – I needed to get my head around the fact that I was joining a big corporate. But the fact that I was going to be employed in the DE&I department made me think about it differently. Yes, I would be working at a large corporate, but by being part of their DE&I team, I could still put on my activist hat and try to achieve some of my bigger goals – like developing a more honest, inclusive recruitment process.” 


Obviously, she had some preconceived ideas about working for Ahold Delhaize. “I expected it to be all about deliverables – work over everything else and no sleep. Turns out I was wrong: the working culture at the company is one of the most flexible I’ve ever experienced. I love that role models at Ahold Delhaize lead by example in this regard by leaving early to pick up their kids from school or starting later on Fridays to fit in an early gym session. In order for me to enjoy my job, I need a good work-life balance. Work is definitely important, but it’s not my entire life. I need to be able to offset it with other important aspects of my life, such as travel, holidays and spending time with friends. I love working for a company that doesn’t micromanage, but places full trust in our ability to do what’s expected of us.” 

In the DE&I department, doing what’s expected of you can be very fulfilling. “There have certainly been some milestones worth celebrating. Like when we visited all our brands in Europe for the first time after the pandemic to have in-depth discussions about their DE&I agendas. We presented them with a list of equity items we wanted to address, one being the introduction of gender-neutral restrooms. It’s a sensitive topic, particularly at our brands in Central and Southeast Europe. During our conversation with them, we could see their stance changing from a hard ‘no’ to a ‘maybe’, and it’s now evolved to a point where more and more of our brands’ offices have actually installed such restrooms. Seeing our DE&I agenda develop and have an impact is the most rewarding feeling.”  

Mastering new skills daily 

In late 2022, Valerie was ready for the next step. When she got the opportunity to expand her skills as Manager Leadership & Strategy in the Corporate Communication team, she didn’t hesitate. “I had worked with the communications team before, and was always very interested in gaining more strategic skills in that area. By joining the team, I got the opportunity to develop these skills and many others. Every day I learn so much, gain new insights and really build my expertise. Maybe one day I’ll return to the DE&I sphere and apply the skills I’m mastering now to maximize my impact – that would be great. But in all honesty, I’m not really sure what the future holds for me. There are a lot of people who have very clear five-year plans. I’m a bit of an anomaly: my plans and goals evolve constantly. I could still be working in communications a year from now, or I could have returned to DE&I, but I could also be running a cafe in Montreal.” 

Making an impact is important to Valerie, both at work and in her professional life. One of her most rewarding, impactful endeavors is drINKcafe, an initiative she launched as an action project during her fellowship with Humanity in Action. What was originally a once-off event has become a calendar highlight that Valerie organizes occasionally, whenever she has time for it. “DrINKcafe offers a space for queer people of color to come together, paint and discuss whatever’s on their minds. The group is usually small, approximately 10 people, and we just talk about things that matter to us, things we romanticize or dream about. It’s fantastic to meet people and connect with them, and be able to give them the opportunity to feel seen and have meaningful conversations. Being the link between them is extremely rewarding and makes me feel like I truly make a difference in their lives.” 


Name: Valerie Ntinu (1995) 
Started working at Ahold Delhaize: August 2020 
Studied: MA Media, Culture & Society (Erasmus University Rotterdam, 2019)  
Hobbies: Traveling, organizing drINKcafe, reading (modern African literature), watching Netflix and swimming. My twin sister – with whom I moved to the Netherlands – and I recently learned how to swim. We’ve earned our Dutch A and B swimming diplomas and will be going for our C certificate soon 
Wake me up in the middle of the night for: A Kimchi Smash Burger or a Domino’s margherita pizza 
Favorite holiday destination: Montreal 
Life-changing event: My recent trip to Montreal. It was my first-ever solo trip. I was actually supposed to go with my boyfriend, but we split up just before we were meant to go. The fact that I still went on my own and had the most amazing time was life-changing 
Biggest source of inspiration: My friend Sophie. Despite the cards she has been dealt in the short time she's been on earth so far, she leads with so much genuine care and empathy for the people in her life. Being her friend is truly an honor 
Best advice I’ve ever received: “Like a bow and arrow, you sometimes need to go backward to go forward” 

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