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Always Thinking Out of the Box 

Christina Barker
Vice President of Marketing and Digital Sales
The Middleby Corporation

Christina Barker has always had a knack for sponging off some of the greatest minds in the foodservice equipment industry, and for that she is thankful. From her early days in the industry working for TriMark Marlinn, the team took her under its wing and invited her to visit job sites.

“They really set me up for success in the industry because they took the time to teach me and that’s something that’s rare today,” says Barker, vice president of marketing and digital sales at Middleby.

It was at Middleby where Barker met Mark Easterday, who would become another important mentor in her career. “Mark told me to come to him with the most out-of-the-box ideas. He gave me space to think and then propped me, and others on the team, up to leadership,” Barker explains. “That gave us visibility where we wouldn’t have normally been ‘seen’ and a key component that I hope to carry forward.”

Building a Star-Studded Cast
Working with Easterday, Barker built out a star-studded cast that today serves as Middleby’s digital sales and marketing team. Together, they mapped out an aggressive strategy that started with arming the company’s sales reps with a digital sales enablement tool.

“We then stretched that strategy all the way to paid advertising and everything in between to ensure a powerful and sticky Middleby web [presence],” Barker says. “Nearly four years later, we’re witnessing the remarkable outcomes of our hard work and it’s genuinely one of the most exhilarating, rewarding and dynamic projects I’ve participated in.”

Seeking Out Opportunities
Barker is now giving back to the industry that she loves by providing people with the space to learn and try new things while always remembering that working in a silo is not a good leadership quality. “Showing others the importance of cross-functional teamwork is paramount for success as it expands your knowledge of the business,” says Barker, a member of the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers’ (NAFEM) Young Professional Council.

Through that association, she’s developed friendships within the industry; shared and discussed ideas; and relied on other members’ support and insights. Recently, she’s become more deeply involved in the Women’s Foodservice Forum, which focuses on empowering current and future industry leaders.

To other women who are either just getting into the industry or looking to advance their careers, Barker suggests seeking out opportunities to grow and never being afraid to tackle new challenges. “It’s sometimes easy to stay in your comfort zone, but that’s not where professional or personal growth happens,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to get a bit uncomfortable while experiencing something new. The reward is worth it.”

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