As part of Women’s History Month we’re presenting a series of interviews with women who are making history in cannabis. These are founders, CEOs, vice presidents and senior vice presidents who have taken a winding road to the positions they are in now. Many are fueled by compassion and a desire to initiate change, and they have the gusto to do it.
Follow along this month as we present women in leadership positions both internally at MedMen and at popular brands that make cannabis products for enjoyment, wellness, and even for our furry friends.
MedMen’s Senior Vice President of Supply Chain, Ruchi Birdi, originally got her training in Finance, but spent the next 10+ years in fashion. She already knew she was attracted to retail companies with elevated customer experience and quality of product. Then, in comes MedMen.
Where are you from? Tell us about yourself.
I was born in India and I moved to the United States when I was 16 years old. I went to college in Rhode Island where I majored in Finance. While I started working at Gartner after graduating, I built a life-long career in fashion and retail through Guess and then at True Religion where I worked for over 10 years. In August 2018 I joined MedMen.
How did your career in cannabis get started?
I have been following the industry for years now. Being part of retail, I started learning about the emerging players across the cannabis space. An industry at the forefront of changing the rules that we live by, sparked great interest so I started talking to people who worked in the space.
What brought you to MedMen?
Prior to starting a MedMen, I had perceived MedMen as the most elevated player in the cannabis space. In my mind, there is nothing greater than customer experience and quality of product. With MedMen being the Apple of the cannabis industry, I was naturally attracted to the brand. As I started looking at companies within the cannabis space, I was focused on having discussions only with those companies that were associated with the things I believed in—customer experience, elevated stores, and elevated product.
What has your professional experience been like as a woman in cannabis?
The industry is very open and I have found that collectively we are all learning this new space. This sets us all up to be equal partners in an environment where one is awarded for their contribution, regardless of gender. I enjoy that.
Do you feel that opportunities for men and women are equal in the cannabis space?
Yes I do. As we all learn this space together, we win as a team and individuals are awarded not on gender but through the contributions we each make to take the industry and the business forward. I would not necessarily say that for other industries I have been in.
What have been your biggest challenges in your professional career? Do you feel that you face these issues in the cannabis space?
My biggest challenge in my professional career has been making changes within the business to keep a company fresh, innovative, and moving forward. When companies have done business a certain way for so many years, there is an inertia to change. Cannabis on the other hand, is a relatively new industry with fast changing rules and regulations. What worked yesterday, won’t work today. Hence, I find that the mindset in the cannabis space, especially at MedMen, is that of embracing change and continuing to move forward at light speed by being flexible and nimble. I enjoy that every day.
Are you a cannabis user? What is your favorite product and/or strain?
I have a history of back pain and have had two disc replacements in my neck. I do use the Papa and Barkley patches which help with pain.
What are your hopes for the cannabis industry?
Legislatively, I would hope that the industry continues to move towards Federal legalization. The benefits to both our government and to people would be tremendous. It would make the business easier to manage and would reduce the taboo/stigma that’s associated with cannabis today.
What advice would you give women who are looking to enter into the cannabis space?
My advice is that cannabis continues to be an explosive frontier where there is plenty of opportunity. For women who are trying to enter in the cannabis space, my advice is to be innovative and push the industry forward.