Walgreens is fond of telling its loyal clientele that it’s “at the corner of Happy and Healthy.” If you’re looking for someone special at that intersection, someone who’s dedicate to making the happy and the healthy happen, you’re likely to find Andrea Collaro.
As Senior Director of Brand Management and Product Development for the Walgreens Boots Alliance, Collaro oversees all products under the Walgreens banner. If it sounds like an incredible responsibility, it is — not just to Walgreens customers, but also to young women who look up to strong female business leaders.
If anyone needs proof she’s a role model of the highest order, consider this: The National Association of Professional Women has inducted Collaro into its VIP Woman of the Year Circle 2015-2016. NAPW is the nation’s leading networking organization exclusively for professional women, with more than 775,000 members. The honor recognizes Collaro for her leadership in health and wellness.
“I hope to make a difference in people’s lives by developing best-in-class products that are affordable to everyone,” says Collaro, who leads a team of 11 in managing one of the largest brands in the world.
A Chicago native who grew in Bridgeport, Collaro inherited Italian ancestry from both parents; her mother’s family hails from Sicily and her father’s from Calabria. “My Italian heritage is that of a strong, hard working people,” she says. “From a very young age I was taught the importance of a strong work ethic. And my mother has always been my cheerleader.”
Mom was certainly there as Collaro faced the most challenging period in her chosen field: the six years of non-stop studying required to complete her doctorate in pharmacy. While in school, Collaro started as a pharmacy technician at Walgreens. She then moved up to pharmacist after graduating from the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy in 1997. (Her undergraduate degree from Loyola University Chicago is in pharmacy as well.)
Collaro just celebrated her 25-year anniversary with Walgreens Boots Alliance, and it’s been a fulfilling ride so far. It’s meant many promotions that honed her skills in management, sales, retail and product development, to name a few areas.
“The most rewarding aspect of my career has been the ability to move around the company and learn different aspects of the business,” she says. That’s also meant some fun-sounding titles along the way, including “Category Manager, Cough Cold Allergy & Lip Care.”
Yet it’s serious business to have established a track record that’s so impressed the NAPW. And with a heart for inspiring pharmacy students hoping to follow her path, she offers this prescription for success: “Learn as much as you can. Work hard and when opportunities present themselves don’t be afraid to take them — even if you feel uneasy. For every move I made forward, I was a bit uncomfortable. But it always opened up the door for other opportunities.”
And if you’re Italian, don’t be shy about tapping the core strengths that come with it. “I am very proud of my Italian heritage,” she says. “Being a part of this rich community of people has been influential to my success.”