Opportunity

When an Obstacle Opens Doors to a Better Life

When I arrived in Pass Christian, Mississippi, in 2009, I knew putting down roots would come with its share of challenges. A native of Peru, I didn't speak much English and couldn't even help my 9-year-old daughter with her homework. But I was willing to do whatever it took as long as there was an opportunity.

Walmart store #5079 extended me that opportunity as a part-time associate in the deli. Being able to make a living in my new country not only motivated me to learn English, but also pursue my GED certificate so I could better provide for and assist my daughter. Looking back, doors have continued to open for me from the very first day I was hired. I’ve made lifelong friends, earned U.S. citizenship, been promoted to full-time training coordinator, and built a life I'd always envisioned – which includes long walks with my family along the Gulf Coast.

Today, my English – and confidence – have grown so much that I’m pursuing my new dream of becoming a human resources manager with Walmart. Taking inspiration from my store manager, Lynn Day, I’ve started working toward my associate degree through Walmart’s partnership with American Public University.

Encouragement and support from people like Lynn helps me continue to realize my goals. She’s such a great mentor to me – and that’s what I want to become for the people around me.

I believe that knowledge is power. And I believe if I have the knowledge, I have the power to help people.

Editor’s note: Discover more stories like this.

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Opportunity

How a Supercenter Became the Setting for a Mom’s Fresh Start

Fifteen years ago, I spoke very little English, my husband had abandoned me and my 2-year-old son, and I was being evicted from my apartment. For several months, we were even living out of my car.

Having recently moved to the U.S. from Chile, all I had was my son and the job I’d recently started at a Walmart Supercenter in Boynton Beach, Florida. And that job ended up providing the support system I needed to rebuild my life. When Eunice, an associate in deli, heard I was being evicted, she opened her home to my son, Sebastian, and me. She took us in and would never accept a dime for it. When I had to work, Eunice and other associates arranged their personal schedules to help take care of Sebastian.

There were many nights I cried myself to sleep because I didn't know how things were going to turn out. But, the love and support I received from my coworkers at Walmart lit a fire under me. I committed to learning everything I could – moving from deli, to seafood, to fresh, to the meat department. My store manager even agreed to give me a chance to try working in receiving. Any part of the business I wanted to learn, my team at Walmart accommodated.

At the end of 2004, I applied for the company’s assistant manager program and was accepted. That was the miracle that turned my life around. I’ll never forget buying a new car and, a few years later, my own home. So many times, I just stood there smiling. As I did so, I thought about Eunice and the other Walmart associates who stepped forward when I was in desperate need. I could not have done it without them.

I’ve since served in a variety of managerial roles at Walmart stores in Florida. My career has helped me provide the kind of life I always wanted for Sebastian. But it also led me to meet a wonderful man, get married and grow my family from two to five.

Earlier this year, I helped open the new Walmart Neighborhood Market in Palm Beach, which I now manage, and it has been an absolute blessing. More than 60% of the customers in my store speak Spanish, so there’s a natural connection between us. I’m able to lead and create opportunities for the associates around me, just as Walmart did for me.

Editor’s Note: For more of Pamela’s story, here’s a recent article published in the Sun-Sentinel’s Spanish newspaper, El Sentinel.

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Opportunity

When a Second Chance at Education Changes Your Life

Sometimes opportunity flashes at the most unexpected times. Like earlier this year, when I happened to look over my husband’s shoulder and noticed an advertisement that has already changed the course of my life.

My husband, an assistant manager at the Walmart supercenter in Palakta, FL, was searching for advancement opportunities on WalmartOne.com – the company intranet. What jumped out at me was the fact that eligible family members of Walmart associates could earn their high school equivalency free of charge via GEDWorks or the Career Online High School program. A bad situation as a teenager kept me from finishing high school – and bills and the decision to start a family made it difficult to ever hop back in and get it done.

But with this, someone was willing to pay my way. I was a little nervous about being lost or overwhelmed at first, but a counselor was always available to answer my questions from the second I enrolled in the program. A short while later, I’d passed my tests and had my high school equivalency. The feeling of pride is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, and I’m already focused on going to school to become an obstetrics nurse.

I’ve seen the doors Walmart has opened for my husband in his career. The fact that the company is willing to invest in the education of eligible family members like myself, through its Lifelong Learning program, is a blessing.

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Opportunity

The Vision I Needed for My Dream Job

It may seem like an unlikely career path, going from working at the Auto Care Center at Walmart to becoming a professional eye doctor.

Ten years ago, I would never have guessed that I would be headed into optometry. Ten years ago, I didn’t even really know what optometry was.

What I did know was that Walmart offered its associates opportunities to experience different types of jobs throughout the company. So once I completed our Management Training Program, I worked in several different departments. Each of them was interesting in a unique way, but nothing felt like the perfect fit.

Then a friend mentioned an opening in the Vision Center, and it was like a lightning strike. I immediately knew this was the direction I wanted to take. A colleague who was mentoring me saw my excitement and urged me to go back to school. My wife and I talked about it over the next year, and finally I took the plunge.

Within two years I had become a licensed optician, able to dispense glasses and contact lenses. It was a big step, but I knew I wanted to go further. So we packed up everything and moved to Memphis, hoping that I would be accepted to The Southern College of Optometry. Sure enough, our faith paid off and now I’m an associate doctor of optometry – finally doing something I’m passionate about.

I love helping people. I love putting that first pair of glasses on a kid, and watching his or her eyes light up, being able to see clearly for the first time.

Even though I have a lot of responsibilities, I still have the flexibility to spend time with my family. I’ve been incredibly blessed. And I can say with complete honesty had I not had that job changing tires at Walmart, I would not be where I am today.

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Opportunity

How Honeybees Landed Me a Career in Online Grocery

For a lot of people, there’s nothing like getting lost in a good book. Personally, I’ve always had a thing for maps.

There’s something about being able to see specific locations and everything in between, mapped out across a landscape. Ever since I was a little girl, that’s been my happy place. As the years passed, that fascination led me to Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, where I studied – and mapped – the patterns of migratory birds and foraging dynamics of honeybee colonies.

The one thing I’d never mapped out was the correlation between movements of non-human species and my ability to play an instrumental role in Walmart’s growing online grocery business. But it happened.

In addition to growing a network of honeybee hives and bee enthusiasts in the Bay Area for the past three years, I’ve begun using my doctorate in geographic information systems to help Walmart map its online grocery footprint. Whether it’s bees foraging for nectar, or humans trying to get their groceries, the bottom line is migratory patterns are influenced by geographic spaces. As a geospatial analyst, I plot data on a series of very detailed maps, rather than into spreadsheets. That’s always helped me visualize the whole story – and it’s helping Walmart see the bigger picture today.

I’m studying and plotting the similarities and differences in each of the markets we serve. I’m interested in how topography, density and other factors determine how we can serve customers in each market. I look at geographic trends to help make informed decisions on where we’ve launched the service, and how our presence will impact patterns over time.

The whole process is very scientific – and what’s especially exciting to me is the access to data. While conducting ecological studies on the migratory and foraging patterns of birds, I had to gather every ounce of data on my own. Sometimes, that meant spending an entire year to gather a few specific pieces of information. Here, I have access to a mix of data that’s already there. My job is to put it into a framework and come up with a conclusion. It's unlike anything I’ve been a part of before.

As Walmart continues to expand its online grocery service – and as we experiment with new capabilities – geospatial mapping will continue to play a prominent role. And that’s my happy place.

Editor’s Note: You can read more about Associate Heather Gamper in this recent article, “7 Fortune 500 Jobs That Seem Too Good to Be True.”

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