Heritage

Remembering Don Soderquist, Retired Walmart COO

Walmart’s culture – defined by our core values of service, respect and excellence – has always been key to our success.

That culture lost a very significant champion this week, as Don Soderquist, a key member of our company’s leadership team until his retirement in 2002, passed away.

Don joined Walmart in 1980 as executive vice president of administration and logistics and was a driving force behind our company’s growth. In fact, he led us through a period of significant progress from 1988 to 1999 when he served as vice chairman and chief operating officer. During his tenure, the company’s revenue increased from $1 billion to more than $200 billion.

Don epitomized the term servant leader. He was always thinking of others, provided great feedback and was encouraging to so many people. He had a deep passion for integrity, and it was Don who drafted our original core values. Don became known as the “Keeper of the Culture” after our founder, Sam Walton, passed away because he not only helped define our values – he lived out our culture and spoke passionately about it year after year. He truly believed that ordinary people could do extraordinary things when they worked together, and he taught the beliefs and values that supported that conviction for the rest of his life. Even after his retirement, he invested his time and energy into many associates who still work for the company.

After retirement, he established The Soderquist Center for Leadership and Ethics in Northwest Arkansas to provide values-focused development training to future generations of leaders. In 2005, he wrote the book “The Walmart Way” to teach others how to apply the lessons that made Walmart successful to their own lives and careers. He was also involved in numerous charitable organizations and served on several corporate boards.

Don touched so many lives here, and he will be dearly missed by his family and all of us at Walmart.

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Opportunity

An Easier Path Forward to Re-enter the Workforce

For many women like me, who take a career pause to focus on family and caregiving, returning to the workforce can be daunting, having to justify your prior experience at every turn.

And, also the self-doubt that comes along with it. Do I have the right skills? Is my experience still relevant? Who will hire me? Can I even juggle it all? These are just a few of the questions I faced when I decided to restart my career after a six-year hiatus to raise my two daughters. I shouldn't have had to though, because I was qualified and my experience was relevant. Experience doesn’t just disappear.

When I decided to return to the workforce, I suddenly had a lack of confidence – I thought, “no one is going to hire me.” Despite nearly four years of working in the financial industry and three years as a senior HR manager at the world’s largest fashion goods retailer, I felt I had to start all over. To get my foot back in the door, I accepted an administrative role in the payments technology industry.

It took several years of working my way through the ranks just to reach the same level of responsibility I had enjoyed at my previous job, and another several years to reach a position of greater authority. It also took important mentorships and people seeing something in me – that sometimes I didn’t see in myself anymore – to not only get back to where I was, but to find the confidence in myself again. Slowly but surely, my confidence came back. I’m very proud of my accomplishments there, but can’t help but wonder where my career would have taken me, or how much faster I would have advanced, if I hadn’t felt the need to start over.

About three years ago I started working at Walmart and I was greeted with an amazing culture based on a people-first value system.

Shortly after joining the team, Walmart recognized my potential and I was quickly promoted to positions of greater responsibility within Walmart’s global e-commerce and technology group. I now serve as Walmart Labs’ Vice President of People and am part of a team whose job is to create opportunities for employees to thrive in the workplace and at home. Our team wants to give everyone opportunities to succeed without sacrificing family or career. That’s why I’m pleased to announce a new partnership between Walmart and Path Forward, a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower people to restart their careers after time away for caregiving.

Beginning this fall, Walmart’s tech division, Walmart Labs, and Path Forward will offer a return-to-work program in our Sunnyvale and San Bruno offices. The program places an emphasis on learning and development and the gaining (and retraining) of skills, such as software engineering, product development and more. It will be open to women and men who have at least five years of professional experience and who took a career pause of at least two years for caregiving. In addition to dedicated professional development workshops, participants will have access to networking opportunities across the Walmart and Path Forward communities. After completing the four-month program, qualified candidates will be considered for conversion to full-time opportunities at Walmart.

The Path Forward program is a win-win for everyone on so many levels. Helping people restart their careers after caregiving is great for individuals and their families, great for the economy and a great opportunity for Walmart to tap highly-skilled, educated and motivated associates. With programs like Path Forward, caregivers will no longer feel like their career or opportunity for future prosperity has passed them by. In fact, their best years may be ahead of them yet.

If you are interested in applying to our Path Forward program, please head here.

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Heritage

The Valentine Love Story Behind the Walmart Brand

Before a fledgling family-run retail chain flourished into what it is today, there was a simple and sweet love story.

On Valentine’s Day in 1943, after serving a year of active duty in the Army, Sam Walton married his wife, Helen, in her hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma.

In his book, “Sam Walton: Made in America,” Sam says on an April night in a bowling alley in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he noticed Helen Robson – his future bride – who just happened to be on a date with another fellow.

After she took her turn and rolled her ball down the alley, she saw Sam with his leg up over the armrest of an old chair, with a smile on his face. She recalls Sam’s greeting as being rather “corny.”

Helen said Sam asked if he had met her somewhere before. It turns out Sam had dated a girl Helen knew in college. Instead of asking for Helen’s number, Sam initially asked Helen for the other young woman’s number. However, according to Helen, soon after that encounter, Helen and Sam started dating.

Both Helen and Sam have said they instantly fell in love with each other. Sam said Helen was “pretty and smart, and educated, ambitious and opinionated and strong-willed – with ideas and plans of her own.” After dating for a little while, by the time Sam was called up by the Army for active duty, he said two things were very clear to him: He knew who he wanted to marry Helen, and knew he wanted to go into retail.

From there, the rest of their story went down in the retail history books. “I always told my mother and dad that I was going to marry someone who had that special energy and drive, that desire to be a success,” Helen said. “I certainly found what I was looking for, but now I laugh sometimes and say maybe I overshot a little.”

To commemorate their anniversary, The Walmart Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, honors their love every Valentine’s Day with a special flower display.

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Community

A Common Thread Is Woven Between Women Veterans

Last year, I was dealing with some major life issues: transitioning careers as an older adult and stressing about loved ones who were incarcerated. My energy was low, and my self-identity was in question. As a single, divorced mom of two young adults, I was trying to be strong and cope with life all alone.

I realized I hadn’t had a great support system since I’d left the Marines over 20 years ago. That was my missing puzzle piece – I needed to find fellow women veterans who understood my experiences and the special bond that military service provides.

I’d tried many times over the years to find such a sounding board, but continually came up short. I knew there were a lot of people with similar experiences out there, but I thought maybe they were like me and hesitant to speak up about their service.

Then suddenly, just when life was hardest and I needed support the most, I found Women Veterans Network (WoVeN), a support group made specifically for women like me.

After attending one of their community focus groups, I eagerly joined WoVeN, and as Marines say, I hit the ground running. I never imagined something so simple could be so life changing, but this organization – and more specifically, the women in it – gave me the spark I needed to push myself to be better and do more.

WoVeN provided me a non-judgmental environment to openly express myself, communicate with and support other women veterans. And when that group came together, it created an atmosphere of energy, respect and understanding that I’d never witnessed in my life. I felt comfortable. The group was motivating and encouraging. I felt a sense of comradeship I hadn’t experienced in years. WoVeN accepted me as-is and put me back on the path to improving my quality of life.

Since then, I’ve been inspired to take personal responsibility for my health and wellbeing. From mountain biking and completing a 5K, to developing new skills and better managing my stress, having this network of women has helped me improve not only my life, but also my family’s.

Because this was such a valuable experience, I wanted to do more to give back. I’ve started to reach out to other women veterans and engage with them outside of the WoVeN community. Now, I have an extended family I can call on anytime. My hope is that WoVeN will continue to grow and reach more women veterans all over this country, so they can have the same experience and support I have.

In 2017, the Walmart Foundation awarded a $469,000 grant to the Boston University School of Medicine (BU) to support the establishment of the WoVeN initiative. Through WoVeN, BU clinicians and researchers are leading a five-year initiative to establish a nationwide network of structured, trained peer-facilitated, 10-week support groups for women veterans to enhance wellness, quality of life, family relationships and referrals for additional services. Today, the Walmart Foundation is building on the existing grant to BU and is bringing its total commitment to WoVeN to nearly $720,000 with the announcement of an additional $250,782 grant. The program is projected to reach approximately 2,500 women veterans by the end of 2022.

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Business

A First Look at The New Fashion Experience on Walmart.com

Today, we announced the opening of the Lord & Taylor flagship store on Walmart.com.

As many of you know, we recently introduced our new specialty fashion shopping destination, which offers a modern shopping experience with editorial elements that inspire customers to browse and shop. This is something I’m personally excited about, as it will dramatically enhance our customer experience.

The launch of the new Lord & Taylor store takes our fashion shopping experience to the next level and will introduce more than 125 new premium brands to our Walmart customers. I’m really proud of the new flagship. The images are beautiful and inspiring. It’s on trend. It’s easy to navigate.

Over the coming weeks, customers will begin to see two different shops within Walmart.com’s fashion destination: Everyday Brands, where millions of affordable and fabulous on-trend items will live, and Premium Brands from Lord & Taylor. You can get a first look at the new experience below.

Whether customers are looking for a basic tee or the perfect summer dress, we want them to be able to find what they are looking for on Walmart.com. The Lord & Taylor store is one of many steps we are taking to establish Walmart.com as a destination for fashion.

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