Innovation

Inside Our New Tech Incubator in Austin, Texas

When Rachel Brynsvold wakes up every morning, she’s excited to see what she can learn and achieve.

That’s because Rachel is a data scientist, and her job at Walmart’s new technology incubator in Austin, Texas, is allowing her to invent the future of shopping.

“Effective use of technology is an absolute competitive necessity today, but even the most sophisticated technology can end up being a hindrance when built without first considering the users,” Rachel said. “We must develop best-in-class technology and deliver it with a focus on what the business and the users need.”

Rachel, along with her peers of engineers, developers and scientists, get to do that on a daily basis. They’re hyperfocused on emerging technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence and natural language processing to make Walmart more efficient – all aimed at empowering Walmart associates with the right tools to better serve customers.

“The work we’re doing is ultimately about enabling our coworkers to be even more impactful in their jobs, which is something that always gets me excited. I also see lots of opportunities to make financial impact for the company, which contributes to Walmart’s mission to help people save money and live better,” said Rachel.

Austin was picked as the location of the company’s first technology incubator because it’s one of the top cities in the world for tech. The building first opened in December 2017 to prepare for the official grand opening Feb. 22, and features a startup-like working environment to encourage collaboration and innovative thinking. This open, old warehouse environment in the heart of downtown is particularly appealing to the generation of technologists just entering the workforce.

“The coolest and most exciting thing to me so far has been the sheer scale of the data that we have to work with and the compute resources (infrastructure resources used for cloud processing) that we have available. I am routinely encountering data sets that are measured in terabytes – it is difficult to comprehend that amount of information! The combination of that amount of data and the availability of powerful compute resources means tremendous opportunity for me to do some truly cutting-edge data science work,” Rachel said.

The Austin incubator team will be partnering closely with our technology teams in Bentonville, Arkansas, at our Jet headquarters in Hoboken, New Jersey, and at our Walmart.com headquarters in San Bruno, California. As the teams design the future, the technology will be used to compete with companies beyond the retail landscape, but the associates who are empowered to deliver the future of shopping will set the company apart.

“Every day has its own excitements, challenges and things that pop up,” Rachel said. For me, the variety keeps it interesting and fun.”

Looking for tech jobs like these? Check out our careers site to see what positions are currently available.

4 Comments

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.

Be the first to comment on this article

Innovation

My Journey From EE to IoT at Walmart’s DFW Tech Hub

Before I joined the team here, I had no idea how innovative a 50-year-old retail company could be.

Like most people, I had interacted with Walmart as a customer in stores and online but had never really thought about the systems and technology functioning behind the scenes to make the whole thing work.

As we officially open our new Walmart Technology satellite HQ in Plano, Texas, this week, I’m reflecting on my evolving, 20-year journey in tech — from building circuit boards to developing software to, now, exploring ways to apply advances in the internet of things (IoT), machine learning, object detection and other emerging technologies in the increasingly blended world of physical-digital retail.

Here’s a great example:

It might seem like a small thing, but spills are a big deal on the sales floor. So we developed a concept to help stores quickly detect spills, building a quick alert system that linked a camera with a Raspberry Pi and sensors that sent photos and data from the sales floor to the cloud. There, we deployed learning algorithms to analyze and build models that helped identify spills.

It wasn’t perfect – but it worked! And even though we won’t bring our prototype to life in stores at scale, we’re able to learn fast and apply those learnings to other projects — like using machine learning and IoT similar to our Raspberry Pi-based sensory concept to cut energy use and cost, all while keeping the temperature comfortable for associates and customers in our stores.

I’ve only been at Walmart four months, but it’s been a blast. I’m still blown away by the many different applications of emerging technology in something as simple as a retail store. But really, retail isn’t simple. It’s complex, the scale is insane and the industry is rapidly transforming. What an awesome time and place to experiment, innovate, fail fast and learn quickly.

It makes my brain happy, and I’m glad it’s happening here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

5 Comments

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.

Be the first to comment on this article

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.

1 Comment