From IT to the ‘It’ Guy for Diversity and Inclusion

For Ben Hasan, Walmart’s new Chief Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, turning the ignition in his car and reaching for the stick shift results in a moment of quiet reflection each morning. There, around the shifter, rests a bracelet with the letters “WWTD?”

“’What Would Thurmond Do?’ – Those words take me back to my days at Dell and the man – Thurmond Woodard – who became my greatest mentor,” Ben said. “It’s so important to never forget where you come from or the people who helped you along the way. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of influential people in my life – from my mother and father, to my wife of 20 years – and Thurmond.”

Thurmond Woodard, who was Dell’s Chief Diversity Officer when Ben was at Dell in the late 1990s and early 2000s, served as a constant source of inspiration and guidance for him.

“He helped me through some really tough times early in my career,” Ben said. “Thurmond had an uncanny ability to stay calm in any situation – something I still had a lot to learn about. I realized so much about your ability to lead has to do with how you react when things don’t go your way. “I’ll never forget him telling me, ‘One day, you're going to be in the same position to do exactly what I just did for you,’” Ben recalled. “And you better be ready.”

That lit a fire that’s never been extinguished. At Dell, Ben spent 11 years in information technology, leading teams in Texas, Shanghai, Taipei and Singapore, and served as general manager of Dell’s IT development centers in Brazil and India. He joined Walmart in 2008, most recently serving as Senior Vice President of Strategic Services in Walmart Technology, where he led strategy, communication and innovation, in addition to creating global partnerships in India and Mexico.

That brings him to his latest challenge: to further embed Walmart’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion into the culture that drives its 2.2 million associates at nearly 12,000 stores and clubs in 28 countries around the world. It all makes for an impressive resume, but his path to becoming Chief Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the world’s largest retailer was anything but smooth, particularly early on.

One of six children raised in the inner city of Philadelphia by a father with an eighth-grade education and a mother with a high school diploma, life was difficult for Ben. In high school, he excelled in academics and sports, but that didn't translate into instant success at the next level. Ben actually dropped out of college not once, but twice, and worked several odd jobs before finally returning to earn a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Computer Science from Temple University in 1983.

“I wouldn’t recommend the path I took to anyone, but I did end up with an oil and gas company in Dallas, where I held 11 positions in 14 years and experienced everything from IT and human resources to customer service, rates and regulatory affairs,” he said. “It gave me a taste of the real world. It gave me a chance to cut my teeth and begin to discover what I loved.”

And, while for Ben, all roads typically led back to IT, it was his passion for people that swelled.

“I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel the world [for work] and I’ve never been one to just work and go back to the hotel,” he said. “I’ve purposely immersed myself in the cultures. I’ve stayed with the families and experienced life through their eyes and it's had a profound impact on me.

“I walked away from a lot when I took this job, but it was for good reason,” Ben said. “Thurmond (Woodard) told me that some day I’d be in the position to do for others what he did for me. I think I’ve been doing that all along, but this is a whole new opportunity."

Remembering where he came from and the people who helped him along the way makes it that much more worthwhile.

“In the end, I’ve learned that people all over the world – regardless of geography and borders – want a lot of the same things,” Ben said. “They want a decent place to live, friends and to take care of their families. Human beings are similar in so many more ways than they are different. But it's important to remember to celebrate our similarities and the differences.”



Meet the Mother-Daughter Team Behind the Season’s Happiest Planner

There’s something about fall that feels like a second New Year. With back-to-school season in full swing, we’re all gearing up with new schedules and new goals to carry us through December.

Most of the time, those new goals are a clear signal that it’s time to get organized – and maybe even a little inspired. That’s something mother-daughter duo Terri Gick and Stephanie Fleming have been doing professionally for almost 20 years in their hometown of Fountain Valley, California.

When Terri and Stephanie first launched their brand of scrapbooking accessories, Me & My Big Ideas, it was just a small operation carried out of Stephanie’s own garage.

“At the start, we were just looking to start something new,” Stephanie said. “My mom was in the craft industry for 25 years and had just sold her company, and we both wanted to do something creative and to start a business. We saw that scrapbooking was on the rise and there was a need for a product – fun, decorative stickers – that just wasn’t out there.”

Over the last 20 years, the business has grown from a small, out-of-home venture to a full business operation in a 60,000-square-foot facility. After hiring a designer to develop their first 12 sticker designs, Terri and Stephanie quickly realized the importance of investing in their niche community of women with a dual passion for organization and inspiration, and decided to expand their team.

“Something we’ve done really well – as neither of us is an actual artist – is build an amazing team of designers,” Terri said. “It’s helped us forecast what the contemporary creative woman is doing, and ways in which we’re able to participate in her journey. We ask ourselves, ‘Is there a missing piece in the market we could fill to help that person live creatively?’”

The two have since expanded their product line to include The Happy Planner, a product that’s on our shelves now and through the fall that’s chock-full of customizable calendars to get you organized according to your goals and positive mantras to keep you going when your days get full.

“It’s a product that combines a love for creativity with a need for organization,” Stephanie said. “Our customer base is about 98% female, and as female entrepreneurs, we’ve found that we have the ability to forge an instant connection with them. It’s a real blessing.”

For Stephanie, that engagement with passionate customers has been one of the most rewarding aspects of building her business. She’s become personally invested in the growing community of creative women looking for engaging ways to organize their lives, even speaking to a convention of 1,300 women looking to connect.

“Through our business, we haven’t stopped at making a product or even just a brand – we’re able to become a part of the culture and connect with some really amazing women with similar interests. And that’s really special.”

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Surprise, You’re Promoted! Meet Associate Tanaka Chikerema

When Tanaka Chikerema walked into Bud Walton Arena on Friday morning, he was already anticipating the moment he would walk on stage in front of thousands of his fellow associates –he just never expected that Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., would offer him a promotion when he did.

It’s pretty unusual for a CEO to promote one of his field associates on stage in front of an international audience. But then again, so is the path that led Tanaka from the capital city of Harare, Zimbabwe all the way to a stage in Northwest Arkansas.

“I was seven when my mom moved to the U.S.,” Tanaka recalls, “and I was just starting high school in Harare when she called and said it was time for me and my brother to move to Plano, Texas.”

In Zimbabwe, Tanaka’s mother, Dorcus, supported her family as a geography teacher. But economic hardships that still affect the country today created a system of poverty and crime, and she knew that even with a college education her children wouldn’t get the opportunities they deserved if they stayed in Harare.

Over the next seven years, Dorcus earned her nursing degree overseas while supporting her family with the income from three jobs.

“We were all living in one house together, my grandparents, cousins, brother and me,” said Tanaka. “To send any of us to school, there had to be a choice about who it was going to be. My mom knew that if we stayed in Harare, there was a good chance we could end up on the streets or getting into trouble.

“She always told us, ‘I just want you to stay focused. I just want you to have goals and stay on track.’”

When Tanaka graduated from high school in Plano, his mother’s words stuck with him. A job as a part-time truck unloader at his local Walmart quickly advanced as his managers recognized his potential. Within a year, Tanaka was promoted to supervisor. The words of his first mentor, Joe Riviera, still stick with him today: “If you show up and give 110%, it will pay off. It will always pay off.”

And it did. On stage at Walmart’s Associate Meeting, in front of thousands of his colleagues, Tanaka was promoted to a store support manager and recognized for the hours of energy and focus he’s dedicated to the company.

“It humbles me to think about how good my life is now,” Tanaka said, “and how much further I have to go. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that my mom was always right: ‘Get ready for the future, because you never know what it might hold.’”



Meet Waymo, Your New Self-Driving Grocery Chauffeur

Think back 10 years ago when shopping online for your groceries seemed like something only the Jetsons did. Today, it’s everywhere. Walmart is leading the way with more than 1,500 locations with hundreds more to come just this year.

Now, think about self-driving cars. They still seem really far off to me … but they aren’t. They’re on roads today, without drivers.

We’re always thinking of ways we can serve our customers now and into the future. And we’re looking at different technology and capabilities that keep customers loving the time-saving, wallet-saving service that is Online Grocery for years to come. So, enter a small pilot project we’re running with Waymo, formerly known as Google’s self-driving car project.

Waymo is a self-driving technology company with a mission to make it safe and easy for everyone to get around – without the need for anyone in the driver’s seat. They’ve safely self-driven over 8 million miles on roads across 25 U.S. cities already. We’re working with them on an online grocery pilot project – limited to a group within Waymo’s 400 daily users known as "early riders"– that will run out of one Walmart store in Chandler, Arizona.

Those in the pilot simply place an Online Grocery Pickup order at walmart.com/grocery. Our personal shoppers get to work meticulously picking customers’ orders based on their pickup times. Waymo does the rest. They transport customers to and from pickup, and all the while, those customers can text, nap, work... you name it.

The purpose of all of this: to learn. While giving customers a unique experience with amazing technology, we’re learning how we can make Walmart Online Grocery Pickup even more convenient. Waymo’s experience, industry leading technology and mission on safety is helping us enter this space in the right way.

We’re excited to see what this pilot and the future hold.



Video: How This Special Olympian Found Her Power

Elizabeth "Liz" Hubert, 22, is a seasoned competitor.

She got into powerlifting about eight years ago. Since then, she’s competed at state, national and world events with the Special Olympics. Most recently, she represented Oklahoma at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games held July 1-6 in Seattle.

When Liz isn’t training, she works in the bakery at the Catoosa, Oklahoma, supercenter. She was one of at least 14 associates who participated in the games this year. Her fellow Walmart Special Olympians ranged in age from 21 to 51 and competed in a variety of events, including softball, bowling, shot put and running.

Liz competed for four golds this year in deadlift, squat, bench press and overall combined. It was a weighty goal – she can lift more than 200 pounds in the deadlift alone.

Watch below to follow Liz on her 2018 Special Olympics journey.

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