Opportunity

How A Promise to Military Families Eased the Stress of Change

When my wife received her transfer orders, we prepared ourselves for the Army to move us from Wichita, Kansas to Joplin, Missouri.

Once again, we were off to a new-to-us destination. The life of a military family is not for those who don’t like change. So much of life is built around constants, yet in a military life, change is one of those constants.

I admire my wife for her devotion to our family and to our country. I get it. I really do. I served from 1992-2006 in the U.S. Marine Corps, and my wife has served in the U.S. Army since 2000. Both of us spent time overseas with Operation Iraqi Freedom. And while I chose to transition to civilian life a few years ago, my wife stayed the course and built a career with the Army.

Most don’t think about the toll transfers take on military families; when one serves, we all serve. Being at the military’s beck and call is something we are used to. We know what we signed up for. While I’m not complaining about this life of service, trying to quickly find a new job when your spouse is transferred can be challenging and stressful.

But there was something different this time – something that made our family’s latest transfer experience better than it has ever been before.

As an asset protection manager at store 3492 in Wichita, Kansas, I wasn’t familiar with Walmart’s Military Family Promise (MFP) program until I spoke to a friend who worked at the home office. The MFP program guarantees a job at a nearby store or club for all military personnel and military spouses employed at Walmart or Sam’s Club who move to a different part of the country because they or their spouse have been transferred by the U.S. military.

I didn’t go into the MFP process with any preconceived notions. I knew I might not get the exact job I wanted unless something opened up. And, while I would’ve been thankful for any opportunity, I was fortunate enough to land the exact same position I had in Wichita at a Neighborhood Market in Joplin, Missouri, just a few miles away from where my wife is serving.

I knew Walmart cared about veterans and was familiar with our Veterans Welcome Home Commitment. But I had no idea we had policies in place to support me, a military spouse. The MFP allows me to focus on what’s most important during this transition – and that’s getting my house in order and getting my kids acclimated to their new surroundings.

I’m also taking time to share my story so other military family associates can take advantage of MFP and focus on what’s important in their lives during their own moves. Thanks to programs like these, we don’t just have jobs at Walmart, we have careers.

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Innovation

More Than a Store: The Tech Bringing You Even More Items

I can’t count how many times I’ve started to shop on my phone or in an app, then moved over to my laptop so I could see everything better.

Shopping on a phone is super convenient, but sometimes that small screen doesn’t give me the in-depth detail I need for certain types of purchases.

Turns out, a lot of customers do that, too. “Our electronics department associates noticed that customers were using store display laptops and tablets to purchase from Walmart.com,” Nicole Clendeninn, a senior project manager of merchant technology at Walmart Labs, recalled. Just like me, they wanted to use something bigger than a phone screen to shop. Others used the store displays because they didn’t have a smart device with them. From these simple observations, came an even simpler idea: Walmart.com in-store kiosks.

The solution launched in just five stores almost a year ago and has since grown to 50 locations. Each of these stores has 1-2 kiosks, usually near customer service or the electronics department. The kiosks allow customers to shop all products on Walmart.com (minus Marketplace items), pay how they want – even cash, if they like – and ship it to store or their home.

Nicole’s team didn’t stop there. They used this same technology to enable associates to help customers make online purchases from anywhere in the store. Associates already use a handheld device for their daily tasks, so Nicole’s team added a new app that allows them to assist customers with Walmart.com merchandise on the spot.

Let’s say you’re looking for a laptop. With this new app, an associate can pull up reviews on his or her handheld device so you can see which one has the best reviews. Once you’ve made your choice, that associate can check you out right there or take you to a kiosk to let you pay without a card. Same thing goes if you can’t find what you’re looking for in the store – they can help you find it online, show you the reviews and help you check out.

Not every store will get a kiosk, but the team is working to get the associate-facing app on all their handheld devices.

Watch this video to see how the kiosk came to life.

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Opportunity

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.’”

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Community

An Amazing Way to Add STEAM to Girls’ Career Dreams

It might just be that I am a mom of three children (ages 8, 4 and 2) who is always looking for fun yet affordable things to do, but I am noticing more and more hands-on learning opportunities such as “maker spaces” popping up in schools and institutions throughout the country.

Northwest Arkansas is no different. It's exciting to see so many STEAM – an acronym for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics – concepts embodied in current popular culture, inspiring confidence in young women in particular.

Learning becomes deeper and longer lasting when it involves creativity, discovery and community. That’s why I’m so excited to help support Walmart and the Walmart Foundation in their giving efforts. Through my job as a senior grant manager for the Walmart Foundation, I get to be part of helping organizations like the Scott Family Amazeum, who are working to break down the intimidation factors of STEAM in hopes of inspiring the next generation of engineers, coders, scientists and beyond.

Just this last month, at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Proctor & Gamble and Walmart joined the Amazeum and other local organizations to host the first Always Live #LikeAGirl STEAM Day for 100 young girls from the region, who were encouraged to explore STEAM careers.

But let me share a little bit more about the impact STEAM education is having on my own daughter, Kenzy. This past spring, like many children in Northwest Arkansas, she and her 2nd grade class attended an Amazeum Unfield Trip, which is a program supported by a $1 million grant over three years from the Walmart Foundation to fund admission for students in Benton and Washington counties.

This wasn’t your traditional school museum visit, but rather a hands-on learning experience for both the students and teachers, inspiring curiosity and discovery at every turn. Kenzy loved exploring the world of water at the Nature Valley Water Amazements, but being able to create something uniquely her own in the 3M Tinkering Hub renewed her interest in her school’s afterschool coding club. Who knows? It might have even ignited a lifelong interest in a STEAM career.

Innovation is all around us and sometimes it takes us slowing down to see it or be inspired by it. Watching my kids discover has encouraged me to incorporate more STEAM into my own lifelong learning. STEAM education develops life skills like logical reasoning, collaboration, creativity and communication while building character traits like confidence, self-esteem, imagination, persistence and motivation. These are the very life skills and character traits I am seeing my daughter develop through her interactions with STEAM education.

Without creativity, the world would be a lot less interesting, and without the curiosity to discover, we wouldn’t push ourselves a little more or strive for the impossible. In a world being transformed by innovation, I’m grateful for my kids who are a constant reminder for me to not be afraid to embrace my own creativity, be a little more willing to go down the journey of discovery but most importantly to foster community with those around me.

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Life

#IShannanYou: The Associate Love Story That Has Netflix Viewers Swooning

It’s a classic love story: Boy meets girl, falls madly in love and proposes to her in front of millions on one of 2018’s most popular Netflix shows.

Okay, so that’s probably not how it happens for most of us. But, for William and Shannan Mahnken, it’s all part of their real-life love story that started five years ago after they met at a Walmart assistant store manager training session in Woodstock, Georgia.

The Netflix reality show reboot, “Queer Eye,” has taken pop culture by storm. The show’s “Fab Five” – Jonathan, Karamo, Tan, Antoni and Bobby – have won over viewers’ hearts across America by taking the show beyond its basic premise and diving into conversations about identity and self-confidence that inspire viewers and participants alike.

Before Shannan submitted William to be one of the makeover contestants on the show’s second season, the grocery department manager was a shy aspiring actor and screenwriter who named ’90s sitcom character Frasier Crane as his style icon. In his own words, “I was hiding behind my beard and all that hair.”

It’s not always easy to embrace your full self or wear your heart on your sleeve, but despite William’s reserved personality, he had a great time on set. “The guys are all so great,” William said. “They just walk up to you like they’ve been friends with you forever. I felt so comfortable.”

Bonding with the Fab Five even helped William feel comfortable enough to seek their help in planning his proposal to Shannan. He set to work with Karamo, the “Queer Eye” culture consultant, to craft a grand proposal that would sweep her off her feet.

“I was trying to think of a word that meant more than love,” said William, “and eventually I realized that there was no single word or phrase that could describe how I feel about Shannan. I decided that the only way I could describe it was with her name.”

That’s right. William invented a new way to say, “I love you” – and he did it using his future bride’s name. “I Shannan you.” If you haven’t seen the episode yet, I highly suggest grabbing a box of tissues beforehand.

Last month, William and Shannan finally tied the knot in a small sunrise ceremony on the beaches of Amelia Island in Florida. Since the show aired, the lovebirds say that although married life is a little different, the couple have stayed pretty true to who they are. They now work together as department managers at the same Walmart store in Cornelia, Georgia, and William continues to create short films and act when he can.

So, what was the biggest lesson he learned on the show?

“Confidence is a big one,” he said. “I learned how to open up to people. I don’t feel hidden anymore; I feel like I can open up to people about who I am. If I feel myself reverting back into that old pattern, I remember something that Tan said to me: ‘You’re not doing this for yourself, you’re doing it for her – the person you love.’ I think about that and it inspires me to be the best version of myself.”

Photos courtesy of Netflix.

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