Opportunity

Put a Pin on It: The Tiny Tokens Embodying Walmart Pride

There’s a certain sense of pride that comes from graduating – whether it’s from high school or college, it’s a familiar experience for many.

You can see that very same pride in Walmart Academy graduates as they walk across a stage and are recognized for their dedication. They’ve not only set aside time to learn the best ways to serve their customers – they’ve taken advantage of an opportunity that can help set them on a clear path.

Ayreann Luedders, a senior director with the Walmart Academy program, gets to see the graduates’ transformation first hand. “When my team gets to the locations to help set up for graduation, at first the associates don’t know what to expect,” Ayreann said. “By the end they realize, ‘oh, this is a big deal,’ and you can see it on their faces. They are just so proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

To celebrate these achievements, each Academy location’s inaugural graduating class designs a pin that’s given to each graduating class thereafter. They commemorate everything from specific events to individual stores and their communities to pieces of Walmart’s past.

Here’s a look at a few of these pins and the stories behind them.

Pontotoc, Mississippi
This Academy graduation’s theme was all about Walmart history, from serving MoonPies (Sam Walton’s favorite volume producing item) to the regional manager dancing in a hula skirt like Sam once did on Wall Street. This pin shows the Walton’s 5 & 10 as a symbol of where we started, and the words “Pathway to the Future” to show where their training will take them.

St. Petersburg, Florida
With this store just steps from the beach, this pin features the Florida shoreline and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This group’s graduation ceremony even included a massive sandcastle at the front of their store.

Friendswood, Texas
You might find a rocket scientist at this store – it’s less than 10 miles from NASA’s Johnson Space Center. To show off their unique location, they decided to use a space shuttle orbiting the Earth within the shape of Texas.

Tracy, California
The elements on this pin showcase the history of their community. The triangle shape refers to Tracy’s location inside the three interstates that border the city, and the bear is a nod to their state flag. The train represents their more than century-long history as a major railway hub.

Edmond, Oklahoma
What makes this pin special is that it comes from the 100th Academy Walmart opened. To commemorate that milestone, CEO Doug McMillon came to speak, making it even more special for the graduates.

Dulles, Virginia
Using a simple backdrop of Virginia’s state flower, this pin represents a store that is anything but ordinary. It serves a diverse community, and over 80 native languages are spoken by our associates there.

“It was through the graduation ceremonies that I had this epiphany moment that we’re changing lives in what we’re doing through Walmart Academy,” said Tina Kurtz, a director with the Walmart Academy program. “It gave them an entirely new perspective on their jobs – understanding how doing things a certain way helps. It’s meaningful, life-changing work.”

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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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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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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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Opportunity

Blazing New (Con)trails: A Day with a Walmart Pilot

Growing up in northern Costa Rica, Marjorie Blanco and her twin sister would hear the distant hum of an engine and immediately race outside to get a glimpse of an airplane flying over their small town.

These days, Marjorie is the one in the cockpit, flying a Bombardier Learjet 45 XR for Walmart Central America, a market in which women pilots are largely unheard of. We caught up with Marjorie to hear about her average day, in her own words:

3:45 a.m. – Most of the flights our team makes are international, so my day often starts quite early. I do my hair and makeup and put on my Walmart Aviation polo with black trousers. The good thing about a uniform is that I don’t have to decide what to wear. When I flew for a commercial airline, we wore the typical pilot’s uniform (a white button down shirt with epaulets on the shoulders), but Walmart pilots do not wear any insignia to distinguish their ranks.

4:30 a.m. – In Costa Rica, we eat a big breakfast. I like to make plantains, eggs, and a traditional Latin American rice and beans dish called gallopinto. It’s important for me, as a pilot, to eat a nutritious breakfast in order to stay sharp and energized throughout the morning.

5:00 a.m. – With no traffic, it takes me around 20 minutes to drive from my home to the San José airport. I park in the airport employee parking lot and head to the international terminal where I meet my boss, David, and a handler who helps us navigate immigration and security. We take a shuttle that is waiting for us to go to the Aviation International Ramp where the aircraft is parked. It’s quite a process just to get to work!

6:00 a.m. – I arrive at the Walmart plane an hour before take-off. Our mechanic, José, has arrived two hours before in order to get the plane ready. I load my backpack, iPad, and tools onto the plane and then do a thorough walk-around the outside of the plane. This includes checking the wheels, brakes, lights and entire outside of the aircraft. Then we move inside the aircraft and turn on the airplane. We check the avionics, safety features, and oxygen quantities. We listen to the meteorological conditions at the airport, request clearance from the control tower, and upload the route into the flight management system. This is just a portion of the Standard Operating Procedure checklist we run through before each flight.

6:30 a.m. – Before each flight, David and I head to the cabin for a briefing. During the briefing, we review what to expect on this trip, departure procedures, altitudes, directions, and everything related to the safety of the flight. We discuss our normal procedures and what to do if something doesn’t go as planned. Walmart pilots do this for every flight, even if they have been flying for 20 years like David has.

6:45 a.m. – When the passengers arrive, we greet them and help them board. Typically, our passengers are Walmart executives travelling to neighboring countries – Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and the U.S. Once the passengers are settled, we review safety procedures and get ready to take off.

7:00 – 8:15 a.m. – As the Pilot in Command, David chooses who will fly first. While he flies, I will handle the radio communication. We switch tasks on the return trip so that we both work equally.

9:00 a.m. – After we reach our destination and our passengers depart, the crew often shares a meal together. One of my favorite parts of the job is trying different kinds of food from Central America.

11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. – If possible, I rest so that I am refreshed and alert for the return trip.

3:30 p.m. – We make our way back through security and immigration and repeat the entire process from this morning – the walk-around, checking the avionics, crew briefing, everything. We take our responsibilities seriously; it’s important not to become complacent about safety.

5:00 – 6:30 p.m. – In the air! Every flight is an adventure. We face challenging weather and runways, and airports surrounded by mountains. We also enjoy amazing views from beautiful landscapes. I can’t imagine ever getting tired of this.

6:15 p.m. – We touch down in San José, and José, our mechanic, meets us to take care of the plane. The passengers take the shuttle to the airport while I stay on the plane to do the debrief. After another walk around, José takes the airplane back to the hangar, and I make my way to my vehicle.

6:45 p.m. – Terrible traffic! My drive to work takes 20 minutes, but my drive home takes more than double that!

7:30 p.m. – I love to stay active, and I often swim to relax, clear my mind, and stay in shape.

8:30 p.m. – I usually keep dinner light with just a piece of grilled tuna and a salad. Then I might look at Instagram for a few minutes. On the weekends I watch Netflix (right now I am loving La Casa de Papel), but I don’t want to get into a stimulating show when I have to be up early the next morning. I have to be strict about bedtime in order to get enough rest.

9:00 p.m. – Lights out! My day is a long one, but it is so worth it to be able to pursue my passion and live my dream each day.

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