A Hope-Filled Homecoming in New Orleans

Nine years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans East community, leaving a path of devastation in its wake. Our Walmart store was just one of the many buildings destroyed.

After the storm, we promised to reopen our doors in the area, and as of June 11, I’m proud to be able to say that we’ve followed through.

For many, Walmart is a staple of everyday routine: grabbing groceries, crossing items off a shopping list. But for New Orleanians, this new supercenter is a symbol of recovery and opportunity. It will bring much-needed retail to the particularly hard-hit New Orleans East and will act as a catalyst for growth in the area.

When we opened the hiring center for this Walmart, more than 3,600 applications were submitted. By investing in this new store, Walmart has brought more than 400 new jobs to the area, and 65% of the store’s associates are residents of New Orleans East.

Twenty-five of the associates employed at this new store worked in the East prior to Hurricane Katrina and are finally returning to work in their community, nearly a decade after their lives were changed forever.

Looking at the crowd gathered to celebrate the reopening a few weeks ago, I was reminded of a simple fact about New Orleanians: Whatever comes their way, they get back up.

We have worked hard to rebuild this store for our customers, and we are proud to once again be a part of this strong, vibrant community.



Through Academies, Bettering Careers and Customer Service

I joined Walmart 13 years ago because the opportunity seemed limitless. I started as an overnight stocker and worked my way up to a number of different positions in operations. And this year, I made another move to a job I never saw coming but that has since been so right for me.

In February, I transitioned from the sales floor to leading a team of nine trainers responsible for Walmart’s first training academy, housed within a Walmart Supercenter in Carrollton, Texas. The idea was to create a program that brings together department managers and assistant store managers from 18 stores in the area for up to two weeks of structured training by a dedicated staff.

Walmart has always had great people. The challenge has been the right balance of instructional and hands-on training to ensure everyone is on the same page. There’s a why to every single thing we do – and it helps to discuss the reasons in person. Customer service is critical, so Walmart is making a major investment in training academies like ours to ensure a consistently positive in-store experience for customers and a rewarding career path for associates.

This is not a temporary thing. My store went through several months of rigorous preparations and training just to become a certified academy. A portion of the building has been permanently renovated into dedicated classroom space, complete with flat-screen monitors and iPads for every associate in the program. The space is equipped to serve up to 68 associates at a time. We’ll first focus on the deli, bakery, produce and meat departments, but later we’ll bring in managers across the entire store. There will be a mix of interactive classroom sessions and hands-on store experience.

A second Academy recently opened in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and a third opened afterward in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with more locations opening the rest of this year. By the end of 2017, more than 200 Academies – each one drawing students from an average of 26 area stores – will be open across the country, training an estimated 140,000 associates annually. Each location has been chosen to make it convenient for the majority of students to commute to and from the training sessions.

It's a whole new experience and the feedback from associates has been overwhelmingly positive so far. I’ve made my career in our stores, so I know the value and the need for something like this. Leading this academy really plays to my greatest strengths. It's so rewarding to be a part of paying it forward.

In the end, it's about putting people in a position to advance and succeed – not only in their own careers, but in creating an outstanding shopping experience for the customers who shop with us each day.

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Why Supporting the Military is Gary Sinise’s Mission

The tragic events surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States left actor Gary Sinise asking himself, “What can I do to support our military?” He found the answer in doing what he loves: entertaining.

Although not a veteran himself, Gary became a vocal supporter of American servicemen and women. He began touring with the USO across the U.S. and to military bases abroad, and eventually brought musician friends along to perform. What started as a group just playing together for fun turned into the Lt. Dan Band, named after Sinise’s memorable Vietnam War veteran character in the movie “Forrest Gump.” In the past 13 years, the band has played hundreds of shows, including a recent concert that Walmart sponsored to recognize Medal of Honor recipients.

In 2011, his personal mission to champion wounded heroes, their families and children of the fallen led him to establish the Gary Sinise Foundation. The organization is home to a variety of programs that offer support, raise awareness and provide necessary resources to wounded heroes and active-duty service families. Watch as Sinise shares more about his mission and offers advice on how anyone can support our nation’s military and their families. 

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Achieving My Dreams and Paying it Forward

Ever since I was little, I dreamed of working for a big company. I pictured having my own car, my own apartment, and a great job. That’s what success looked like to me. Turns out, there’s a lot more that goes into success.

I started my career at Walmart as an intern in global business intelligence where I helped the team understand more about our customers. I did a double major at the University of Oklahoma, so I was used to hard work and big challenges. But on my first day at the home office, I was pretty overwhelmed and intimidated.  

When you begin as intern, you’re assigned a mentor – an experienced associate who can answer questions, give advice, help solve problems, and offer guidance. I was amazed at how helpful everyone was. As a nervous newbie, it helped tremendously to know there were people who had been in my shoes before, and who were there to help me navigate the ups and downs of my newly developing career. 

With the help of those around me, I was hired as a full-time rotational analyst in information technology, where I began exploring project management. I discovered a passion for managing IT projects that span several different areas of Walmart. Then, I became a project specialist.

As a full-time associate, I’ve found even more mentors. Like any relationship in life, every mentor offers something unique. Some reached out to me, and others are colleagues I found myself. But they’ve all had an impact on my career in one way or another, whether it’s giving me honest feedback or helping me organize my priorities.

In addition to personal mentors, Walmart also has mentoring circles to give us access to more leaders who we may not have interacted with otherwise. This is where associates can meet up, talk about issues, and learn from others’ experiences. There are circles for all types of people; for example, I’m a part of a circle that’s just for women.

Not only did mentors impact my career, but they inspired me to do the same for others. I’m now a mentor to summer interns, and others around the company who want some guidance.

I’ve even taken these mentoring skills into other areas of my life, and use them to give back to my community. I teach a class called SMART Girls at the Boys & Girls Club where I help young girls develop positive relationships.

It feels good to help associates and teach them how to leverage their relationships within the company, but most importantly, I just want to be helpful and give them tools to succeed like my mentors did for me, and still do even now.

Now, I do have my own car, apartment, and a great job. But after three years at Walmart, success has an additional meaning to me now. It also means helping others be the best they can be.

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Freedom to Work My Own Way

I’ve always been the kind of guy who does his own thing and doesn’t take the traditional path. I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 17. I really wanted to support myself and be able to figure things out on my own.

I was obsessed with computers from an early age. I took coding classes at my high school, and spent most days after school messing around on my computer. One day, my coding teacher suggested an internship at Sam’s Club involving computer support due to my extreme interest in computers and programming.

So at 17 years old, I started my internship at Sam’s Club in what they called club support. I hadn’t even graduated yet. I was going to high school in the morning and working at Sam’s Club in the afternoon.  Walmart wasn’t thought of as a tech company back in 1998, but I got with a group of associates and interns to start automating some of our office work and data entry. Then we just started writing programs for anyone that might need them. It was pretty crazy. After I graduated high school and finished my internship, I thought, I helped make this software – why don’t they hire me so I can make even more?

At the time, Walmart hadn’t hired anyone this young with just a high school diploma to be a programmer. However, they were open to try, which is what really mattered to me. They listened to me, and they created a position for me as a programmer. I had shown them my drive and my abilities, and they really believed in me.

As the years went by, I did my best not to disappoint them. I was promoted several times.  Eventually Walmart bought two smaller tech companies and created Walmart Labs. We set out to bridge the shopping experiences at with the physical stores. We wanted to allow people to use online search to look for items in physical stores and more. It was a big undertaking, and I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished.  

Eighteen years after that high school internship, I’m now the Director of Big Fast Data for Walmart Labs. I am responsible for the Big Data infrastructure that enables to do things like Savings Catcher and help personalize the site for everyone. Technically I work in San Bruno, California now, but my wife and I didn’t want to move our family out of Bentonville, so Walmart allows me to work from Bentonville and fly out to San Bruno a few times a month.

Like I said, I like to do things my own way. And I probably wouldn’t fit in at some other companies, but Walmart is perfect for a guy like me. I feel lucky to be where I am today. 

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