When Buddima Wanniarachchi took a part-time café position at the Sam’s Club in College Station, Texas, he was looking for a college gig to help pay his student bills.
“I wasn’t thinking about Sam’s Club as a career at the time. I was focused on school and this was just a part-time job,” Buddima said.
It didn’t take long for Buddima to discover that working in prepared foods was not the right fit for him. He was pursuing his business management degree at Texas A&M University, and with a full course load on his plate, his motivation for the job began to wane.
“John Turner was my manager, and he really took the time to know his associates. When I hit a rough patch and was not showing up, John took me aside and instead of letting me go, he said, you know, maybe this specific department isn’t for me,” Buddima said.
John, now the club manager for a club in Houston, Texas, recalled that initial conversation. “I was part of the management team that hired Buddima, and when I first met him, I saw huge potential. He was smart, energetic and learned quickly. So, when I noticed he’d started to struggle with work, I took him aside and challenged him to look at Sam’s Club as not just a college job but as a place to launch a career.”
“That interaction, and the fact that my manager recognized something in me, really changed my perspective,” Buddima said.
John encouraged Buddima to explore other Sam’s Club departments and to actively seek opportunities for growth. When a skilled position as a cake decorator became available, Buddima applied, despite never having made a cake, much less decorated one.