Thirteen years ago, I wanted to work, but I was afraid to fill out a job application. If I got a call for an interview, I’d risk exposing a major hurdle: I didn’t speak English.
At the encouragement of my husband, I applied anyway at our local Walmart store in Miami. And to my surprise, it all worked out, because what I was able to communicate – determination – pulled me through.
Growing up in Mongolia gave me plenty of experience being the manager of my household, as I shopped and cared for my younger sister and brother while my parents worked nearly 24 hours a day. But I wanted something more for myself and them, so I started a retail store in my home country to help out. A few years in, I met my husband, an American who was in Mongolia teaching English. We married and moved to the United States, where different social norms gave me the inspiration to run with a new dream: having a career that allows me to be independent and also provide enough for my children.
Starting at Walmart at entry level, I set a goal for myself to be promoted every two years. And that has actually happened. More than a decade later, I have worked my way up to the position of store manager, leading a Supercenter in Haines City, Florida.
How did I do it? Aside from personal grit, I made my first steps forward with Walmart's training program for new hires. Next, I talked to as many people as I could – having regular conversations with other associates helped me learn English pretty quickly. Later, having the support of mentors – like my market manager who saw that I had high expectations for myself – kept me moving further and further.
In the back of my mind, the stark separation of roles between women and men in Mongolia did impact my self-esteem a little bit. Even though my hard work was paying off at my job, I still feared things like public speaking, thinking others would make fun of my accent. But last year, I participated in another Walmart training program called Champions for Development, where we covered women and confidence. I sat in the back, quiet, as every woman in my group got up and spoke about themselves. I thought to myself, if they can do it, why not me? And I made a personal commitment to no longer be afraid.
In March, that pledge became very real as I addressed a full auditorium at Walmart’s corporate office for International Women’s Day. My message was my story, which was this: If I can accomplish all of this in 13 years without knowing English at the start, then anyone can do it.
The language I knew all along, perseverance, has paid off, and now I’m speaking and teaching it confidently to nearly 380 associates in my home store.