Freedom to Work My Own Way

By Chris Undernehr
May 27, 2016
Associate Chris Undernehr by blue wall

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 Walmart.com 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 Walmart.com 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.