Looking back on my summer internship at Walmart, I have four main takeaways about the company:
Walmart cares A LOT about maintaining the culture that Sam Walton initially put in place. It’s actively and constantly managed- 4 core values, 10 rules of doing business, discussions on culture in small team meetings (e.g., what can Walmart learn from GM’s issues with recalls?), murals on the wall listing these values / rules, and so on. I have never worked in an environment where the culture was such an active focus.
For such a vast company, it feels relatively small thanks to unparalleled access to leadership. In my previous job as a consultant, I was of the mindset that, if I left consulting for corporate America, I would never get to interact with senior leadership until I was much further along in my career. This was most definitely not true at Walmart. About 20 MBA interns had a private Q&A with the CEO, watched a golf tournament from the CFO’s house, and had a training on strategic thinking led by the SVP of corporate strategy (an HBS alumna). Beyond this, I had the chance to meet several SVPs to discuss my project or my career ambitions.
Walmart’s scale is beyond belief, allowing them to take on some very exciting projects. One HBS intern was on the clinics team, seeking to roll out basic primary care health services in stores- this has been in the news a bit lately as it ramps up. I sat next to the Made in the USA team, who is working to get $250 billion worth of US manufactured goods sold in 10 years. The Savings Catcher feature in the app just launched in August, which checks competitor prices of the items on your scanned receipt and gives you a Walmart e-gift card worth the difference if competitor prices are lower. I’m sure there will be some kinks to work out as the Savings Catcher rolls out, but I think it’s a pretty brilliant idea to reinforce the one-stop-shop idea for cost-conscious customers.
Relationships inside a company are increasingly important with such scale. As someone who worked on a dotcom project without sitting out at dotcom (in California), I saw firsthand the importance of knowing the right people to even get basic data. Walmart understands this and thus strongly encourages networking. Although at first I felt like I was back in recruiting season, all the coffee chats proved to be a great way to get in touch with the right people for my project plus learn about other interesting teams.
Overall I had a great summer, and I learned a lot about e-commerce and even more about building trust and influence with people both in Bentonville and at dotcom in San Bruno. While I expected to apply knowledge from finance and strategy HBS classes during my internship, I was pleasantly surprised to be thinking about our Leadership and Organizational Behavior (LEAD) class more than anything else.
- Stephanie Tupi, MBA 2015