Summer internships remain a vital way for college graduates or those soon-to-be the opportunity to test the waters in particular fields like retail, technology, finance or supply chain. While many companies canceled internships amid the pandemic, Walmart said it found a way to keep the program moving via a virtual program launched last year.
Amy Goldfinger, senior vice president of global talent, said Walmart pivoted quickly in 2020 and created a successful virtual internship program.
“We are constantly working to grow our talent pipeline, and we spend a lot of time and energy in talent recruitment to keep the Walmart engine going. We focus on this throughout the year, working with a series of programs and colleges with degrees relevant to the future of retail,” Goldfinger told Talk Business & Politics in a phone interview.
This year Walmart welcomed 700 summer interns who will spend ten weeks getting immersed into the Walmart culture while also working on curated projects designed to build skills and also shape the future of retail. The interns are working virtually in finance, merchandising, human resources, supply chain, Sam’s Club, technology and marketing/communications. In addition, she said several hundred more interns are working out in stores, and they are hired by store management as needed.
She said the virtual program was so successful last year that the company opted to repeat it and add more interns. The class of 2021 is getting its orientation Thursday (June 3), and they will hit the ground running next week following the associate’s celebration on Friday.
Goldfinger said that aside from day-to-day project work, the interns will also take part in lunch and learn workshops, and they will have access to Walmart company executives. But it’s not all work. She said Walmart also provides well-being classes, cooking and gardening classes to keep them engaged and building friends from their first to last day in the program.
“We give interns impactful projects so they can learn and apply their skills. The interns are placed into cohort groups of seven to 10 people to navigate their career goals and are aligned with peer mentors who guided them throughout the internship. And, we pair each intern with a dedicated manager and provide access to Walmart and Sam’s Club executives,” Goldfinger said.
Walmart pays its interns, though the company did not release the contract salary figures. Goldfinger said Walmart hires about 80% of those who intern, and the program remains vital to growing future talent. Goldfinger started her career at Walmart as an intern three years ago.
“At Walmart, we are continuously investing in our associates’ long-term success through learning and growth opportunities, and our internships are no different – virtual, or not. Our internships help people develop future-focused, relevant skills and experiences by matching them with needs in the business,” she said.
Nada Buada was part of the 2020 program and interned virtually from Houston, Texas, last summer. Buada discovered a passion for hardware and software imaging while supporting the tech team during her internship. In addition, she gained analytical and communication skills by working with stores and implementing new technologies, Goldfinger said.
“Growing careers means exposing interns to the breadth of opportunity at Walmart. Her [Buada’s] experience as an intern led to an opportunity with us as a technical program manager,” Goldfinger said.
From Columbia, Md., Lindsey Williams interned in the membership department at Sam’s Club last year. Her role was to strategize and implement ways to enhance the membership experience through promotions and product demonstrations, which connected well with her passion for making things easier for people. Throughout the internship, she engaged members for feedback, met bi-weekly with two mentors, and regularly presented ideas to her manager on creating more value for members. The skills and knowledge she gained are being applied every day as a new marketing manager at Sam’s Club, focusing on increasing millennial membership, Goldfinger said.
She said there are many examples at Walmart of college interns working their way into management. Megan Crozier, chief merchant and senior vice president at Sam’s Club, started an internship that parlayed into a full-time job as an engineer in the Walmart grocery distribution center in Temple, Texas. She became a merchant buyer in 2005 for Walmart U.S. overseeing categories including electronics, frozen food and dry grocery. In 2019, Crozier became the chief merchant at Sam’s Club. She leads a cross-functional team of merchants, pharmacists, product managers and supply chain engineers focused on curating the best assortment for members.
Latriece Watkins, executive vice president of consumables for Walmart U.S., also started her career as an intern in real estate after finishing her law degree at the University of Arkansas. Watkins has risen through the ranks since 2006, serving as senior vice president over several merchandising categories before her promotion to executive vice president in January of last year.
Goldfinger said Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon was not a corporate intern, but he did get his start at the company while he was in high school. John Furner, CEO of Walmart U.S., got a job at store No. 100 in Bentonville while in college at the University of Arkansas in 1993.
“We want our internships to provide opportunities to build long-lasting futures at Walmart. By aligning skills and interests to business needs, we’re developing the talent to continue bringing value to customers and communities around the globe,” she added.