I’m Leaving Walmart: What I learned, Why I left, and Where I’m going.


Intro

Recently I made one of the hardest decisions of my professional career.

I’ve decided to leave Walmart to explore a new career opportunity.

Why? Well that’s the purpose of this post. I’m going to share an honest perspective of my Walmart journey looking at what I’ve learned, why I left, and where I’m going.


What I learned at Walmart

Channel 10 interview promoting the Walmart Labs office in Carlsbad

For me, working for Walmart felt like being an intrapreneur, in a startup like environment, for the largest retailer in the U.S.

I was given autonomy to define and lead various digital transformation initiatives, while having the responsibility to grow and scale a remote office.

And with an amazing team supporting me, I was able to achieve some impressive results during my career at Walmart:

  • Site lead for the Walmart technology office in Carlsbad, CA, helping to grow the office from 13 to over 200 associates across multiple business units.
  • Lead the effort to build the Walmart technology brand in SoCal to attract and retain talent.
New Walmart Carlsbad Office Grand Opening Event — 2018
  • Successfully managed a distributed team of over 200 talented associates across 4 different time zones.
  • Built an in-house AB testing platform that was leveraged across the enterprise.
Walmart Expo — AB Testing Platform Community Conference — 2019
  • Drove the unified vision and strategy for creating a suite of tools to automate the merchandizing process across site and store experiences.
  • Drove a culture of quality automation, implementing a shift left philosophy for the web and native app experiences for Walmart.com
  • Worked on systems that processed millions of transactions, supporting business units responsible for billions of dollars.
Winner of Top Workplace Award 2018

Each one of these accomplishments helped shape my approach to leadership. And through the frustrations, failures, and successes, I realized it’s not about being the perfect leader, but the right leader for the job. 

Top 10 Lessons Learned

During my 9 year tenure at Walmart, I’ve learned some valuable lessons that have become a part of my leadership toolkit. Below are my top 10:

  • Lesson #1: Take time to understand a company’s culture before you start making changes
  • Lesson #2: Build your corporate network and cultivate strategic relationships
  • Lesson #3: Be adaptable and open minded to change 
  • Lesson #4: Always have a clear vision, strategy, and plan before you start executing
  • Lesson #5: Give your team the trust, support, structure, and autonomy to succeed
Carlsbad Tools team — 2016
  • Lesson #6: Make decisions based on objective facts not emotions
  • Lesson #7: Don’t prolong decisions once you have data to support them
  • Lesson #8: Don’t be afraid to make the tough calls
  • Lesson #9: Embrace failure as a learning experience for growth
  • Lesson #10: Take time to acknowledge, celebrate, and reward accomplishments as a team
Team Celebration Event — 2018

The challenges faced and lessons learned at Walmart have provided continued growth opportunities for me as a leader. 

So with things going so well, why would I make the decision to leave Walmart?

That was a difficult question to answer initially, however, the more I self-reflected on what I needed personally for my career, the clearer the answer became…


Why I left Walmart

Saying goodbye to my laptop, work phone, and badge — 2021

On the surface, leaving a secure job, great team, challenging work, with almost a decade of equity invested seems a bit unconventional. But there were 3 reasons that ultimately contributed towards my decision to leave Walmart.

Reason #1: My career path was unclear

In my 9 years with Walmart, I’ve had 6 different bosses. I was constantly in a state of flux, having to realign on career path goals, scope, and rebuilding trust. The lack of consistency with having a boss who understood my strengths, made it extremely difficult to get the support and sponsorship needed to advance in my career.

“Frustration, although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of success.” — Bo Bennett

Reason #2: I felt displaced

The merchant tools domain, my primary responsibility, had become fragmented over time as Walmart evolved its business strategy, leadership team, and organizational structure. 

And with each attempt to unify this area, I found myself in organizations where my team’s charter was not a proper fit.

This made it difficult to align on personal career goals, budget prioritization for projects, and overall leadership support for my domain.

And while I managed through these changes, I felt displaced within the company like a square peg in a round hole.

All successful people learn that success is buried on the other side of frustration.” — Tony Robbins

Reason #3: Work became routine

The leadership team at Walmart had always given me the autonomy to execute independently in my role. This allowed me to evolve my team’s scope to align with the company’s strategy, creating new challenges to solve. 

However, with my area typically being placed in non merchant tooling organizations, I was operating in a bubble. 

So while I had control over defining my team’s strategy, the scope was limited to the bubble I was operating in. And after awhile, work became routine and I started to feel burnt out.

“To conquer frustration, one must remain intensely focused on the outcome, not the obstacles.” — T.F. Hodge

Time for a change 

As I evolved with Walmart, I realized these 3 reasons were stifling my professional growth that needed to be addressed. 

And having more scope, compensation, or a new title was not going to fix the problem. I needed to be in an environment where I felt valued…

…and that’s what I found in my next gig!

“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” — Lee Iacocca

Where I’m Going

I’m proud to announce, I will be joining Strava as their new VP of Engineering responsible for the Product, Platform, and Foundation Engineering groups.

In my new role, my leadership scope includes:

  • Leading the next growth stage for Strava Engineering as the team is scaled
  • Supporting the growth and development of a talented engineering team
  • Contributing towards building an inclusive, collaborative, and antiracist culture
  • Collaborating with Strava’s leadership team to support planning, execution, and delivery of fun and engaging experiences for an athlete community that is rapidly approaching 100 million members

I’m excited about my future with Strava. 

Their willingness to invest in me with a role that offers challenges which leverage my strengths is the perfect opportunity match for the next stage of my career journey.

Welcome Swag from Strava — 2021

Special Acknowledgments

To My Walmart Fam:

Goodbye Party — 2021

I would be remiss if I did not give you credit for preparing me for my next chapter.

To my coaches, mentors, and team, thank you for believing in me. Your support enabled me to be resilient in times of frustration, helping to overcoming challenging situations allowing us to accomplish some amazing things. You all will be missed.

And thank you for all the love and appreciation. I feel blessed and honored by your words. 

Till we meet again.

Kudo board from team

To My Strava Teammates: 

Testing out the new Strava swag. Let’s go teammates — 2021

I appreciate you believing in me. I am excited to learn more about the Strava culture, teams, and company objectives. I promise to give 110% as we work together to accomplish our goals.

Let’s make magic happen.


Shameless Plug

Strava is the leading social platform for athletes and the largest sports community in the world with over 85 million athletes in 195 countries. 

Interested in working for Strava? You’re in luck! Strava is hiring across product, design, program, engineering, and more. In addition, they have internship opportunities. If you’re interested and want to learn more, please drop me a note at claude@strava.com. 

The Practical Leadership Guy

Claude Jones is a seasoned leader with a reputation for building and leading teams that outperform expectations and deliver exceptional results. He has a passion for bringing out the best in others and believes that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.