Your final year can be a stressful time with so many possibilities for you to explore, yet not really knowing where you want to make your mark. We get it. Let us introduce you to Walmart Canada’s DARE Program. Created for young professionals with high-potential just like you, DARE will show you the ropes, provide professional development and a deep understanding of the business. This program offers real-world experience while allowing you to customize your career path to do your best work exactly where you want to be. We had the pleasure of chatting with three DARE program alumni to hear about their journeys through the program – where they started, what they’ve learned and where they are now, to give you insights on how this program truly transforms new grads and sets them on a path to success.
Flourishing in New Environments
Meet Amanda Shoalts, Program Manager in eCommerce Supply Chain at Walmart Canada. Amanda graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Commerce degree and first found out about Walmart’s DARE program on campus. “I had a chance to attend a presentation and was really intrigued by the rotational concept and the opportunity to explore and learn about so many areas of the business without being constrained by pre-determined streams,” she says. The more Amanda learned about the program, the more impressed and excited she was to apply. “In evaluating the DARE program, I was struck with the fact that Walmart was willing to invest so much in me as a DARE associate, through cross-functional work experience, mentorship, as well as unique trainings, workshops and speakers throughout the program,” she comments.
During the program, Amanda acquired invaluable skills and also learned a lot about herself, her interests and where she wanted to go next in her career journey. “Having the chance to be part of DARE allowed me to develop an understanding of what type of environment I enjoyed working in and excelled in. I learned that eCommerce, an area of business which I had not been fully exposed to in university, allowed me to work in a fast-paced, ambiguous environment where I could learn a lot, contribute and develop a strong foundation for my career at Walmart,” she says.
In transitioning to her current role, Amanda was impressed by the support she received when nearing the end of the DARE program. “DARE provided me with the resources to identify available roles in the business which could be a fit based on my interests. HR was extremely transparent in outlining the steps required to apply for internal positions and what the process looked like to ensure you could prepare appropriately.”
Jumping in and Learning the Ropes
Matthew Gao, a University of Toronto graduate, knew that he wanted to work in a customer-focused role where he could combine his passion for both business and art. So when he first discovered the DARE Program opportunity with Walmart, he jumped at the chance to learn more. “Coming out of university, I knew I wanted to be in a role that directly worked with consumers. Throughout university I worked at places that were both B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Customer) and I really liked working directly with the customers. DARE gave me the exposure to have that experience with customers in different areas and to be able to work cross-functionally with a lot of different teams,” he says.
After applying and being accepted into the DARE program, Matthew faced his first challenging and most valuable experience in his rotation – Store Operations. Not having any previous experience in a retail job, this first rotation opened his eyes to the day-to-day operations of what it takes to actually run and operate a Walmart store. “I think a lot of people, including myself, never really knew how the store ran before coming to Walmart. Maybe people think it’s magic – you go into a store and there are items on the shelf. But you don’t realize the complexity that goes into running a Walmart store. For me, this served as a great foundation – I was better able to understand all of the different roles and how they affect the store after this experience,” he comments.
During this time he was also pleasantly surprised by the genuine new connections he made. “The first thing that I noticed coming into the DARE program was just how friendly everybody is. When I came in, I immediately made a lot of connections and friends with DARE colleagues. When we first started, we did 4 weeks of onboarding with lots of activities and workshops and learning about the organization. It was nice to see the value that Walmart puts in their program,” Matthew says.
Now the Marketing Manager of Omni Channel, Matthew credits the DARE program for opening his eyes to new possibilities and giving him the opportunity to learn vast amounts in a short period of time. “For me a big benefit [of the DARE program] is the exposure across business units. Being in a massive organization, I wouldn’t have been able to learn as much as I did if I didn’t have the opportunity to experience different aspects of the business.”
A Fierce Passion for Employee Experience
Nikki Baumgartner joined Walmart Canada as a DARE Associate in 2015 where she found her passion for people and employee experience. A Queen’s University Smith School of Business grad, Nikki had not previously considered pursuing a career in retail. After hearing about the DARE program at an on-campus recruiting event, she was intrigued by the rotational program. “At the time that I was graduating, few rotational programs came to campus and Walmart pitched an opportunity to learn the inner workings of a Fortune 1 retailer, while contributing to incredibly meaningful projects,” she says.
When Nikki started the DARE program, it was evident to her how much Walmart truly cared about its people. “My first impression of the DARE Program was that Walmart is invested in its talent. You’ll notice this right from on-campus recruitment where it’s not uncommon to find executive-level leaders taking time out of their busy work days to come and meet prospective DARE associates. Once you’re in the program, DARE associates are provided with multiple opportunities to continue to learn from, present to, and interact with top leaders. There is also a component of mentorship embedded into the DARE model that allows for 1-on-1 coaching and development,” she comments.
What stood out to Nikki the most was the strength of Walmart’s culture. “When you’re in business school and you learn about Walmart, the focus is always on its supply chain or the massive scale and reach that the organization has. When you’re actually in the business and you learn about Walmart, you realize that our true ‘secret sauce’ is our culture and our people who make this, that place. It’s a place where different belongs, where you’re encouraged to challenge the status quo. A place where opportunities are unlimited and you can redefine your potential. Above all, it’s a place where you’re proud to work, serving an undeniably worthy mission: helping Canadians save money so that they can live better.”
Currently the Manager of Diversity, Engagement and Culture at Walmart, Nikki emphasizes that even after completing the DARE program, she continues to feel supported and treats every career move like a “bonus DARE rotation”. “I’m looking to adapt to new teams and remain curious and driven to learn and explore new areas of the People Business,” she says. Some of the most valuable skills that she uses daily were developed during her time in the DARE program. “In the DARE program, you’re challenged to learn as much as you can about an area of the business while also making a contribution within a limited amount of time. As a result, many DARE associates flex their learning agility muscles and develop a greater capacity for change. These skills are especially beneficial in the rapidly evolving retail landscape and will serve DARE associates well even after their time in the program.”
Final Pieces of Advice
Being in your shoes not too long ago, these DARE alumni have some key pieces of advice for new grads considering a career at Walmart:
“Be open to new opportunities outside of your current perceived desired path. Your passion could be a field which you aren’t even aware of yet.” – Amanda Shoalts
“It’s important to be bold and to know that the work we do has a significant impact on millions of Canadians. So it’s important that we bring our best everyday, regardless of the task. We have to approach it with the same boldness and courage to think differently.” – Matthew Gao
“Show your spark: there is a place and space for all types of associates at Walmart; don’t be afraid to be your authentic self!” – Nikki Baumgartner
There are common themes shared between all of the DARE alumni: the people, the growth and the support that Walmart gives to its employees is unparalleled. Through exposure, experiences and mentors across a variety of business units, you’re given the support and opportunity to get noticed, make your mark with a global retail giant, and create the career you’ve always wanted.