After 40 years at Walmart, Lisa Smith sees the value of relationships.
It’s a lifelong philosophy for Lisa Smith, a senior project manager for Walmart. During her 40 years with the company, Lisa has worked at many different locations and filled close to a dozen different roles. That’s meant 40 years of opportunities to connect with others and build relationships, including lifelong friendships.
When Lisa joined Walmart, she was a 19-year-old college student, going to school full-time and then putting in 40 hours a week to pay her bills. She started as an evening sales clerk and later worked as a department manager at Store 231 in Ada, Oklahoma.
Lisa met her husband, Rick, while working in Ada. He was going through the assistant manager training program and, over the years, the couple moved to work at different Walmart stores. She worked at Store 389 in Edmond, Oklahoma (apparel department manager), Store 837 in Thayer (assistant manager), Store 125 in Fort Smith, Arkansas (department manager in candy), and Store 79 in Joplin, Missouri (“Red Light Special” associate, then department manager).
In 1989, Lisa moved into her first position in the home office in Bentonville, Arkansas. There, she served on the first Point of Sale Replenishment Team, helping stores transition to using scan data to restock merchandise instead of relying on department managers to place orders.
Her longest-held role was at Sam’s Club, where Lisa moved in 1992 to become a business support manager after being invited to apply for a position by a former manager.
“This position offered me so many opportunities to learn and be on the frontline of creating systems, tools and processes for Sam’s Club,” Lisa says. “When [my boss] and I moved to the Sam’s Club Home Office, we were the only associates in Sam’s that had personal computers!”
Now, as a project manager, Lisa is involved in a U.S.-based global procurement project.
The Value of Your Network
Through her various roles, Lisa made both friends and business contacts. She participated in mentoring circles and served as a mentor herself. Time and again throughout her career, Lisa found that her emphasis on relationships made a difference.
A supportive manager helped her advance her career. A former co-worker told her about an open position. After facing restructuring in 2015 and again in 2019, the relationships she’d developed during her career helped her land new positions in the company.
“Walmart is a large company, but Bentonville is a small world,” says Lisa. “People move around a lot. So when you build a relationship, and make it strong and lasting, most likely people will come back through your career at some point.”
In 2009, in what she says was the highlight of her career, Lisa was awarded the Sam M. Walton Award of Excellence. Also known as the Blue Coat Award, this is the highest individual honor given to Sam’s Club associates. The award is given to associates who exemplify the Walmart cultural ideals every day—service to the customer, respect for the individual, striving for excellence and acting with integrity.
Lisa says a “service heart” has helped her stay true to her values through her career. “I hope people learn how to live the culture, and uphold the culture just by watching how I work,” she says.
“When I would feel like our culture was slipping a little bit, I called it out to the senior leadership, that maybe we need to focus on culture again, get back to basics,” Lisa says. “I'm a shy person normally, but when I feel like I need to speak up, I have to do the right thing, that's when I get courageous.”
A soon-to-be first-time grandmother, Lisa says she plans to stay at Walmart for the rest of her career. “Forty years is a huge achievement, but I’m most proud of my marriage of 38 years and our three awesome sons and daughters-in-law,” Lisa says. “I couldn’t have achieved what I have without an amazing support system of family and friends!”