July 1, 2020
By Matt Smith, Walmart Corporate Affairs
Starting a new career can be daunting for anyone. And that goes double for U.S. military veterans cycling into civilian life.
Earlier this year, Walmart fulfilled its commitment to hire 250,000 military veterans by 2020. I caught up with one of our proud military veterans, Jessica Huntsman, to share her story. Jessica has been with Walmart for ten years, and she says she’d do it all over again.
A Decade of Success
Now working at Walmart’s Home Office in Bentonville, Jessica Huntsman has had ten years to think about why Walmart makes the perfect fit for many veterans. She served in the Army for eight years, and since joining Walmart in 2010, she’s been able to accomplish a lot.
She recalled how difficult it was trying to land a job fresh out of the military. “I applied to 50 different places. I had a bachelor’s. I had a master’s degree. I had all this great military experience, but no takers,” she said.
That’s when her brother, who had worked at the company since he was 16 years old, suggested she apply. Walmart was beginning to focus on hiring military personnel in 2010 and made a formal commitment in 2013 to hire 250,000 military service members in seven years. The timing was good for Jessica.
Once she was hired as a developmental store manager, Jessica discovered the things she had learned in the military fit very well at Walmart. Within only three months, she was promoted to store manager. Since then, Huntsman’s responsibilities have continued to grow. She’s been promoted to leadership positions at the market, regional and divisional levels.
Now, she’s the senior director responsible for Walmart’s in-store procedural guides. One Best Way guides are essential operational manuals for everything in a Walmart store. They help associates learn the most effective and efficient ways to do everything from making cupcakes to cleaning floors. These guides are an important part of running any successful and profitable store, and they’re referenced several times a day by the company’s 1.2 million U.S. associates.
It’s a complex job to be sure, but even after a decade of working for Walmart, Hunstman’s military experience continues to prove useful. She said a lot of the transition from the military to Walmart is just learning retail and the differing terminology.
“We’re very similar to the military in a lot of ways,” Huntsman said. “I tell people I know from the Army that I write doctrine now, and they know exactly what I mean.”
Secret Military Club
Huntsman says there’s a whole network of military veterans at Walmart who go out of their way to help and support their fellow service members. “There’s always someone to pick you up and teach you,” Huntsman said. “It’s like a little secret club.”
One of the perks of the unofficial associates’ military club is getting advice from some of retail’s top minds. For example, Huntsman and EVP of Supercenters, Todd Harbaugh, have developed a special, good-natured rivalry.
Harbaugh, a U.S. Navy veteran, liked to tease Huntsman about the Naval Academy’s 14-year football winning streak over Army at West Point. Over the last couple of years, the rivalry has been a little more even. Huntsman was travelling with Harbaugh during the game “We had ‘very spirited’ conversations on the day of the Army-Navy game,” she recalled.
Huntsman stressed that relationships like this are one of the big reasons Walmart is such a great place for military veterans. “I’ve learned so much from Todd and many other veterans that came before me. I just want to pay it forward as much as I can,” she said.
For Huntsman, she’s proud of all the things she’s been able to accomplish in her decade at Walmart. If given the same opportunity, she said she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I would do it all again. Sign me up.”