Dawn Norvell has worked at Walmart for over nine years, and every bit of it has been an adventure.
After receiving a business degree, Norvell started her career at the company as a marketer. Just three years later, she realized all the possibilities a supportive environment like Walmart has to offer — and decided she wanted to make a switch to Merchandising.
While many companies may not have encouraged such a significant career change for one of their rising stars, Norvell was encouraged to dive into the new opportunity.
“People at Walmart are really open to helping you understand and learn about other areas of the business,” she said.
She learned immediately that she loved Merchandising.
“I’ve always considered myself a generalist, so merchandising really speaks to my spirit, as two days are never quite the same. I really appreciate the variability,” she recently told Fairygodboss. “Working with our customers and getting products out into the ecosystem is really exciting and fun to be a part of.”
Norvell started out as a Merchant, then became a Senior Merchant, before recently being promoted to Merchandising Director. She says being able to uphold the “Save Money, Live Better” aspect of Walmart’s mission while serving millions of people is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her Merchandising role.
“The scale of the business is something you really can’t find anywhere else and is particularly unique to Walmart,” she said. “There’s something to be said about being able to serve hundreds of millions of people — whether that’s on a global level or in rural communities. I don’t think I would’ve been able to do that working in merchandising at another organization.”
Beyond her passion, Norvell has a leadership style that she says drives her success as a Director. It harkens back to her days as an athlete.
“I’m a very straight-forward person,” she said. “When I played sports, I was always reminded that a team only wins when each individual understands their role and their goals. I want my team to clearly see the broader picture and the end goal and understand how to line up to deliver that goal.”
Seeing an associate crush those clearly communicated goals provides an additional drive for Norvell to keep going, she shared.
“I’m extremely motivated by being able to see my associates succeed. Celebrating the people I work with and helping them be successful drives my passion.”
However, it isn’t all business all the time on Norvell’s team. Especially during a year as turbulent as 2020. She also makes time to connect on a more personal level with her colleagues.
“I spend a lot of time being transparent with my team and acknowledging that people are experiencing a lot of different emotions in their personal lives,” she said. “With COVID-19, people are going through a lot right now. Being humble, open and allowing people to see me as a human has been very important to me in 2020. There has to be a balance between the human side and getting the job done.”
She says Walmart has taken important steps to humanize this year’s events and ensure support for employees on an institutional level that goes beyond one-on-one check-ins. Norvell noted a few examples of these:
“Relative to social injustice, our leadership has put a learning series in place with brand new content,” she shared. “We’ve also had unconscious bias training for our associates led by our fellow team members. I think it’s awesome that this allows our associates to contribute their input.”
It’s this kind of support, tied with Walmart’s boundless opportunities, that makes Walmart such a great place to work.
“Walmart is that place where a lot of things are done. There are endless opportunities to network internally to grow and develop your skills. It’s really what you make of it,” she said.
When it comes to seizing the opportunities that come up in your career, Norvell has advice for women no matter where they work. It’s the same advice her mentor offered to guide her career.
“One of my sponsors always told me: ‘You are enough.’ I think that a lot of times as women, we second guess our abilities and oftentimes pass up opportunities we don’t feel qualified for. I believe women need to be very clear on who they are and what they want… Know your worth and don’t settle for anything less!”
She had three pieces of advice for women in merchandising — especially the women who are looking to build their careers at Walmart:
Be a student of the business and a champion for the customer. It’s essential to understand the position of your customer, your competitors and your products.
In merchandising, there is this balance between science and art, and understanding the differences in customer nuances and product offerings. You have to be ambidextrous in how you go about using analytics to drive the business forward.
Be really clear on your point of difference. Being able to stand in your truth and shine in our own light is something that is essential in finding success in merchandising.
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