Women in Technology are Driving Innovation

Lori McCleskey

At Sam’s Club, we aim to have a diverse workplace, including developing career paths for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) roles. Through initiatives like our Live Better U $1 a day program, which recently added 14 technology degrees, to our dedicated Women in Technology associate groups, we are encouraging women to join our tech organization and mentoring them along the way.

We caught up with three technologists, who have almost 50 years of combined experience, to learn more about what it is like to work in a technology role and why they think Sam’s Club is a special place to work.

Women in Technology - Blair Ethington

Q: What brought you to Sam’s Club?
Blair: The people. I worked for Eddie Garcia and Jamie Iannone at eBay – and I knew I still had a lot to learn from them. I was also excited to learn about developing products for a physical brick and mortar experience at a large company.

Q: What is your team working on that gets you really excited?
Blair: The team is extremely driven to improve the experience for our members by removing friction, empowering our associates and creating moments of delight. If I had to list just a couple, I’d currently highlight the great work around computer vision to create a more holistic view of our inventory - where it is, how much we have of it, where are we losing it and is it priced correctly. We’re also improving our Club Pickup experience. The team has built a product called Quick Pick that will simplify the work for associates, so members can get their orders full and fast.

Q: What advice would you give other women starting a career in technology?
Blair: Here is what I would say:

  • Build a strong network: Meet as many people as possible and never burn bridges because you’ll probably work with that person again.
  • Be eager to learn and have an impact: Dive into the details, always ask why five times. Understand the metrics. Focus on having an impact, not just checking a box to say something is done.
  • Be adaptable: Things are constantly changing, and we need to always be questioning ourselves and be ready to shift. Don’t let your ego get in the way.
Women in Technology - Hong Chen

Q: How did you become interested in engineering?
Hong: As early as middle school, I remember really liking physics and mathematics. My older sister is also in the engineering field. She works for the space program in Beijing as an Aerospace Engineer.

Q: Tell us what you do as an engineer at Sam’s Club.
Hong: I am responsible for Sam’s Scan and Go backend Service Platform and ongoing production and support of our Scan & Go app. We are constantly working to make Scan & Go better, so I work with our mobile app team to figure out new features we can add by looking at analytics data and member feedback. Just this year we added the ability to purchase alcohol items on Scan & Go because our members told us that’s something they wanted.

Q: What makes Sam’s Club a special place to work?
Hong: Because Sam’s Club is a membership organization, we have access to data that tells us who members are and how they shop. As an engineer, I am given full ownership and the ability to use this data to create tools that will directly impact our members shopping experience and help solve problems - that’s very powerful.

Women in Technology - McCleskey

Q: What do you love about working at Sam’s Club?
Lori: Our company has been around for over 35 years, but our tech organization is fairly new, so I get to be a part of shaping our future from the ground up. Even though we are a large company, I’m able to have a direct connection to our leadership, understand their vision and help make some big changes. I can move fast, have influence and make a positive impact on the business.

Q: How do you stay connected with other women in technology?
Lori: A few years ago, I helped form a Women in Technology group at Sam’s Club home office as a way to empower and support fellow tech associates. This group is inclusive to both men and women and we focus on three things: mentorship, community work and showcasing women. It’s a great way to build each other up and get educated on all the different tech roles in our company.

Q: What Sam’s Club innovations are you most proud of?
Lori: Scan & Go has been such a game-changer. The fact that we’re the only major retailer to nationally roll out an app that let’s you bypass the checkout line is incredible. My team also worked on an app we rolled out this year called Membership Express, which reduced the sign-up process time to just under a minute from start to finish.