March 8, 2021
The paths they paved in life may be unique to them, but their perseverance and humility are helping write the roadmap to success for generations of women to come.
“Treat everyone like they are your mother, father, son or daughter because they are to someone,” said Kristie Wagner, Club Manager in Dublin, Ohio, she said adding we all need to take responsibility for ourselves to continue to grow. “If something doesn’t work out, course correct, regroup, refocus and do whatever you have to do to keep moving forward.”
Kristie, a survivor of domestic abuse and gun violence, was a mother at 16, living in a one-bedroom apartment, sleeping on the floor. Now she’s a club manager, nurturing an entire club of associates.
Prathibha Rajashekhar moved to a new country from India as an adult and had to adapt. She had a background in technology, found a job, was going to college and learning how to manage all of that with her daughter of nearly two. But she didn’t want to be viewed as only a Technologist and knew there were other ways she wanted to contribute. Now she’s the Senior Vice President of Private Brands and Sourcing for Sam’s Club.
Even though they started their journeys worlds apart, Kristie and Prathibha share a common bond: they’re strong women who know how to navigate change and identify opportunities.
Kristie was from a small town with limited prospects, taking a local job in retail to make ends meet. But a short while later, the store closed, and she started over, again and again. But raising a child, and seeing her sister succeed at Walmart, Kristie knew there was more for her family.
“I decided to take a leap of faith,” Kristie said of her start with Walmart in 2006. “It is always scary leaving what you know to do something that you don’t, but I am so glad that I did.”
She was quickly promoted to Co-Manager and served 8 years in that role. And when an opportunity to stay close to home presented itself at Sam’s Club, Kristie decided to jump at the chance to start over again. She excelled quickly and held a few different leadership roles before her recent promotion to Club Manager.
Changing careers is never easy. We as humans fear the unknown, and I am no exception. When transitioning into a new role I immediately take ownership of everything, good and bad. Never placing blame on those who came before me. But most importantly I learned to always be a servant leader.
As the youngest of five children, she attributes servant leadership to her father and three of her siblings who are former military. “While I had my own struggles in life so many have it so much worse,” she said humbly, adding her family helped keep her grounded, something she hopes to pass down to her own son, who is now a Marine. “He is my greatest accomplishment and my proudest moment. He is who inspired me to do more.”
Prathibha came to the United States in her early twenties and was trying to manage her family, work and finish her education. “Technology is where my head was, but I wanted to leverage what I learned in a non-traditional way.”
She joined Walmart in 2011 as a manager in technology, but because of her ability to use her experiences and apply them to different situations she’s flown up the ranks and held roles in Global Shared Services, Supply Chain and Global People. It was in 2018 she made the switch to Sam’s Club and served as the Vice President for the Baby, Health and Beauty and Over-the-Counter businesses before being promoted to her current role.
Curiosity, humility and your willingness to go above and beyond to connect with people and learn is a key to transitioning careers successfully at any level. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It helps people understand you are willing to learn and contribute.
And that’s why Prathibha has continued to reinvent herself and still be able to make an impact.
“At Sam’s Club, you have an environment where you can bring in ideas,” she said. “Here you can go to anybody and they’ll listen to your ideas and your thoughts. There is a collective appreciation for a team and not just an individual.” And listening to and bringing big ideas to life with her team is exactly what Prathibha is doing, especially with the great new items to hit clubs and online from the Member’s Mark brand.
She’s also a strong believer that learning is a key to growth and is always focused on “understanding the why.” Being a mother, a wife and having a big career, it’s critical to understand balance.
“There are days where my work takes a lot more involvement, and there are days where my family takes more involvement,” she said. “You need to find that balance and know that it will be ok based on the day and need.”
Different women. Different paths. But both are special examples of creating a brighter future for those yet to come.