Aug. 4, 2021
To get coffee, or to not get coffee? It seems like an easy question, but it was one Sam’s Club associate Suchi Vakkalagadda battled with when she began her career in the technology industry.
"My manager used to call our team and invite us to coffee… It took some time to realize the importance of these coffee breaks," she said. "Whether it was to get coffee or lunch, I never did these types of things and I was missing an opportunity to express myself to my manager," she explained. "He could see my end result but he never saw how I worked through problems to get to the final goal."
After several years into her now over 17-year career in technology, Suchi realized that ‘getting coffee’ was an important networking and communication opportunity.
From then on, Suchi never looked back. Once she became a manager, she decided to take the initiative to get some time with each of her associates individually, whether that was coffee or another way. Even today, in a virtual world, she prioritizes time to connect with her colleagues and learn more about their professional projects and goals. She realized one of the most powerful tools is your voice, and to make it heard.
"It took me some time to learn that it is okay to speak up. That was the first challenge for me to learn. When I started my career, I would do my work and not worry about talking or connecting with my co-workers," she said.
Suchi also found more encouragement as women began moving into leadership roles.
I watched other women in leadership to see how and what they were doing, and if they were speaking in meetings. I noticed they weren’t losing anything by speaking up, and that gave me the strength and confidence to join in and give opinions and offer feedback. It was difficult initially, but it was worth it.
The Sam’s Club Women of Technology group was formed three years ago with the goal of guiding and mentoring women in the technology space. Suchi is a key volunteer and views this organization as vital to women’s growth in this industry.
"Our primary goal is not only helping women, but also to take them to the next level," she said. "We want to spotlight their work and showcase it to our leaders, because what we are doing is amazing. We want to bring in more women and support those already involved."
The amazing work done by Suchi has not gone unnoticed. Suchi and her team were recognized at the 2019 Shareholders’ Meeting by Walmart Inc. CEO Doug McMillon for their work on the Sam’s Club Tire and Battery Center application, Sam’s Garage™.
"To me, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity being recognized in front of 15,000 people by the CEO. It was a proud moment."
The night before the meeting, Suchi received a meeting invitation from Doug McMillon.
"He said he would be saying my name on stage and he wanted to make sure he got it right, which is why he is a great leader. He asked if there were any tips on how he could pronounce my last name. I said no there are no tips this is just how it is pronounced!"
Suchi, who is now a Director of Software Engineering, says her role has grown exponentially during her time at Walmart and Sam’s Club. She says she will always stay true to her mantra, while continuing to support women in technology: "Keep yourself open, don’t restrain yourself and always go after opportunities. Whenever you get an opportunity, don’t waste it, be ready for the challenge - out of challenges comes growth."