March 17, 2014 — Welcome to the latest in our series of #WomenCan profiles, highlighting executives and experts who are transforming workplaces and are Catalysts for change within their companies and fields.
Meet: Michelle Nelson, Sr. Director, Human Resources, Sam’s Club.
Unexpected career path: I started leading others in a very non-traditional way. I went to college for criminal justice, and while in school worked at Walmart as an hourly associate in the accounting department, planning only to stay until I got a “real” job. A senior colleague saw my potential and encouraged me to take an opportunity in management. Even though I had zero experience in the field, he noticed my people skills and ability to think analytically. I’m mindful of giving back and pulling others along in part because he inspired me to think of broader opportunities.
Rising through the ranks: I leveraged my experience in many roles at Walmart, where I’ve worked in Retail Operations, Training and Development, Human Resources, Diversity, Recruiting, and Constituent Relations. Today, I am Senior Director of Human Resources for Sam’s Club (one of Walmart’s business units), where my responsibility includes supporting a business with over 33,000 associates.
Paying it forward: I am passionate about advocating for women’s advancement and leadership development, both within Sam’s Club and in the broader women’s business community. I was a part of the core team that launched Walmart’s Mentoring program in 2004. In 2012, I led the strategic realignment for the organization’s Women’s Advisory Council and Women in Leadership initiatives.
Establishing executive presence: Walk into a meeting with head up and shoulders back. And sit at the table. Don’t discount yourself by sitting along the side of the room. Speak up, be an active listener, weigh in when you have something valuable to add, and ask smart questions to help bring more people into the conversation.
Work-life wisdom: Be realistic about what you can do. You don’t have to be everything to everybody. I have two children under age four (and a dog), and no extended family network to help. I used to feel guilty about not being able to do it all—and then I realized that I don’t have to do it all. I do the things that are important to my family. I always make a cake on my husband and my girls’ birthdays. It might be from a mix, but it’s homemade!
Hear more of Michelle’s comments, from the Catalyst Connects panel at our 2013 Catalyst Awards Conference.
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