August 24, 2017 by texasbbacareerservices
Zach Aldrich, UT McCombs Alumni 2016
Degree: MSBA (Masters of Science in Business Analytics)
Current Role: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Associate, Capital Markets and Analytics Rotational Program
How did you find your way to the Fortune 1 company?
My road to Wal-Mart started with an internship during the summer of 2014 made possible by an on-campus networking event. Being a finance and economics major I joined the Accounting and Finance Development intern Program (AFDP) on the Logistics Finance team. I returned the following summer in the same program, but this time on the Capital Markets team. Then following my time on the 40 Acres I returned to Wal-Mart again as a full time associate on the Capital Markets team. I am now responsible for running the company’s trading desk. On the desk a typical day entails issuing $300M to $2.5B in Commercial Paper to help the business run its day to day operations.
You returned to Wal-Mart 3 times in 3 years. Was there anything that kept drawing you back?
Absolutely! There are two defining aspects that drew me back each time; culture and location. First, at a company of Wal-Mart’s size it is easy to assume the associates can get lost in the mix and do not have opportunities to grow their careers or explore new opportunities. That simply is not the case. Wal-Mart encourages associates to explore different areas of the business and career path options. This notion really spoke to me coming out of school. I was not entirely sure what I wanted to do in my career so knowing I had the flexibility to explore a variety of opportunities was a huge selling point. Not to mention the fact that exploring other parts of the business is encouraged!
Second, in my opinion it’s hard to find a better place to live. In the Northwest Arkansas area there is Beaver Lake with all of the same activities to offer as Travis Lake and Lady Bird Lake. The Walmart AMP and Walton Arts Center are constantly bringing in new performances from lots of big name artists. In the last few years, we’ve had Kenny Chesney, the Book of Mormon, Kevin Hart, Miranda Lambert, The Lumineers, Hozier, Avett Brothers, Dave Matthews, Foster the People, and Ellie Golding perform, just to name a few. I should also mention Crystal Bridges Museum, Dickson Street in Fayetteville, Devil’s Den and Hobbs State Park, Food Trucks, float trips, endless golf courses, and so much more. As an intern, and even now, I have yet to find a shortage of things to do.
You have mentioned AFDP, could you elaborate on what future interns might expect?
The AFDP was what truly sparked my interest in the company. In short, the full time program is highly regarded within the company, and offers associates an opportunity to spend four six-month rotations as a member of various teams in the company’s finance organization. This provides the ability to learn about a wide array of company operations, build a solid foundation for a career, and set up a variety of future opportunities.
Now, as an AFDP intern there are several special opportunities throughout the summer. For example, we had many Q&A style meetings with various top finance executives. One that always comes to mind is the session with Brett Biggs, now CFO. Getting to hear about a typical day in the life of the CFO, the types of roles and projects he worked on over the years, and the advice he gave as we were getting ready to embark on our careers was impossible to pass up. Along with exposure to top leadership, an intern will assume responsibility of a project relevant to their team and the business. These projects are by no means trivial, and often end with actual business changing decisions. Having ownership of a project definitely helped me feel like a contributing member of the company, especially when you consider all of the project meetings and deliverables during the summer. I can safely say, now as a full time associate looking back, that my work as an intern was a strong representation of what would be expected in any full time position.
Finally, having seen both the internship and full time sides what advice would you give interested students?
My biggest piece of advice would be to embrace all opportunities and take initiative if anything sparks your curiosity. As an intern you can play the “intern card.” In my experience if you reach out to someone in the business and say you’re an intern interested in learning about what they do they will eagerly meet with you. With a company as big as Wal-Mart the breadth of jobs are endless and at your fingertips; so learn as much as you can because you never know how it might help down the road. Outside of work, my advice would be to explore. There are countless things to do around the region. If you ever find yourself bored as an intern, you’re likely not a McCombs student.