The competition for Walmart’s Developing Accelerated Retail Experience (DARE) program is stiff, and two Humber degree students have been chosen among eight successful applicants in a field of 1,200.
Focused on leadership development, DARE recruits students in their final year of a university or college degree program to work in Walmart stores and its corporate office. By the end of the two-year DARE program, they are well-positioned to be considered for management-level positions in the company.
“We’re looking for people who have a passion for learning about retail and who we believe have the potential to grow into leadership positions with us,” said Chad Crago, senior manager of leadership development at Walmart.
Their admission into the DARE program is especially important to the two Humber students selected.
Paul-Michael Broz and Gajaany Naguleswaran both worked at Walmart to put themselves through college.
Naguleswaran is currently working in a salaried position as an assistant manager.
“Being in the store with other managers and seeing the challenge of trying to get promoted, I can really appreciate the program. People notice you,” she said.
“You’re in the spotlight and people make sure you’re learning everything you need to learn. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
For the first year of the program, the new graduates learn about daily operation as frontline Walmart associates.
“This is where our customers are. Whatever they do in their careers, they will have a strong foundation in retail operations,” said Crago.
After they’ve gained the experience on the floor, they will spend six months at the Canadian corporate head office in Mississauga, where they take on more responsibility and work alongside company leaders.
The program participants finish out their second year in the DARE program one of two ways. They can pursue a role of their choice, including merchandising, eCommerce and supply chain roles, or they can lead store operations as an assistant or co-manager for one year.
In addition to DARE, Walmart offers an opportunity to associates and their eligible family members through a partnership with Humber, called AdvancED. The company collaborated with Humber to create the AdvancED network of educational partners, including Humber, College Boreal and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).
All full-time associates who attend an accredited Canadian college or university are eligible to receive a $2,500 tuition reimbursement per year, and an additional 20 per cent tuition reimbursement for courses taken at Humber or the AdvancED network of educational partners.
Eligible family members of full-time Walmart associates and all permanent part-time associates with at least one year of experience can receive also 20 per cent tuition reimbursement for programs or courses they take through AvancED network partners.
The Humber advantage
Future DARE associate Naguleswaran is especially interested in the operations side of Walmart, where she plans to apply what she learned in Humber’s Bachelor of Commerce degree.
But she wasn’t always so sure of her path.
She chose to apply to Humber because the degree program offered a co-op component. She initially enrolled in the Finance program, but when she was exposed to the industry, she decided to change her focus to Management.
Naguleswaran says her experience helped her stand out from other applicants from well-known university programs.
Strength in diversity
Broz says felt the full support of his professors and the greater Humber community throughout his five years at the college.
“It’s difficult to make someone feel at home at such a large place, but I do. I’ve been able to make so many friends and professional contacts here,” he said.
Broz started his Humber journey in the three-year Business Administration advanced diploma program and went on to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce - Supply Chain Management degree. He graduates in April.
He has also appreciated the hands-on education he received - first learning a skill, then completing a project or assessment to reinforce it.
“It’s not just multiple choice or an essay. When I graduate, not only will I have the knowledge and skills employers want, but I will know how to apply it,” said Broz.
Nagulsewaran and Broz come from similar academic backgrounds, but the makeup of their eight-person DARE cohort is diverse.
“We purposely look for diversity in ways of thinking, interests and where they are passionate. If you have an engineering background, we want you working alongside someone who is maybe interested in customer analytics and wants to work on the people side,” said Crago.
Walmart is also committed to keeping its DARE associates safe.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of its staff and customers. The successful DARE applicants will still be working in stores for the first year of the program.
“It’s important for any future leaders in the company to understand and appreciate the learning that comes out of something like this,” said Crago.
“You want to take advantage of the learning of the challenge. DARE is all about the experience.”