University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Episode 219: Building Your Leadership Skills with Allie Hazelwood

March 22, 2023  |  By Matt Waller

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This week on the podcast Matt sits down with Allie Hazelwood, Walton College alum and Senior Vice President, Fulfillment Operations for Walmart U.S. The podcast starts with Allie recapping how she came to Walmart after graduation and her involvement at the University when she was on campus including being a member of the women's tennis team, student ambassadors and Walton Honors. Matt and Allie discuss that experience and the importance of finding balance, a healthy sleep schedule, and exercise and keeping a positive mindset in everything that you are doing to keep you motivated. Allie then moves into her time working for Walmart and her keys to success including finding a workplace that fulfills you and curiosity. They close the conversation with a discussion around the importance of mentorship and how Allie has developed her leadership skills over time. 

Please note: Allie's title has changed since the recording of this episode. The updated title has been reflected in the description. 

Episode Transcript

Allie Hazelwood  0:00  
Yes, it really is. It's invaluable and, and having that learning approach to seek and ask and say, okay, how do I how do I take that feedback with little to no defensiveness and say I do want to get better here and that that's what leadership is about.

Matt Waller  0:18  
Excellence, professionalism, innovation and collegiality, these are the values the Sam M. Walton College of Business explores in education, business, and the lives of people we meet every day, I'm Matt Waller, Dean of the Walton College and welcome to the be epic podcast. I have with me today, Allie Hazelwood, who is senior vice president at Walmart, U.S. for finance, planning and analysis and strategy. She's been at Walmart for almost 15 years now. She graduated from the Walton College in 2007 in finance. She's originally from the Dallas area. Thank you so much, Allie, for joining me today, I really appreciate it.

Allie Hazelwood  1:05  
Hey, thanks so much for having me on today. I'm really excited to chat with you.

Matt Waller  1:10  
Allie, after you graduated, you went to work for Walmart as an analyst in accounting and finance. And of course, Walmart being the Fortune One, the company, it seems like a big jump to go from the university to the biggest company in the world based on revenue. How did that come about for you? And how did you decide on on Walmart?

Allie Hazelwood  1:37  
That's such a great question. I- So I went into the University of Arkansas, as you know, I actually thought I was going to be in a science major when I got there. And I quickly learned that I had a passion for business and in particular numbers and finance. And I went through the financial investments program. And I had full intention of leaving the university and going into investment banking. And I was fortunate enough before I landed a job out of school, to be able to spend some time with a Midwestern shoe retailer, and I was in stores, and I got to walk around and I was operating, like different parts of the store and things for the day and it was fantastic. And I remember the person that I was with, I said, do you have a job for me? I want to come here out of school. And he laughed, and he said, I don't think it's like shoes that you're calling per se, but probably what you're calling is really is retail, and being around these people in the store and the mechanics of what happens in a store every day. And he said, remind me I mean, you're in Arkansas, University of Arkansas, he said the world's best is in your school's backyard. And he said you should really go and learn from the world's best retailer. They're amazing at what they do and how they do it. So I went home, and I did I went and I applied for a program. You were talking about the schools system, at that point, to go out and look for roles. And there was a posting about a new rotational program at Walmart called the accounting and finance development program. And I applied and I came, I came to the organization after a fantastic interview with some really great people.

Matt Waller  3:26  
So, Allie, when you were at the university, you were very engaged in many ways.

Allie Hazelwood  3:33  

Matt Waller  3:34  
I understand that you were on the women's tennis team. Is that right?

Allie Hazelwood  3:38  
I was, yes, I did. I played tennis at the university. It was probably one of the best experiences I've had in my life for just so many reasons.

Matt Waller  3:48  
When you when you do something like that, I mean women's tennis, that takes a lot of time outside of your work and school. But you develop a different network, it kept you healthy, because you were exercising. One thing I really encourage students to do is to make sure they sleep, it sounds crazy that they exercise and that they eat healthy. And we're trying to set it up to where it's easier for them to do that. But it was kind of built in for you, I assume tennis really probably kept you healthy from a cardio perspective.

Allie Hazelwood  4:36  
It definitely it did. It really did. We had a great, we had a great team, the women that I played with were all relatively new to the tennis team at the time and we really formed a really nice bond on different things to do and how to go do them. And we had a coach that was new to the University at the time and he was very big on as you said like health benefits, sleep, cardio. And I really do appreciate so much what he had us doing, which was very structured exercise work, and also building in time for school, back to your point on it does take a lot of time from school and felt like we were traveling every weekend. But he did a really nice job of making sure we connected back with as you know, the university has amazing programs for their student athletes. And also, the the Walton College was a huge supporter. I had a professor that was very keen on coming and watching us at the, at the tennis tournaments and things and he really helps support from how do you make sure that you get all the time that you need to study and things, even if we were working remotely and having to miss classes. So a great, great network at the school.

Matt Waller  5:50  
Well, I'm happy to hear that, I didn't know about that. So I like it when I hear that faculty do things like that, that's wonderful. But you were involved beyond that too, you were in the Honors Program, you were a student ambassador, which I think it's really good to, we've got Leadership Walton now, I don't think we had it back then but we have ambassador type programs. And it you you clearly were very involved in you graduated in three and a half years. So you really must have been putting a lot of effort to get all that accomplished.

Allie Hazelwood  6:30  
Ah, again, I think that it really speaks a lot to the university and the school. There's the saying, if you enjoy what you do, you never really work a day in your life. And I felt that often at on campus at school and I found that a lot too at Walmart as I've been here. It really, it really is gives you a lot of momentum to do a lot of things and get a lot of things done, depending on as you keep that that mindset positive and excited about what you're doing and how you're doing it. And I recently had a niece that came up to the University a few weeks ago and actually did the walk with the student ambassador and so I was I was teasing her I said "oh do they still do this or that" comes back from when I was there, I remembered often how we would we would take students on campus and that's it's just it's exciting what what the university does to keep people motivated.

Matt Waller  7:23  
And you know, of course now Allie, compared to when you were here, Northwest Arkansas is just such a magnet. There's so many things to do. We had back back when you graduated, we had a lot smaller percentage of students stay in the area when they graduated. Right now I think we're the Walton College this isn't true for the university as a whole but we're about 30% Arkansan, maybe about and 70% outside, a lot are from Texas, not all of maybe half of the students that are not from Arkansas are from Texas, but but one thing that's really different now is about 55% of our students stay in the area. That's a huge difference and part of it's because of you know, Crystal Bridges the the lot more restaurants, the trails, just so much to do now. And I think we weren't very good at you know, marketing the benefits, like, you know, if you like to canoe, the Buffalo River's wonderful. If you'd like to water ski, you know, Beaver Lake is amazing. There's just so much to do here climbing, golf, lots of golf here. So I think sometimes when we get students from cities where maybe a big city, but if they if they index high on outdoor activity, a lot of times when they get here if they try these things, they want to they want to stay. So my question for you is back when you graduated back in 2007, were you thinking, oh, I want to stay in Northwest Arkansas, or were you thinking I really want to work for Walmart. Where, or was it some combination?

Allie Hazelwood  9:27  
That's a really great question. I am actually stunned for a minute at the fact that you just had about 55% of individuals staying after school in the area. I think that's really great. It's it definitely is creating a positive ecosystem it sounds like coming out of the university and staying here. When I graduated, I thought I was going to leave with the state. I didn't I hadn't grown up in Arkansas and I thought I was potentially wanting to go out and see different places and different things. Truly what kept me here was Walmart. So I shared the story about wanting to go into retail and learning from Walmart. I would say once I got to Walmart, after I left that day in the interview, I mean, I was waiting for Walmart to call me back, I had such a great time with the people in this company and the culture really resonated through Walmart, that I was less inclined to be thinking about the surrounding areas, and more about then the focus on I really want to work for this company. Now, fast forward the 15 years, and the area has been tremendous to live in and, and have and start to raise a family in and be able to be close to the work and the office and have the flexibility that Walmart gives you to make sure that you have great time with with your family and living in an area that we love. So

Matt Waller  10:48  
Yeah, and now the new Walmart headquarters, home office, I've, I've seen renderings of it in, I think it's also available online, I think you can see the renderings online, but it's remarkable.

Allie Hazelwood  11:03  
It is beautiful, I cannot wait to move in down the street to it, I think it will be great. What I'm really excited about is all the teasing around the space for innovation and for creativity. Walmart, really, I think, is starting to shine and tell our story about how fast forward thinking we are and all in service of you know, where the customer is going in the future. And a lot of that comes from the space in which we work. And so I'm really excited about having the innovation space and the creative thinking that I think is gonna come from having a new office location.

Matt Waller  11:40  
Well, Allie, you, of course, you came in as an analyst. You spent a few years as a manager in capital markets and treasury. And then you moved up to senior manager for a couple of years in merchandise finance and strategy. And you became a director in that area. And then a senior director, in technology, finance and finally a vice president at Sam's Club, and then Vice President Walmart, and now senior vice president. So in 14, almost 15 years, you have come a long way from being an entry level analyst. What are some of the keys to your success?

Allie Hazelwood  12:25  
So, I reflect a lot on this, because I think there's a lot on what are the six keys to your success? And where kind of can you still continue to grow? But I often get asked that question from in particular students, I still like to spend a lot of time on campuses, and there's a few things that always come to mind, which is one going back and finding the company that fulfills you, the same phrase I just used, right? You never work a day in your life, if you love your job, and and so finding that gives you the energy to put a lot of time and passion into into your role and into your company. The second thing is curiosity. And there are I fundamentally believe there's no dumb questions and make sure you understand the work that you're doing. And then also coming into that, so the third thing would be how do you actually kind of expand your knowledge and understand the click ups and the click downs from the things that you touch on every single day. And how kind of it all works. And so if you if you ask those questions, and then you start clicking up and clicking down and making those connection points, then you can really start unlocking value in ideas and creativity and working with others in a way that I think starts promoting your thinking and how do you actually start striving for kind of excellence in your job in your role, and really kind of in that service for the company that you love? And so that's kind of what I start telling students and things when I talk to them about how do you how do you come in and grow and make your career happen? And then there's a whole other realm of leadership and how do you start learning who you are and how you become a stronger leader?

Matt Waller  14:13  
Well, back when you were say, you know, anytime you're in a company, especially one the size of Walmart, any company, you you have some bosses that are better than others. We've all, if you're over 30 years old, you've probably experienced that. I have, we all have and then mentoring is another thing. So you know, some some bosses really help you grow and they you can tell they have your best interest in mind. Some tend to be more self absorbed, self centered a bit. This is human nature, it's the way it is. But on top of that, you know, mentoring can make a huge difference. I've, I've tried to always have at least one mentor for probably the last 25 years, and I try to mentor at least one person at any given point in time, not counting informal mentoring you receive and give from working with people. What's your experience with that?

Allie Hazelwood  15:27  
Yeah, so from mentorship, absolutely important and critical as you as you get into a career and start navigating your career is to find the people that you connect with and can mentor you and start giving you advisement and be completely honest with you and build that trust of what you can do to get better and what you can do to improve and how to think about things right be a sounding board that you know, that you can just go to and bounce things off of. So mentorship is incredibly important as you get through and start developing yourselves and managing your career. To do that, there's also things that we do to have mentor circles. So the program that I came out of, that accounting and finance development program, we actually have a women's circle within that, and how do you actually start finding people who are going through the same experiences as you? So in this case, right, talking to talking to the women in the program about what is it like to be in a rotational program and grow your career here, and perhaps have some sort of connections that can help you develop over time?

Matt Waller  16:34  
So Allie, you know, you majored in finance, you started at Walmart, and accounting and finance. And you, you know, you're clearly very competent in accounting and finance. But it's not enough to be technically competent, to make it to the place of senior vice president of the Fortune One company, you've got to be a good leader. So I'd love to hear your thoughts about one, what, what are some important things for you, personally, and developing your leadership over the years? And what would you recommend to students that are trying to develop leadership skills even though?

Allie Hazelwood  17:16  
Yes, so one thing that I think has helped me become a better leader over time is really knowing myself and where my strengths and my own opportunities are. And I have found really great success in doing that through things like asking mentors for feedback, sometimes it's really hard for people to give feedback. And so if you go solicit it with, here's where I think my opportunities are, there tend to be more open and transparent. Anyone that you asked for feedback about yourself. I do that through more structured things like asking for 360 feedback or 360 interviews and feedback, and then even taking different things like, who and what are your personality and your assessments and the more you get to know yourself, I think that's how you can become a better leader because you know, how you respond or you behave or you react in different situations. So there's, there's certainly that and then when I think about the side of leadership, and how, how, and what I've found is I look at inspiring leaders within our organization. They're the ones that can bring along people with context, with clear communication, with clear passion for the work that they do, and allowing people to have room to grow and ask questions and provide ideas. And so when I really think about how to grow myself, as a leader, I really want to look at those who inspire me the most and say, what is it about them that take me to what they're doing and how they're doing it. And so I do find finding, finding those people, it's a great opportunity for students to look up to and figure out what it is that they should think on and grow and grow into.

Matt Waller  18:59  
Wow, that is so true. Having people around you that you can look to as a leader, because when I think about it, you know, some of the leaders that I admire, you know, they tend to be really good at relating to people, they tend to be good at sensemaking you know, looking around the world and saying, here's what's going on, here's what it means for us. They tend to be good at you know, creating a path forward in difficult situations. But if you have someone like that, that you can look to, it is good to mimic them. You know, I, when I became Dean eight years ago, and I, and then shortly thereafter, there were various things in the world that occurred that were challenging to everybody. And one thing I did It is when I would see Doug McMillon posts something or put out a statement, I would think, how could I post something like that that would be relevant to our faculty and staff that I'm leading. And, and I've done that a lot. In fact, even in the pandemic, and after the George Floyd murder and stuff, I looked at what he did, I do that with people that I admire as leaders. And it really can be that easy in some ways, you start mimicking what they're doing, I of course, I recognize he has a good team, also helping them which makes a big difference. But it doesn't take, I think a lot of people don't realize it doesn't take that much effort to find good leaders to try to mimic some of their good behaviors. And also, knowing your weaknesses to your point, you know, getting someone that can speak into your life and isn't afraid to tell you the hard things, you know, Matt, you, you're a little short, sometimes with people you probably need to look people in the eyes when you're talking about these kinds of things. If you can find somebody that can speak these kinds of things to you, it's it's like gold.

Allie Hazelwood  21:23  
Yes, it really is. It's invaluable. And, and having that learning approach to seek and ask and say, Okay, how do I how do I take that feedback with little to no defensiveness and say, I do want to get better here. And, and that, that, to me is what leadership is about. But you spoke to some of the leaders in our company spoke to that we have so many great leaders at Walmart that it is not hard to look very close to you. And then back to your point into the external world of what's happening, and how do I actually start emulating the things that I think resonate with people. So, yeah

Matt Waller  21:59  
Well, Allie, we're really proud of you and what you've accomplished. And so thank you so much for taking time to visit with me today. I really appreciate it.

Allie Hazelwood  22:10  
Like I said, thanks so much for having me on. I really enjoyed the time with you. And hopefully I'll see you on campus soon.

Matt Waller  22:16  
Sounds good. Bye. 

Allie Hazelwood  22:17  
All right. Bye. 

Matt Waller  22:19  
On behalf of the Sam M Walton College of Business, I want to thank everyone for spending time with us for another engaging conversation. You can subscribe by going to your favorite podcast service and searching be epic. B E E P I C.

Matt WallerMatthew A. Waller is dean emeritus of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and professor of supply chain management. His work as a professor, researcher, and consultant is synergistic, blending academic research with practical insights from industry experience. This continuous cycle of learning and application makes his work more effective, relevant, and impactful.His goals include contributing to academia through high-quality research and publications, cultivating the next generation of professionals through excellent teaching, and creating value for the organizations he consults by optimizing their strategy and investments.

Walton College

Walton College of Business

Since its founding at the University of Arkansas in 1926, the Sam M. Walton College of Business has grown to become the state's premier college of business – as well as a nationally competitive business school. Learn more...

Be Epic Podcast

We're sitting down with innovators and business mavericks to discuss strategy, leadership and entrepreneurship. The Be EPIC Podcast is hosted by Matthew Waller, dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. Learn more...

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