Meeting Kayli Sparks at The Spark Cafe

Sparks Fly: We Sat Down at The Spark Cafe with Kayli Sparks

It was purely serendipitous that we happened to meet Kayli Sparks at the Spark Cafe. Kayli is a current student at Arkansas Tech and took part in the Walmart Internship Program this summer (Summer 2016). She worked on an amazing project that stretched her skills and brought about real change to her team. She sat down with us to talk strategy—from writing your résumé to getting the most from your internship and standing out for a full-time position.

Thanks so much for meeting us here, Kayli! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m from Russellville and I go to Arkansas Tech University. I still go there, actually, online. I have six [credit] hours left. Originally, one of the classes that I needed to take wasn’t available online. I had to go through my dean and professor to get it to where I could take it while I was working here. They were super supportive because of this job.

That’s awesome! Can you tell us about your internship at Walmart?

One of my professors is really trying to build up the Business Data Analytics (BDA) program (that’s my major). She’s trying to channel people in my program to Walmart because we have the business skills and the statistical knowledge and that’s what [Walmart] is looking for—they need that kind of person. Walmart was scheduling interviews with BDA majors and I signed up for a time slot. I got an intern position in Macro Space. I absolutely loved my internship and my project this summer. I loved all of the people. It was really amazing.

Do you have any advice to people applying for an internship with Walmart?

Have a really nice résumé. Most colleges have a career services center where you can take your résumé. Do it! It’s so worth it. Have them clean [your résumé] up. Your résumé has to be really nice. Also, have soft skills. You need to be a really good communicator and learn how to listen to what people are saying. In the interview, it will be a back and forth conversation, but if you’re not actually listening to what they’re saying, it’s really hard to respond when you’re already thinking of the next thing you’re going to say. You have to focus. You need to be very upfront with people about what you want to do. A lot of times, people try to mold themselves to the interview. They’re like, ‘I’m totally into this,’ but they’re not at all. My advice would be to go into the interview, know who you are, know what you want, know what kind of job you want to be in. Really, the interviewer isn’t always the person you’ll be working for. Sometimes, it’s an HR person. They might be able to direct you to a place where there is an opening [in your area of interest] and you might be able to get an intern spot there. It’s just really important to be honest with yourself and with [the interviewer].

Okay, what about some tips for when you actually start your internship?

You’re going to feel like you’re very busy with your project. Now, your project is your priority, but your second priority is to network. You really have to take it upon yourself to ask questions. Say, ‘Hey, I’m really interested in this. Who can you direct me to that can help me with this?’

Sparks Fly: We Sat Down at The Spark Cafe with Kayli Sparks

Sparks trying Spark ice cream at the Spark Cafe. We just had to.

What is this ‘project’ we hear a lot of Walmart interns talk about?

You get a project to work on something they actually need done on their team. You’re actually contributing as an intern, which is interesting. I feel like at a lot of other companies, interns do the work that no one else wants to do. Here, there are more interesting projects, bigger projects where people may not be able to dedicate so much time. But, as an intern, you have the whole summer! It’s a huge opportunity to learn new things.

Can you tell us about the project you worked on this summer?

We had this monthly report that went out in Excel. It was a data matrix—there were numbers everywhere! My goal was to visualize that and put [the data] into charts and graphs, something that’s easier to look at and compare the data. Our top management, they don’t have the time to stare at a spreadsheet and pick out numbers. I’ve heard people say that they used rulers to look at this [report]. You have to jump tabs—it was horrible to read. So, I made this tool in a program called Tableau. You can compare data in charts, you can change the metrics—whatever you want to look at it, it’s right there. I’d never used Tableau before in my life. I found these amazing tutorials. I took a week course in Tableau. It was challenging. It took me the whole summer, probably up until few days before my presentation, to finish. I got it done and they’re about to start sending it out every month!

So, it sounds like you took it upon yourself to learn Tableau. You must be very self-motivated. How has that helped you in your internship? Did you get a full-time offer?

I had constant meetings with superior management, my director, my senior director—even the Vice President of our department, I met with him a couple of times. I set those meetings up myself. Just getting out there is so important. I feel that’s the only reason I got this full-time position. If you make yourself visible, people know what you’re doing. Several people that I know that didn’t meet with upper management, that didn’t put themselves out there, they didn’t get offers. My manager now, she was interested in what I was doing as an intern. So, she saw that value in me and she said, ‘Wow, I would like to hire you full-time because I think you could do some neat things in our area too.’ That was really exciting.

Now, Kayli works as a full-time Space Productivity Analyst in Consumables and Health & Wellness. She’s the perfect example of someone who excels at Walmart: self-motivated, passionate and chock-full of technical skills. Special thanks to Kayli Sparks for taking the time to talk with us!

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