Four Walmart associates. They all went to Georgia Tech and they’re all related. How on Earth did that happen? We talked to the Phan siblings—Melody, Crystal, Alex and Dawn—to find out!
Here’s the spread:
Melody Phan Rich | Sr. Buyer – Seasonal Candy
Crystal Phan | Associate Buyer – Creamers
Alex Phan | Replenishment Manager – Produce
Dawn Henry | Sr. Buyer – Fashion Girls Toys
Could you tell me a little bit about each of you and your careers at Walmart?
Melody: I’ve been with Walmart for 10 years. I was the first one to come to Walmart. I got my degree in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2005.
Alex: I have been working for Walmart for almost a year and a half. I graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2014. I started here right out of college as a Replenishment Manager for produce.
Dawn: I have been at Walmart going on six years now. I graduated from Georgia Tech in 2001 with a degree in Chemical Engineering. I spent about 10 years in that field, post-college.
Crystal: I’ve been with Walmart almost six years as well. I graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Industrial Engineering in 2011. I came here right after I graduated school—literally I graduated, packed up a truck, and moved out here.
Melody: We have a lot of ties to the area. Our grandfather was a civil engineer for Bella Vista back in the 70s. Our dad’s side of the family lives down in Fort Smith. They’re Vietnamese and they came over in 1975.
Crystal: Once you [come to NWA], you develop relationships that are so strong. It is a Walmart Family. They care about you. They love you. They want to make sure that you do well.
Let’s talk more about the Walmart family. You guys take that to a whole new level.
Melody: You would think we would [interact more], but we honestly don’t. It’s so big.
Dawn: We worked all in the home office building initially. Right now, I’m in a different building. Three of us live in Bella Vista. We might see each other driving into work.
Alex: We do have lunch occasionally!
Dawn: You guys never invite me!
Melody: You’re just so busy.
[Everyone in the room erupts into laughter.]
Dawn: The good news is that we have that safety net of family and if we ever need each other, we’re there. We also know that we need our space in order to grow and develop—to be the hero in our own lives. Just because I’m the oldest doesn’t mean I should be constantly watching over what they’re doing.
Melody: We rarely see each other at work unless we make a point to.
Dawn: I think birth order and age difference plays into that a lot too. We’re just in different life places. We’re all kind of at different stages, different parts of our lives.
Melody: At family dinners, our families probably get tired of us talking about work. It is just constant conversation [about work]. But, it’s also helpful because we can work through our problems together and have other solutions.
Dawn: Or context! It’s like, ‘You’re having an issue with this? Here, I’m sending you an email, you need to talk to this person. She’ll fix this for you.’
Melody: But it’s funny, the three of us [read: Melody, Crystal, Dawn], we don’t think we look the same, but people call us triplets all the time.
Crystal: Or you get mistaken for them! I was walking right past here and [this associate] comes up—and Melody had just presented some fantastic result of some sort—and he’s like, ‘Melody! That was a fantastic job you did! Great job in your results!’ And walks on. I’m like, ‘I’m not Melody, but thank you! I’ll let her know!’
Dawn: It’s probably not obvious, so I want to make sure this is out there. This was never planned! I started at Georgia Tech; it’s a tough school, very respected school. When I graduated, I was like, ‘Melody, you should do it. If you can make it through Georgia Tech, whatever’s on your plate in the future, you got this.’ Our lives just kind of intersected this way.
Melody: What I find very funny is that growing up—because we’re so spread apart [in age]—none of us were ever at the same school together at the same time. We never crossed paths and then all of a sudden we converge!
Dawn: And three of us live in the same city—the city our grandfather built back in the 70s, which is insane. I wish he were still alive and could hear this story.
Melody: I think a lot of it has to do with the culture at Walmart. If I didn’t feel that it was a great company, I never would have said, ‘Hey Dawn, you should start applying to jobs here because I think you’re going to love it.’ Walmart has given us tons of opportunity to make this all come together. If it wasn’t this great of a company, I don’t think all of us would be here still.
Dawn: I’m sure you guys all see this too, but we see a lot of people here where their brother-in-law works here, or their cousin, their sister.
Melody: It’s huge family company.
Crystal: It makes it better to work here.
Alex: It’s more personal.
Dawn: And it’s more than just the family aspect. You can do more here than anywhere else. If you’re the type of person that wants to really make a difference in the world, you can use your engineering skills, your way of thought and your problem solving skills to come problem solve with the best company in the world.
So, what do you guys have in common that make you all ideal Walmart employees and Georgia Tech students, but also what is different about each of you that makes you individually good at your jobs?
Melody: We share our mom and dad and their personalities. We mimic them to a T, almost to a fault sometimes. Even though we told ourselves, growing up—
Crystal: That we weren’t going to!
[At this point, everyone bursts into laughter again.]
Melody: My mom is just so passionate. She has drive. She’s gung-ho. I think all of us get that from her. Then, my dad is the voice of reason, the logical one.
Dawn: I think it’s the art-science mix. I believe in that whole-heartedly. I think all of us can say we’re really good students. We’re all gifted students. We’re all AP students. I think we had very diverse backgrounds. We weren’t just science; we weren’t just English; we weren’t just history. Walmart—better than any company I have ever worked for—actually utilizes your full potential, your full skillset, as opposed to just treating you as your degree. I think that’s what is so amazing. I also think the reason why we have the art and science blend is [because of Mom and Dad], we also have the culture blend. Our dad is an immigrant. He left in the middle of the night, after the fall of Saigon, from his country to start a whole new life here. I mean, I can’t even imagine what that was like—putting himself through school, learning the language, my mom working and him going to two colleges and working at the same time when we were little. It instilled in us a huge amount of work ethic. I think all of us, a lot of the reason why we are so passionate about we do and why we do things with so much excellence and we have been able to succeed at Walmart, is that, not only are we doing this for ourselves, but for the hard work our parents did for us so that we would have better lives. We wouldn’t want to dishonor them. I think that’s probably our biggest commonality.
Melody: It’s funny for us all to sit here and think about it because we really don’t talk about it.
Dawn: It’s kind of mushy and weird.
Alex: I think it’s funny. When I was reading the book by Sam [Walton], he mentioned that he was worried Walmart would lose its team aspect, its family aspect. I think we are keeping that legacy alive.
Safe to say, the Phan family is indeed keeping the family aspect of Walmart alive. Although they have a lot in common, they are each individually driven to succeed and, more than that, to make a positive impact on the world. Why would you recommend a job at Walmart to a friend or family member? Let us know on our Facebook page!