by Debra Black
As executive vice president and chief operating officer for Walmart U.S., Gisel Ruiz (RMI/SCU ’92) is responsible for the company’s U.S. operations, which include more than 3,800 discount stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets, and Walmart Express formats. She was promoted to the role in February 2012.
Previously, Ruiz was executive vice president of People for Walmart U.S., with responsibility for human resources and store innovations, supporting more than 1.2 million associates. She helped transform the company's approach to talent management and leveraged technology to drive changes that increased efficiencies and improved the customer and associate experience.
Ruiz began her career at Walmart as a store management trainee in 1992. She has held a variety of leadership positions in store operations, labor relations, and human resources. In 2006, she became vice president, regional general manager in the Field Operations Division, and was responsible for 150 Walmart stores in western Texas and New Mexico. From 2008 until 2010, she served as senior vice president of Walmart People, leading the human resources organization for more than 3,700 stores across the United States.
Because of her passion for mentoring, Ruiz has been recognized for her ability to lead and teach. In 2008, she was recognized as one of the Top 25 Powerful Minority Women in Business by the Minority Enterprise Executive Council. She received the 2008 Walmart Leadership Award and was chosen by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the Top 25 Business Women of 2009. In February 2011, Latina Style honored her as 2010 Latina Executive of the Year.
Recently, she answered a few questions from the Retail Management Institute:
How would you advise a college graduate beginning a career in retail to stand out? Your first job might not necessarily be your dream job, but you still need to “own it.” You must drive results – this is expected, and it’s a given. What will set you apart is how you go about doing it: 1) Lead with integrity, 2) Demonstrate people leadership skills, and 3) Use sound judgment. It’s the soft skills that often differentiate high performers.
In today's world, people change jobs frequently. What has kept you at Walmart after all these years? What has kept me at Walmart is the same thing that brought me here in the first place. We are a company that provides opportunities for associates. It is a place where anyone who is “willing to work” can come and build a career. We are surrounded by leaders who genuinely care about people and their development. This is all part of the foundational values and culture of Walmart. I am proud to work for a company that encourages its associates, like me, to take our careers as far as we want to take them. I started as a management trainee in 1992 at the Walmart in Madera, Calif.
I would not be where I am today if my manager had not both challenged me and helped me push myself to become better. The lessons I learned early in my career still shape the way I go about doing my work.
How do you balance personal life with your position at Walmart? Is it critical to have your phone on 24/7? The first step is to forget about the ideal of balance. The only thing that matters is how you invest and commit to the quality of the time you spend at work, on yourself, and more importantly with your family. At the end of the day it’s your decision what you decide to spend your time on. The key to feeling good about it is not to second-guess yourself. Guilt can slow you down both personally and professionally. Do I have my phone on 24/7? Yes. In roles like we have, you have to. Whether or not I answer it in the middle of my daughter’s basketball or soccer games is another question. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. Ultimately the choice is mine.
Ruiz has a bachelor’s of science in marketing from Santa Clara University, where she also completed the Retail Management Institute program.