Walmart may be the king of retail in the physical world, but on the internet, it's still a challenger.
Jeremy King, a Silicon Valley engineer who built key parts of eBay's infrastructure, joined global retail titan Walmart in the summer of 2011 as CTO of Walmart.com.
Farhad Manjoo interviewed King for his great story on Walmart's evolution at Fast Company, and the engineer described the "irresistible pitch" that CEO Mike Duke gave him over a videoconference call, luring him into the job.
Duke wanted to become more experimental — and he was making the moves to prove it. From Fast Company:
After years of seeing his company lag online, Duke swore that digital was now a priority for Walmart. Duke had restructured the company, placing e-commerce on equal footing with Walmart's other, much larger divisions. He had made serious investments in high-tech talent, acquiring several startups. One, a 65-person social media firm called Kosmix with expertise in search and analytics, was the impetus for Walmart rechristening its Valley operations "@WalmartLabs."
Duke was looking for people who would revive the company's sites and services, and energize its entire culture. He hoped to turn a company famous for rigid, coldly effective business processes into one that's flexible, experimental, and entrepreneurial. In other words, Duke wanted to inject a bit of Silicon Valley into Bentonville, Arkansas. In the summer of 2011, King signed up as CTO of Walmart.com. "We've hired hundreds of incredibly talented people, in Silicon Valley and around the world," says Duke of his aggressive moves. "We are playing to win."
King now heads @WalmartLabs — the company's skunkworks. He has been tasked with bringing Walmart into the rapidly morphing world of e-commerce. That means reinventing the shopping experience — both in-store and online — and facilitating Walmart's digital transformation.
And, judging by Duke's pitch, it looks like he has his CEO's full support.
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