Kal Patel

Kal Patel
SVP of Operations, Mountain Division, Walmart, Inc.

Education: BBA – Marketing & Management, University of Texas / Austin – 1990
What I’m Reading: OZ Principle; Question Behind the Question
My Philosophy: Work hard, play hard. Go all out in anything you do. If you’re going to do it, do it right!
Interests: Coaching, Mentoring, Golf, Traveling
Company Headquarters: Bentonville, Arkansas
Website: www.walmartstores.com
Primary Business: Retailer
Annual Revenues: $443 billion

How do you think Asian Americans have evolved in terms of industry/field diversity?
The evolution is still going on in retail. It has been slower at the leadership level versus entry / mid-level positions. Some of the ownership is on the personal level rather than the company. Many Asian Americans equate success with becoming a subject matter expert, a go-to-person, or technology-savvy. When they achieve the level of proficiency that they have set for themselves, they can easily become enamored with the achieved level of contentment and fall prey to the plateau syndrome. Asian Americans who have aspired to step out of the comfort zone, have been successful in their careers. As second and third generation Asian Americans come up into the workforce, they will be successful much more quickly in terms of moving up in organizations due to the environment / culture they grow up in. First generation Asian Americans are still breaking away from the mold of engineers or doctors, etc. At Walmart, we do a great job of ensuring our workforce is representative of the customers and communities that we serve.

“In Asian American families, there is quite a bit of pressure in following in the footsteps of your parents. My tip to younger Asians coming out of high school and going into college is simple – be who you are and don’t try to be someone that you are not. Identify the authentic purpose for your life – who you are, where you are from and what you value – and pursue your purpose with passion.”

What are the major values of your heritage? How have they helped you in your career?
Other values that are important in my culture include respect people, especially your elders and contribute to society in any way you can. I ensure that I respect others at every level in every encounter I have. This lines up with one of our Three Basic Beliefs at Walmart, respect for the individual. I believe that trust and relationships are built on a foundation of respect for one another. Once the trust is built, people will move mountains for you. Another aspect of our heritage that has helped me in my personal and professional life is contributing back to society or our community. In our heritage, this can be done in terms of monetary donations to the temple, time donated through volunteerism, etc. Again, this lines up directly with our company in giving back to the communities that we serve through donations, grants and our Volunteerism Always Pays program.

Are there any stereotypes of Asian/Pacific Americans that should be refuted or are incorrect?
There is certainly a stereotype that all Asian Americans are introverts. That is certainly not the case. This stereotype can keep many Asian Americans from being successful and considered for leadership-type roles. It could be argued that first generation Asian Americans may have been this way in a new country, outside of their normal comfort zone. Stereotypes in general should be put aside and individuals should be evaluated independently of their background, race, gender, etc. To address this issue and nurture an inclusive workplace, at Walmart, we are each challenged to role-model 3 inclusive behaviors: use inclusive language, speak up/speak out, and ask quiet associates for their opinions.