Director of Training and Leadership Development at Lowes Foods
Starting Off and Current Role
I love telling my story and getting people to understand the opportunity Alex Lee has. I started as a bagger at age 15 with no aspirations for beginning a career. I needed money for a car, and my family shopped at Lowes Foods, so that’s where I started; I didn’t have too much of an awareness of the company at that time. I was a nerd – I put on a tie to fill out an application :::: laughs ::::. At the time, I wanted to be a teacher or a computer programmer. Like most kids, when I got to college, I realized I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. Outside of school, I was already doing things I loved, like teaching color guard. And Lowes Foods always offered me the flexibility to pursue my loves. But I still didn’t consider working at Lowes Foods as a career.
Then people kept reaching out to me, offering me more opportunities. I became a cashier, then an office assistant. When I had the opportunity to move up to guest manager, I took it. At the time, I was also a divisional trainer. Then I became instructional designer, manager of training and development, and, now director of training and leadership development. As of May 7, I’ve been with the company for 30 years.
Now, I’m essentially responsible for training and development at Lowes Foods. There are two wings: instructional design (developing content) and training. The trainer wing focuses on the development of the individual and store teams. Because of how the organization is laid out, I’ve also helped MDI and W. Lee Flowers with training. I have team members in all locations – we’re all supporting the enterprise.
Formula for Success
I was lucky to have met people who said, “Have you seen that job posting? It’s up your alley,” or “You should take this opportunity.” It seemed like the stars aligned – it’s something you can’t ignore. Meeting so many people and making great relationships has been key to my progression in my career. My managers have always supported me. When I became an instructional designer, it was a new role, so I got to make it my own. Their support gave me that confidence to dictate my career path. To this day, I’m surrounded by people who want me to grow and succeed.
I think there are two things that stand out as catalysts to growth. One is the willingness to raise your hand, saying, “I want this,” and then being willing to work for it. Two is the support. I’ve had some amazing managers who enabled me and encouraged me to grow. The grocery industry is one where you can start with having no experience and then work up to the top. You can come in with no knowledge and then learn everything. There’s so much of that particularly at Alex Lee. People have experienced that, and they’re paying it forward.
Help Along the Way
One of the things I remember, starting at 15 as a bagger, was the family-style atmosphere. The two people who hired me, Sherry McBride and Tony Harper, they took care of me like family. That’s why you have so many people who have been with the company for 30 years – it’s because of that family atmosphere. It’s hard to list everyone who’s helped me – there are SO many, and I consider anyone I work with to be a mentor. But Sherry and Tony stick out because of how they pushed me to be better.
When I look back, I can say I dedicated my life to this company, and that’s pretty cool. I’m so proud of the organization. It’s not just who I work for; it’s a part of my identity. I care about what Lowes Foods does. How we take care of people and the choices we make, solidifies my reason for being here.
People here value growth and development. They recognize talent. I was able and always felt comfortable raising my hand. People were always willing to have those conversations with me.