From the Classroom to a Role at Corporate Headquarters

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
CALS alum Haley Winters' experiences in the Norton School prepared her for success and helped land her a position as Brand Advocate Analyst at Home Depot's corporate offices.

Shortly after graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in in Retailing and Consumer Sciences, Haley Winters left her hometown in Tucson to accept a position with Home Depot's corporate offices in Atlanta. Throughout her time at the university, she was involved in multiple different extracurricular activities within the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing, including a JCPenney case competition and the Retail Innovation Lab. We caught up with Haley this month to see just how her experiences at CALS led her to success.

What brought you to the Norton School of Family & Consumer Science?

When I started at the U of A, I wasn't really sure which direction I wanted to go in as far as my major. I started out down the path to getting a business degree, but soon realized that there wasn't one area within the business school that I was specifically interested in. Then a friend told me about the retailing program at the Norton School of Family & Consumer Sciences and I immediately went to my counselor and made the switch. What intrigued me the most about the program was that it focused on the one area of business that I was the most interested in-- retail.  

What was your favorite aspect of your major?

There were a lot of great things about the Retailing and Consumer Sciences major, but my favorite aspect by far was the teachers. Not only are they incredibly dedicated to making sure you do well in your courses, but they also really care about your success after graduation. Having this type of support from my professors really enhanced my overall experience in the RCSC major. The other aspect of my major that I really enjoyed was the huge assortment of elective courses that it offered each semester. Each of these courses focus on a different area of retail, so you're really able to experiment and see which areas you'd be the most interested in pursuing a career in. It was through my elective courses that I discovered I was most interested in the E-Commerce area of retail. 

You had the opportunity to participate in the Terry Lundgren Center’s Retail Innovation Lab, what was one of your biggest takeaways from that experience?

Participating in the Retail Innovation Lab was definitely the best decision that I made throughout the course of my college career. I think that my biggest takeaway from this experience is to not be afraid to put yourself out there and take on a difficult task. When I first heard about the Retail Innovation Lab, I was intrigued by it, but I was scared to commit to it because it sounded really difficult and time consuming. I thought that I wouldn't be able to handle all of the tasks associated with the Lab while taking 15 credits worth of classes. With the encouragement of one of my teachers, I decided to join the Lab, and I'm so glad that I did. While it was a lot of work, it was an incredibly rewarding experience because I was able to gain valuable skills that were practiced and applied through a real-world project with Home Depot. By utilizing my newly developed skills and connections made with Home Depot executives, I was able to attain a corporate job with the company following graduation. Had I not put myself out there to become a part of the Retail Innovation Lab, I might not have had the same opportunity.

You were invited to meet with executives at Home Depot’s corporate headquarters as part of your project, what was that like?

As part of my project with Home Depot, I had the opportunity to fly out to Atlanta with my Retail Innovation Lab team to present to a team of executives. This was always the part of the project that I dreaded the most because I knew from past experience that I didn't like presenting, especially if it was going to be in front of a team of executives. In the weeks leading up to the presentation, I practiced every chance that I could get. I became so comfortable with the information I was presenting that by the time it got to the actual presentation, I wasn't nervous at all. I felt like an expert on the topic and exuded a new type of presentation confidence that I had never had before. To put it into perspective, my team and I had been working on this presentation for 8 months. We had done so much research and analyses on the presentation topic, that we understood the information we were presenting more than anyone else. It was through this experience that I got over my fear of presenting, which is a skill that I can now utilize in my career.

What are your future plans?

My plans for the future are really focused on being successful in my career. First and foremost, I want to work towards being the best that I can possibly be in my current position. Then, a few years down the line, I would like to become a manager and lead a team of my own.

How do you feel your experience in the College of Agriculture and Life & Sciences prepared you for life after college?

My experience within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences definitely prepared me for life after college! The amount of opportunities that were provided by the college for me to strengthen my professional skill set were such a crucial part of my experience that really helped me to get to where I am today. 

Any advice for current or future students?

My biggest piece of advice for incoming students is to get involved in extracurricular activities as soon as possible! I know that this is something that we have always been told to do, but trust me when I say that these are going to be the most valuable experiences for you. The more time that you're involved in extracurricular activities, the more time that you have to build the skills needed to make you an excellent candidate for employers to hire following graduation.

Watch Haley Winters talk about her CALS experience and offer advice for future students
Rosemary Brandt
CALS Media Relations