Published in the September/October 2011 issue of print Search & Employ® |
Tom James, vice president of IT Operations for Lowe’s Companies, Inc., knows what his most important job is. “Everything I do is designed to make sure the cash register keeps ringing,” he said. James is responsible for keeping Lowe’s tech environment up and running – from the technical support center to the computers in the distribution centers, to Lowes.com, and, yes, even the cash registers. “Our IT department helps create the best customer experience possible, whether it is online, in our stores, or with our product sales specialists who go to people’s homes,” said James. “It all has to be seamless to everyone who shops with us, and that happens through technology.”
James’ father was a Marine, and his uncle flew A-4 Skyhawks in the Navy during the war in Vietnam, so James was very motivated to join the Navy as soon as he was able. With his parents’ permission, he signed up at age 17, and went to boot camp at 18. He served from 1979 to 1983 on the Spruance-class destroyers Briscoe (DD-977) and Arthur W. Radford (DD-968). Always interested in computers, James became an operations specialist in the Navy. He served in the reserve until the early ’90s, leaving the Navy as a petty officer first class.
After spending a couple of decades in the civilian world, he sees a lot of parallels between the military and civilian career success. “Our mission at Lowe’s is to focus on the customer,” he said. “We must do more than satisfy those customers’ needs. The military also has missions, so they are accustomed to do what it takes to accomplish the mission. Every civilian employer has some sort of mission.”
James said that Lowe’s is always looking for people to help them with its mission. “Lowe’s is a big company,” he said. “We’re hiring people all the time for all kinds of roles. But we all understand we’re one big team.”
But teamwork isn’t the only reason Lowe’s likes to hire veterans. “Because service members are given a lot of responsibility early in their military careers, they come out of the military ready to lead in the civilian world,” he said. “We always need good leaders to help us grow. Plus, those who demonstrate good leadership within the company are the ones who are recognized for growth opportunities.”
James also said that Lowe’s likes to hire veterans because of their work ethic, passion for a job well done, and attention to detail. “Regardless of branch or MOS, when men and women come out of the military, they are a step ahead of other people who are the same age or at the same steps in their career path,” James said.
He said that veterans will enjoy working at Lowe’s because it offers opportunities all over the country. “We’ve seen lots of growth over the last ten years in places beyond even our stores,” he said. “There are opportunities from our online mission and working with our at home team all over the 50 states and beyond. Plus, we have a good balance of full-time positions as well as part-time positions that will allow someone to finish a degree they started while in the military.”
Founded in 1946, Lowe’s grew from a small hardware store in North Carolina that sold everything from overalls to wash tubs, to the second-largest home improvement retailer worldwide and the seventh-largest retailer in the U.S. The modern Lowe’s began in 1994, when new store expansion consisted of only large stores, which have more than 85,000 square feet of selling space. Lowe’s now operates over 1,750 stores and stocks 40,000 products. The company has approximately 234,000 employees, about 14,000 of whom are veterans.
Lowe’s is a corporate supporter and partner with ASEP (Army Spouse Employment Partnership), and has developed strong relationships with other organizations to support military and veteran communities.