Kim Brown Strickland
A Strong Foundation
Businesswoman rises to Walmart vice presidency
Kim Brown Strickland ’94 owes a lot to the Walmart Supercenter No. 643. The store on 76th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach is where she launched her impressive career with the big box retailer, logging countless hours as a cashier while she was a student at Coastal Carolina University.
After attending morning classes at CCU, the Bassett, Va., native would head straight to 643 for her 1-9 p.m. shift. That was her routine three days a week, and working on weekends was a given.
Strickland, now a corporate vice president at Walmart’s world headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., recalls that being a full-time student while holding down a full-time job had its challenges.
“For me, it was all about the discipline of maintaining my grades and trying to support myself,” she said. “Both of those things are what really built my foundation. The combination of learning the business at Walmart throughout college and the technical skills I learned from my Coastal classes is what helped to define my later success with the Walmart Corporation. I really, truly believe that.”
Walmart employs 2.2 million associates worldwide and serves more than 140 million customers each week at more than 11,000 stores in 27 countries. It’s the only company Strickland has ever earned a paycheck from during her professional career.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the Wall College of Business, the former cashier transitioned into the internal audit department. For eight years, she worked around the world in Europe, Asia and South America, where she audited financial controls and processes within stores.
“When Walmart acquired new stores in another country, my team’s role was to convert their financial systems from the old to the new and value their assets,” Strickland said. “That was probably the best time of my career. I was able to live in England and Japan and travel extensively around those countries. It was a great opportunity that Walmart gave to me. My leadership team had a lot of faith in me.”
The retail giant’s confidence in Strickland led to several more promotions. Upon returning to the U.S., she continued in internal audit as director of corporate audit, leading the team/process for Sarbanes-Oxley, a federal law that requires top management to individually certify the accuracy of their company’s financial information. From there, she gained experience in budgeting and planning, and in 2006 was named to the position of vice president of corporate financial planning and analysis.
Along with her heavy work responsibilities, Strickland is actively involved with Walmart’s Women’s Officer Caucus, which focuses on connecting, inspiring and empowering strong female leaders. In 2011, she returned to Myrtle Beach as one of the featured speakers at the inaugural Women’s Leadership Conference sponsored by Coastal’s Women in Philanthropy and Leadership.
Strickland’s most recent role is vice president for finance and strategy for Walmart’s health and wellness sector, where she oversees the finance team that supports the company’s pharmacies, vision centers and clinics.
She says her success in climbing Walmart’s corporate ladder can be directly attributed to her disciplined work ethic, her ability to multitask and break through barriers that she gained from her international experiences, and the foundational education she received at CCU.
“All of my Coastal professors were really great,” she said. “Being able to have one-on-one access with them was very important for me. Whenever I had a question, I knew I could go directly to them. I always got the access and help I needed.
“When you are going to college, you often wonder if you will ever use any of the concepts you’re learning. Whether it was the marketing or business management or finance classes that I took at Coastal, learning those basic principles really became applicable once I got into the real world. All of them set the foundation for the job I have today.”