Vanessa has spent 16+ years in four different departments loving #LifeAtPetSmart. From Marketing, Information Technology, PetSmart Charities, and Human Resources, her impact can be felt throughout the company. We LOVED being able to learn more about Vanessa's journey with PetSmart and why she's enjoyed her time here so much. We know you will too, check out her story below!
Tell us a bit about your PetSmart journey – where did you start, where are you now, and how did you get there?
Vanessa: I was a customer of PetSmart before becoming an associate. A job opportunity with a prior company led me to Arizona. At the time, I had no idea that PetSmart was headquartered in Arizona. By chance, I drove by this large office building with a PetSmart logo out front and learned that was the corporate office; I started to look for jobs at the company. I saw a position in Marketing that interested me and one thing led to another...to this day I’m grateful to the recruiter. In Marketing, I was on the .com team handling everything from writing articles and product copy for both our pet and equine websites and print catalogs (yes, PetSmart once owned State Line Tack and had catalogs) to initiating online events. My cherished opportunity was being given the lead to launch PetSmart’s first online Halloween pet costume contest. That led to initiating an online pet and pet parent look-alike contest, which still makes me laugh at the likeness of the winners.
The thing to know about me is I like to learn new things and have exposure to new opportunities that enable knowledge building. While I enjoyed working in Marketing immensely, I also became curious about project management and sought an opportunity within the IT organization—I have both a creative and technical background and was ready for something on the technical side. For several years I worked in IT helping with the projects for our stores, distribution centers, and supporting the formation of the project management office in IT. But variety is the spice of my life and in time I was drawn to an opportunity in PetSmart Charities that combined creativity and technology: it was to start their social media presence and to convert their website to a new platform. This appealed to my creative and technical spectrum and it gave me a chance to learn more about nonprofits and the charitable side of loving pets. My years with PetSmart Charities provided direct contact with PetSmart customers, PetSmart Charities constituents, and a wealth of animal welfare organizations trying to help pets. The beauty of working for a company at their headquarter is you get so much exposure to the various areas of the company and if you’re a person that likes to gain broad knowledge vs. have a linear focus there’s a lot of opportunity for you to explore until you find the right fit for you. After a few years in PetSmart Charities, I decided to return to PetSmart as part of the Human Resources team, the place I have set the deepest roots. I started as an instructional designer and that has evolved to overseeing the learning technology, as well as continuing to have opportunities to design training and more for our associates. In this space, I have the benefit of exposure to business areas and people that span across the entire organization. Our team is not dedicated to one focus of the business, but touch every area and for someone that is motivated by learning and knowledge building (and who, frankly, has a short attention span and difficulty with repetition), the opportunity I’ve had within my current role has been satisfying and rewarding. While I view my current role as one that allows for the most diversity in what I can do, there is tremendous gratitude for my journey throughout the years within the organization. Each role has provided learnings and takeaways that I took when moving on to the next endeavor. Additionally, it would be amiss if I didn’t thank the various leaders I’ve worked for that saw something in me and gave me opportunities to explore my varied interests.
We want to hear about your pets!
Vanessa: I’ve always found comfort in the company of animals. Earlier in life I had mostly cats because I lived in a more urban setting, but as I got older and didn’t have to ask anyone for what can I have, I really started to expand my interest from dogs, cats, and small animals to keeping farm animals as pets. It started with one horse and then grew to more horses, a donkey, goats, a cow, a pig, camelids, chickens, ducks, and a turkey...along with the usual cats, dogs, guinea pigs, and fish. I realize it seems excessive and it certainly preoccupies a great deal of my non-work time, but I feel it’s my purpose. Each of the pets I have came to me in such a way that it was destined to be and while many people enjoy extensive vacationing or spending time away from the house, I’ve always been more of a homebody and find caring for the diverse number and kind of pets I have to be a great way to learn and appreciate things in the here and now. It’s become my sanctuary and a ritual to sit outside among my menagerie and just observe my pets interacting with each other. It’s not unusual for a chicken to be on top of a goat, and my cow is best friends with one of the alpacas. Also, there’s something that keeps you grounded and motivated when you know you have these creatures depending on you for their livelihood. Further, if I ever need a reminder of mind over matter, I know that there’s no way I’m going to move my 2,000 lb. Clydesdale by my physical strength alone...it comes from being able to connect to the animal and build a relationship that is a bit telepathic. That ability to connect and obtain mutual understanding—often non-verbally—is fascinating.
Why do you enjoy your #LifeAtPetSmart?
Vanessa: What I love about my life at PetSmart is what the focus of our company is. I was attracted to this company for one simple reason: our focus on pets and the people that care about pets. It’s nice when your personal interest is complemented by the company you opt to dedicate your career to. Further, I’ve always been attracted to large companies because of the diverse opportunities in them to explore and find your place or to grow in one place if that is your ambition. At 16+ years that included time in four very different departments, I continue to advocate for this company and encourage others to consider a career with our pack.
Any favorite stories or moments from over the years at PetSmart that you’d like to share?
Vanessa: I think it’s fun to reminisce about times when we had some famous people visit headquarters for meetings or special appearances. I recall when Martha Stewart and Bret Michaels visited, along with the time we all got a chance for a photo op with Grumpy Cat (may she meow in peace). I also am reminded when I got my pet pig from a person who didn’t want her. I didn’t want the person to come to my house so had them meet me with the pig at the office. I was handed the piglet and nothing else and she started to squeal at the top of her lungs. There I was in the lobby holding this little creature screaming so loud that I later learned people heard it through the glass doors in the cafeteria and equated the sound to a velociraptor. My piggy is nearly 8 years old now and essentially has the master suite in the house.
Vanessa's PIG-ture perfect buddy: Bubbles the piggy, what a HAM!