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I Belong Series: Meet Afton, Sr. Merchandise Planning Analyst

Afton, Senior Merchandise Planning Analyst has been part of the PetSmart pack for close to 5 years and is a valuable asset to the team. She shares her story of Belonging with us.


The Belonging Program’s “I Belong” Series harnesses the power of empathy through storytelling. This series is intended to give associates a greater sense of understanding, a bridge to gain new perspective, and a way to build connection to each other. To learn more about the “I Belong” Series or to submit your stories, please visit our new Belonging Fetch Page.


During my engineering days at a job interview, I was asked if I could handle hazing.

The interviewer said women typically faced that until they proved they were tough enough to hang with the guys. They even gave examples of the type of experiences I could expect. I was offered the job but turned it down after a lot of internal turmoil, wondering if I was proving them right by hesitating to work somewhere with such blatant misogyny.

I think about that interview often, about the company culture that encouraged interviewers to be so open about treating women like that. I also think about how I reacted to the question, how I laughed and agreed that it sounded reasonable to have to prove myself on the job in that way. I didn’t stand up for myself or for other women.

Fast forward through several years working at PetSmart. From my first day as an associate, I could tell that people cared about each other.

Everyone that I have talked to who has worked at PetSmart for a significant amount of time says the people are why they keep coming back. I frequently ask myself what kind of company I want to work for, and my answer is a place where everyone feels safe and that they belong. Sometimes this means being quiet and opening your ears and heart to what people are telling you, and other times this means speaking up for yourself and others. I can never know what it is like to experience someone else’s life, but I can be open to listening and learning as much as possible and being the best ally I can be.

I recently had an opportunity to provide feedback on behalf of my colleague, who did not feel included in some of the new belonging presentations. After asking if it was okay to speak on their behalf, I shared the feedback. I hope that I can continue to be the type of person that others feel safe talking to and opening up to about their experiences. I must do my part to make PetSmart the kind of company that I want to work for, and I hope that others consider the role they play in building the culture they want to be a part of.


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