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Looking Back on Belonging Week 2023 - Thoughts from Mark, Head of Belonging

With eight years of #LifeAtPetSmart under his belt, Mark has worked to keep improving the culture of PetSmart by creating an environment where every associate can truly belong. He is now PetSmart's Head of Belonging and serves as Vice President of the PetSmart Associate Assistance Foundation—and he's also a spectacularly genuine human with a heart of gold.

This year PetSmart celebrated its FIFTH ANNUAL weeklong celebration of Belonging! 🎉 And as Head of Belonging, Mark, his team, partners across the business, and all 50K+ of our PetSmart associates came through to make it the most memorable celebration yet!

Let's look back at some of the thoughts from Mark that helped bring this week of impact, reflection, connection, acceptance, and unconditional love to life. ❤️

We wouldn’t be where we are at today in our Belonging journey without the support of so many people along the way. Today, we stand on their shoulders as we say thank you and get ready to celebrate the biggest and boldest Belonging Week in our history.
That's one of the best parts: Belonging isn't owned by any one person or any one team, nor is it limited to a single week. Belonging is embedded in who we are as a company. Countless associates across PetSmart have left their fingerprints on this work over the past five years and I'm excited to celebrate continued success long into the future.

April 10, 2023 - Day 1 of Belonging Week 2023

Words from Mark:

"What a Monday. My alarm went off earlier than it usually does on a Monday morning, but I was awake long before it rang anyway. The celebration had finally arrived: Belonging Week 2023 was here.

When I got to the office, balloon displays greeted me. They looked absolutely amazing! Thank you to Tonya, one of our own associates, for using her PetSmart volunteer hours benefit to support Belonging Week.

I picked up the Dunkin Donuts and coffee from the security desk at 7am sharp and carted them over to the café. There were a LOT of donuts. So many that, I started to get nervous, “Will people show up this early on a Monday morning?”

Anna and I quickly got donuts, coffee, plates, and cups arranged while Lauren was getting YOU BELONG stickers and notebooks set up. Mauricio was busy working on getting the live stream video equipment ready for J.K.’s message at 8:30. We were working to create an amazing experience whether an associate joined in person or via Teams.

At about 8:05, when there was one person eating a donut, I started to get a little nervous. That voice of “Will anyone show up?” was getting louder in my head. Elena recommended I draft up a quick message for the security team to read over the campus intercom. I ran back to my desk and quickly put together a message:

Hello Team PetSmart, Happy Belonging Week!!

J.K. will be kicking off our 5th annual Belonging Week at 8:30 in the café! Come down now to enjoy fresh donuts, coffee, and chat with fellow associates! Check out Central Bark or Fetch for the entire week’s lineup. We hope to see you in the café soon!

All of the exclamation points clearly show that I was both excited and already well into my Diet Mountain Dew.

Our audience had grown to about 6 when J.K. arrived shortly after the announcement.

I think we ordered too many donuts…

Thankfully, my worry was soon put to rest. Like clockwork, associates began pouring into the café. Excited for notebooks, stickers, donuts and coffee, the chatter got LOUD very quick. We welcomed every associate with a “Happy Belonging Week!” message and folks began taking their seats.

By about 8:25, the spaces we had set out for the live studio audience were full and overflow seating kicked in. By 8:30? Standing room only for the kickoff!

At 8:30, I welcomed our live studio audience to Belonging Week 2023, thanked everyone for showing their support, and encouraged everyone to grab a donut on their way out (lol).

At 8:31, Mauricio hit “Go Live” on Teams and J.K. shared his message to the PetSmart team.

Because we had a live studio audience, I stood at the front of the room with “applause,” “quiet on set,” and “laughter” signs. The reality is, I didn’t need them. Team PetSmart cheered, applauded, and laughed as if it were right on cue.

J.K. wrapped up his opening with a quote from Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”

I especially loved this close because the work we do in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is never done. We’re seeing this unfortunate reality here at home and around the world. It’s why we can never stop talking about this work. It’s why we must never be silent.

This week, I encourage every one of you to share your voice, be engaged, and get involved. We’ve provided dozens of opportunities to do just that – to be involved in something bigger than ourselves, our store, our distribution center, our office – to be involved in a movement.

When we do these things together, we create a culture. And that culture at PetSmart is one of Belonging.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Dunkin Donut calling my name.

Happy Belonging Week,



April 11, 2023 - Day 2 of Belonging Week 2023

Words from Mark:

Day 2 of Belonging Week 2023! This morning, I woke up to a message from Marian on our Recognition team: “There were 1,700 recognition cards sent yesterday!!”

“That sounds like a lot, but is it good?” I asked?

Turns out that, yes, yes, it is good! In fact, it’s more than 3x the Belonging Week PlayUp cards sent on day one of Belonging Week 2022. Once again, I had goosebumps.

It makes my heart SOAR seeing associates take the time to recognize each other, their colleagues, and their teams in meaningful ways.

One Store Leader created these amazing “Belonging Bags” for each member of the team with a message about how they belong and some of the associates’ favorite snacks. A creative and wonderfully amazing show of Belonging!

Imagine if you were one of these associates and your leader cared to take the time – and knew you well enough to know your favorite snacks – how would that make you feel? I’d bet pretty darn special.

When people ask me to define Belonging, I talk about inclusion, culture, and the intentional work we do to create spaces where associates can show up as their authentic selves and know they are supported and celebrated.

In the future, I might just show them this screenshot from Krista.

I’m so appreciative of everyone who is showing up this week, making the time to participate, and engaging with the content the team has worked so hard to put together. I’m so proud of all of the examples I’m seeing posted on how teams bring Belonging to life in a way that is meaningful to them.

For those of you reading this that don’t work at PetSmart, I have a simple ask for you: You took a few minutes to read this (thank you!). Now, take that same amount of time and send out a couple notes of recognition to the people in your life that are somehow making an impact on you. It might be an IM to your boss, a hand-written note to a direct report, or an email to that administrative assistant who always goes the extra mile to support you.

Trust me, the more we prioritize celebrating the contributions of our fellow coworkers, the more we see Belonging absolutely thrive!

To think, this is how my day STARTED – and it just got better from there!

Fast forward a few wonderful days and we've reached April 16, 2023—the last day of Belonging Week 2023.

Words from Mark:

Belonging Week 2023 is officially in the books, but as we heard multiple times throughout this past week, our work continues every day to create a PetSmart where every associate can proudly say, "I belong."

This morning, I'm reflecting on the words I wrote down when one of our speaker's this week challenged us to ask ourselves, "How can I create a more diverse and inclusive environment?"

My commitments:

  • Never stop listening to the voices of our associates

  • Use my voice, my role, and my work to create positive change

  • Create waves where we challenge the biases and systems in place today to make a more equitable future for all

It was an amazing week that I will never forget, and will always be grateful for having the opportunity to be involved. I have so much love in my heart for all of the associates who gave it their all to deliver on my commitment to create the biggest and boldest celebration yet; you all absolutely exceeded my expectations.

May you take the energy and passion into your day today and every day the rest of this year.

We are just getting started!

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