Holiday with a Capital H

If you have never worked in retail, than you’ve have missed out on the grand experience we call “Holiday”. On the other hand, you’ve probably actually enjoyed the time of year from mid-November to Christmas while you celebrate with your friends and family, and take advantage of the seeming thousands of days of deals from the many retailers trying to get their share of wallet from you. Holiday, with a capital H, is something that has to be experienced to be believed. And every Holiday is the most important one yet, because those six weeks account for 50% or more of yearly revenue.

When you work in IT in a retailer, your entire year hinges on whether or not the systems you support survive the shopping onslaught of Holiday. In the online space, an ecommerce site might make 30% of its revenue in the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday.

The massive scale up to 20X normal daily traffic was largely accomplished without clouds in the 2000s. You had to take a really good guess as to how much infrastructure was needed, build it all out over the course of the year, and hope you weren’t overwhelmed by consumer behavior. You could easily receive 1M requests per second at the edge, and 100,000+ requests per second to your actual systems. If those requests were concentrated on the wrong systems, you could easily take down your site.

After a few Holidays, you realize the second the current year’s Holiday is over, you are immediately planning for the next one. There is no break. It’s like a giant tsunami that is slowly approaching, day by day. Once this year’s tsunami passes, you turn around and can see next year’s on the horizon. And while there are many stories of failure, from every failure we learn something and implement fixes for the next year’s wave. This is why Holiday in retail is such fun, every year you get to test your mettle against the highest traffic the world can generate. You planned all year, you implemented new technologies and new solutions, but sometimes the consumer confounds you and does something totally unexpected.
It’s those moments where the unexpected happens that keep IT in retail exciting, the times when you can tell your friends the Holiday story starting with “You will not believe what just happened…”

Joel is a VP Architecture in Target Technology Services. This is an excerpt from Part XII of his blog series, A Digital Ecommerce Transformation.

target healthcare, now at a holiday near you

This is my favorite time of year. All of my free time is filled with family, friends, and traditions. I’m sure you all have some favorite holiday activities and traditions. Recently my friends and I got together to take part in one of my favorites – our annual cookie bake.  We have just the right number of people which means just the right number of cookies and the perfect cookie platters. Thinking about it further, I couldn’t help but think about how grateful I was that we were all healthy and able to participate in this cherished event. This got me thinking about the important role the Target Healthcare team plays in traditions.

I would bet they don’t think about it often, but our clinicians will be a part of so many family traditions this year.  They will help treat our out of town guests who are visiting their relatives for ear infections, allowing them to attend the annual holiday recital. The clinicians will help our guest struggling to get over a cough so he can propose to his girlfriend on New Year’s Eve.  They will treat our younger guests for strep throat so they can visit Grandma for what might be her last Christmas. Our clinicians will even be there checking Grandpa’s blood pressure when he has had too much holiday ham, helping to keep him healthy for all the holidays to come.

The same can be said for our pharmacists– they will be playing a large role in the holiday traditions of our guests too. When an out of town guest forgets their maintenance medication at home, our pharmacists will work to get them the medication they need to enjoy a safe and healthy trip. When our guest comes down with sinusitis our pharmacists will work quickly to fill their antibiotics and make supportive care recommendations to get them on the road to recovery faster so they can join in all the family festivities. Our pharmacists also give our guests influenza vaccines to help keep them from picking up the flu wherever their travels and traditions may take them.

Our pharmacists and clinicians make a difference in the lives of so many people. They make and keep our guests healthy so they can be a part of the traditions they love.  This healthcare team comes in early and stays late to ensure our guests can make memories they will cherish for a lifetime. That is important and AMAZING work.  I feel blessed to work with individuals who play such a big role in the communities they serve. So I raise my holiday cookie to you Target healthcare teams – you make a difference just by being there and by being YOU!

Interested in a career with Target Clinic? Click here to learn more. 

Work/Life Balance

Photo: description here

It’s during this time of the year that I always think about a phrase you hear a lot around Target—Work/Life Balance. It really is a great time of the year; one where you can spend quality time with family and friends, attend holiday parties, and go sledding at the neighborhood hill. However; I consistently hear from my friends and family who think I am at my store from open to close, seven days a week, and they think I’m only making it through this time of the year with caffeine and a prayer. Not true!

It really is amazing how much consideration my manager puts into me maintaining a balance of my work life and personal life during this busy time, and that translates into how I help my team be able to enjoy the season too. We do our best to stick to scheduling basics—5 days a week, maintain as normal a schedule as possible, ensure nobody has to close and then be back in the store right away in the morning. Also, we scheduled all our leaders to have off either the day before or the day after Christmas. That also includes me and I’m grateful for the extra time I get to spend with my family (they live 3 hours away, so it’s a little bit of a haul to get there and back—especially with winter driving conditions!)

While time away from work is important this year, it’s just as important to make our time at the store fun and engaging for our entire team– and my Leaders get really creative around this part! For example: Imagine my surprise when I walked into my office earlier this week and saw about 10 platters of cookies that one incredible leader baked for the entire team. My office turned into a gigantic cookie exchange, and while I don’t have the baking skills necessary to contribute my own baked goods, I was more than happy to partake in the peanut butter fudge. Sometimes, it’s as easy as buying a pizza for my executive team leaders like I did today for lunch– just an easy way to say “thank you” for a job well done this week.

I will be totally honest and say that it does get very busy around here and the hours sometimes can get a little longer, but I think my team and I all do a great job to hold each other accountable in ensuring we get home at a reasonable time. Because work/life balance is just that—a balancing act. If you spend a little longer at work one day, you should spend a little extra time outside of work on a different day. It’s pretty cool to work for a retail company that understands and promotes that!

Interested in a store management role at Target? Learn more and apply for openings here.

All is Bright

Every year during the holidays, the marketing team gets to see much of our hard work finally come to life in our stores, online, in print ads, and on TV.  From the sparkling and festive signage in store, to promoting holiday items such as the Target exclusive white chocolate peppermint M&Ms (yum!), to special holiday events, guests are guided through the both exciting and stressful holiday season – all with the help of various groups from Target’s marketing department.

This season especially, we have much of which to be proud.  We’ve entered some exciting territory, including last month’s story-within-a-story on ABC’s “Revenge”, modeled after the show itself.  The five long-form commercials included designer pieces from the highly anticipated Neiman Marcus and Target holiday collection, which launched on December 1st in stores and online.

You’ll notice that these ads speak to the “Expect More” side of our brand promise, delivering on the chic appeal that Target is known for.  However, our teams never forget the following two words, “Pay Less,” as we know our guests desire our products to also be affordable and fit into their lifestyles.  This is why  marketing messages this holiday also speak to things like the Target REDcard (extra 5% off of all purchases, plus free shipping on!), giving our guests one more reason  to know they can trust the Target brand.

While the above examples are some of the most visible projects from our marketing teams of late, there is tremendous work that goes on behind the scenes as well.  As we speak, many groups are working hard to track and analyze how this year’s promotions are going, and already making changes to next year’s plan.  Guest Insights is one of those teams, gathering copious amounts of feedback from our guests on their holiday mindset, expectations, and shopping experience.  Understanding both the positive and the negative is key to continuing to improve our brand and meet the needs of the most important part of our company – our guest.

Take a listen to our new CMO, Jeff Jones, give more insight on our brand promise, how marketing works alongside other teams at Target, and where marketing’s priorities will be focused in years to come.  (PS – the Target store shown in the video?  That’s just steps away from the headquarters offices!)

Happy holidays!

Learn more about Target opportunities in marketing & advertising here.

The ABC’s of Target Pharmacy: H is for Hot Shifts and Holidays

Photo: Cate the Staffing Angel

Most pharmacist’s dream schedule would be Monday through Friday 9-5, no weekends, no holidays.  For 99 percent of us, it is only a dream.  But, now that I’ve worked 12 hour shifts, weekends, and holidays for so long, I don’t know that “banker’s hours” are for me.

I’ve grown to enjoy having a day off during the week, where I can shop without the crowds, see the doctor without worrying about leaving work, and even participate in my kids’ school activities.  Our pharmacy is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  Luckily, my partner is willing to trade off weekends, so very rarely do I have to miss an event if I know about it far enough in advance.

In Texas, Target’s full-time pharmacists are salaried, with additional pay for any extra shifts that are picked up.  These extra shifts are known as “hot shifts” in our market.  I’ve worked all over the state of Texas and even at a  few stores in Oklahoma picking up hot shifts when I can.  Odessa, Lubbock, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City have all made for interesting experiences.  Now that I have kids, I haven’t been able to help out as much, so I really appreciate when others pick up my shifts that need to be covered!

Our region has a main scheduler that is an absolute angel!  Cate works her tail off figuring out needs, re-arranging schedules, and making magic happen to ensure all of her 52 pharmacies open with a smiling face 362 days per year.  We use a scheduling tool called staffing angel, and Cate is truly our region’s staffing angel.  That’s her pictured above working her magic.

As far as holidays go, all Target pharmacies are closed for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  My partner and I trade off the other holidays to keep it equal.  Although I would rather be off, working a holiday is usually an easy shift and is a great opportunity to get caught up.  I have to admit, I get a  little jealous when ringing up guests for their sunscreen, margarita mix, and beach towels on July 4th.  However, I never get jealous of guests buying aspirin on New Year’s Day!

Interested in a healthcare career with Target? Search and apply for opportunities here.