From San Francisco to Minneapolis…Notes from a Relocated Tech Entrepreneur

April 11, 2016 - Article reads in
A portrait of West Stringfellow, Target's vice president of  internal innovation & operations

West Stringfellow, our vice president of internal innovation and operations, shared his thoughts — via LinkedIn  about joining the Target team and relocating to our Minneapolis headquarters. We've reposted it here for you!

Just over a year ago, a dear friend of mine introduced me to the opportunity to be an entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) at Target. My first thought: “Target? No way.” I have worked at some of the largest, fastest-growing and most innovative companies in the world – like Amazon, PayPal and Rosetta Stone. I’d done the big company thing, was on a 10 month sabbatical traveling around the world and the thought of going to a 50-year old physical retailer in Minneapolis sounded like lifestyle and career suicide.

Through a series of conversations with people I trust, I was encouraged to interview. I spent a few weeks contemplating the move, flew to Minneapolis to meet the Target team and seriously considered the opportunity. One thing that I appreciated is that, during the interview process, the team didn’t care that I have loads of tattoos, a few piercings and a propensity to curse – it was about my work and quality of what I could bring to Target. I slowly opened up to the opportunity and joined Target as their first EIR last March.

365 days later

365 days later, I have built a #baller team that is doing three amazing things: building my dream business (too early to tell you what it is, but it’s codenamed “Goldfish”), building the first-ever retail accelerator with Techstars and building the Internal Innovation & Operations team with the mandate of building new businesses inside of Target.

What's it like to work for Target?

The first question my friends ask me is: what’s it like to work for Target? Here it is: I have never worked for a company that people love so much. There is truly a special place in many people’s hearts for Target. Where when I say “I work at Target,” people effusively share how much they LOVE the company, the store, the products and the brand. I’ve never experienced anything like this in my career.

Wall Street and the media focus on digital commerce growth and often ignore the fact that customers in North America still spend more than 92%+ of their retail dollars in physical stores. In terms of brand, Target was just ranked the #6 of the top 100 Millennial brands, placing #1 among physical retailers. We have a growing exec team that is dead-set on maintaining our position while also building new sources of growth. The leadership sincerely invests in developing their teams. It is AMAZINGLY refreshing to work in an environment where work/life balance is not only respected, but expected. And I love working for a company that gives 5% of their annual profit to charity.

Like every big company, Target also has things that drive me crazy. The bloatware on my mac causes it to slow down and/or crash every so often (no worries, I borged my machine). The culture can be a little passive-aggressive – they call it “Minnesota nice” in the North – and I’m known to take a walk through the skyway to chill out.  And sometimes, I wish there weren’t so many antiquated processes. (The good news here is that part of my job is to identify and fix these). All in all, the things that are negative about Target are far less than competitive companies, cultures and environments. 

What’s it like to live in Minneapolis?

I also get asked a lot: What’s it like to live in Minneapolis? Isn’t it cold? I have lived a lot of places – four continents in the last 15 years: Boulder, Bangalore, D.C., London, Seattle and Sydney – and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. To my equal surprise, I love it here. 

Yeah, it’s cold. But not all year. Once you get over that, Minneapolis is pretty awesome. Here are the six things I love most:

When I interviewed at Target, it was clear that people here care about balance in their lives. Almost everyone I spoke with shared a story about their family and weekends with their kids (instead of working), their hobbies (outside of work) and their vacations (where they did not work). After 20 years of extremely hard work in tech companies, this work/life balance is new for me and I am enjoying it immensely. I’ve lost 35 pounds (woot!), made amazing friends (♥) in Minneapolis, started recording an album (it's crap) and started writing a book (it’s good).

Like all cities, there are things I don’t love. I often miss being surrounded by the deep cultural diversity found in London and San Francisco. Sometimes I miss the fast-pace intensity of other cities. There’s a lot of diversity here, but you find it in pockets. And every now and again, I get a little frustrated with the cold.

So, what does this all mean?

So, what does this all mean? I’m building a team and am looking for more people to join us. If you love retail, solving real problems at scale and have an undying passion to build new businesses – you would love it here too. We’re building a team that’s intentionally focusing on innovation, experimenting with technology and product ideas and tackling challenges head-on to be the best. If you don’t want to move to the Twin Cities, then you can join us in downtown San Francisco, Sunnyvale or Manhattan.

There is a real opportunity here at Target to do something great and we’re just getting started. 

Join us!

We are hiring 22 people for Goldfish, 15 for Internal Innovation and over 1,000 in IT! Apply today! Here are a few, critical roles to get you started:

We look forward to hearing from you!

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