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  • Writer's pictureLaura Hemmerling

Learnings from my days at lululemon

As I re-enter the world of work after years of traveling and then going back school, I’m noticing myself reflecting on the various jobs and careers I have had. This has led to deeper introspection on what I enjoyed about each of these roles, and the companies that I have worked with. Some have been great, others have been not so great, but I have been finding myself missing working for lululemon due to the values and lessons that they embodied.

My journey with them began within the four walls of one of their stores in Winnipeg, MB. I had recently come back from India after completing my yoga teacher training. Committed to leaving the ‘corporate world’ behind, I suddenly realized that it was all I had known for the past decade. Who was I now that I had traded in my pencil skirts and high heels for stretchy pants and sports bras? Admittedly, I was much more comfortable physically, but I had no clue how to navigate this new industry. My roommate at the time (yes, I was renting out a bedroom in a friends basement after selling my own home) suggested I apply to work at lululemon. She knew some of the values that I carried, and believed it could be a fit.

My immediate thoughts were “why would lululemon hire a corporate professional turned yogi?” I quickly learned that this was EXACTLY why they would hire me. I started in store as an Educator, whose role is to do just that. Educate the guests who come into the store on the products, and make sure they leave happy. What I quickly discovered is that it goes so much further than selling stretchy pants. I made some beautiful connections and heard inspiring stories from so many people who were discovering their love for movement and feeling great in their bodies. And of course, it helps to have buttery soft, moisture wicking material against your skin when practicing yoga or running your first marathon.

I will never forget how I felt when I was asked to support with my first community event. I suddenly found myself guiding meditation inside a magical tent in the forest for a yoga festival that our local store was a part of. Pinch me. Seriously? This is the type of opportunity I got to have while working retail? Dreams do come true. Or how on day one of training, I had the opportunity to chat about my goals, where I had cautiously told them about my dream of moving out west. I was so afraid to tell them about a goal that would have me parting ways with the team (who I had just started with), but was amazed to have everyone celebrating me and showing support for helping me to make this dream a reality.

Fast forward a few years later, many beautiful connections and opportunities (seriously, I could write a full book on the experiences I had with this company), and I am now reflecting back on just what made lululemon such a great place to work. My journey started with me working in store in Winnipeg - moving to Vancouver and working in store (where I built a lot of my community in the city) - to working at the corporate office as a recruiter - to moving to New Zealand and working as a manager in one of their stores there.

And one key piece was present during each role. I always felt at home. Like I was working with people who saw me as a human being, rather than a resource. I felt valued for all of the experiences I had, rather than the resume I brought with me. There was encouragement to pursue the things both professionally AND personally that would both grow me and bring me a deeper sense of fulfillment in life. The friends I made while working there have become some of the closest connections I have ever formed at work. People who I could work out with, meditate with, cry on the couch with, or dream big dreams with. I was taught the importance of community, and supporting one another in achieving shared goals. Celebrating each other. Daily check ins to see how we were doing. And, let’s not forget…having FUN! I will forever cherish my days with lululemon for all that they taught me, the opportunities that I experienced and the friendships I made. Thank you lululemon, for bringing me the gift of seeing that there are companies that actually care about their people.

So what am I going to do with these lessons? I’m going to keep dreaming. My hope is that everyone has the chance to work for a company that values people in the same way. A company that appreciates that we are more than our resumes. We have families, friends, passions, interests, goals and a life that lies outside of our work. In fact, employees are more likely to be engaged at work when we show that we care about the rest of their life. Their health and well-being.

I want to be able to bring the lessons learned and support other corporate cultures in holding onto their people, during a time when employees are reporting higher levels of stress and anxiety than ever before. Supporting employers with the guidelines and tools so that their employees can feel engaged at work. Being attuned to how they are feeling, and how this is impacting their work. Learning how to work together as a team. Being able to bring our whole self to work. My dream is to shift the corporate world into a space that doesn’t have people wanting to leave it all behind, but rather shift the culture of companies so they can see their employees as humans, rather than resources. I believe it’s possible.

At lululemon, we had a term called a BHAG, which was a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Taking things one step further, what if every company had the goal that previous employees would speak positively about their experiences? Understanding that people move onto other pursuits, and supporting or celebrating these endeavours? Wouldn’t it be a great goal if companies wanted to create a workplace that has someone like me (who left over 3 years ago) still talking about how great they were to work for?

As I navigate this space of finding the perfect role (what a difference it is being the one in need of support, rather than the one supporting others), I look forward to bringing my previous skills and integrating them with my education in the mental health world. Have a story of an employer who has made a positive impact in your life? Feel free to share and spread the awareness around companies who care.

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