ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Gretchen Timmons took a job with Costco Wholesale Corp. to earn money while attending Portland State University.
She never expected it would turn into a career, she told SN.
“I was a business major because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, and I thought business would be easily transferable to different career choices,” she recalled.
She took a job at one of Costco's Portland, Ore., warehouses that involved driving a forklift — “very manual work,” she noted — and boxing groceries at the front end.
“It was a good experience working with some great people, but for me it was just a college job,” she said.
During her junior year Tom Gillpatrick, executive director of the Food Industry Leadership Center at Portland State, came to speak at one of her classes and encouraged students to come meet with him.
“I was trying to figure out what to do in terms of a career, and since I was already at Costco, it intrigued me to see how that could benefit my career,” she explained.
Timmons said she didn't know much about how the food industry operated, but after touring several manufacturing plants and distribution centers as part of a supply and logistics class, she got a better understanding.
“The more I got into it, the more I wanted to pursue a career in buying, regardless of who it was for, and since I was already working at Costco, that seemed like a good place to be,” she said.
She decided to pursue an FILC certificate as her minor.
FILC requirements include completing an internship, and Timmons did hers with Costco, moving north to Washington to work with the vice president of the Northwest region to learn more about the company and wait for a job to open up.
“That experience put me in touch with people at the corporate level and gave me a great overview of the company and an understanding of its philosophy and its merchandising policies, to help me figure out where in the organization I thought would be a good fit for me,” Timmons said.
She thought she'd end up on the food side, she noted. However, the first opening that came up — within two weeks after her internship ended, she noted — was in nonfood, as an inventory control specialist in cameras and camcorders.
Timmons took the job and held that position for four years before moving up earlier this year to assistant buyer for appliances and blank media.
The next step up the ladder will involve becoming a full buyer, she said, “and my goal for now is to get to be a merchandise manager and then go further, in food or nonfood — wherever an opportunity presents itself.”
Timmons, who graduated in 2004, said she stays in contact with the rest of the industry through the annual FILC Executive Forum, where she meets industry leaders, “and my former classmates are a great resource,” she added. “We all ended up in very different places, but it's nice to know there's someone you can call on if you need to.”
TITLE: Assistant Buyer, Costco
EDUCATION: Food Industry Leadership Center, Portland State University