Walmart announced today it has hired former Google, Microsoft and Amazon veteran Suresh Kumar in the newly created position of chief technology officer and chief development officer — a role that will report directly to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. The CTO position was previously held by Jeremy King, who departed the retailer in March to become Pinterest’s head of engineering.
Kumar most recently worked at Google, where he served for more than a year as VP and general manager of display, video, app ads and analytics. Prior to that, he was corporate vice president of Cloud Infrastructure and Operations at Microsoft for three and a half years.
However, the experience that likely appeals the most to Walmart is Kumar’s 15 years spent in a variety of positions at Amazon, most recently as VP, Worldwide Retail Systems and Retail Services. He also previously led Amazon’s retail supply chain and inventory management systems.
Earlier in his career, Kumar was a research staff member at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center. He holds a PhD in engineering from Princeton and a Bachelor of Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.
Under Kumar, Walmart aims to bring together its four technology organizations — Global Business Services, Walmart Labs, Sam’s Club Technology and International technology, the retailer says.
Walmart’s U.S., Sam’s Club and International CTOs will report to Kumar, who will set Walmart’s technical strategy. As Global CDO, he will lead the team in building systems to digitally transform Walmart’s business operations, including the use of Walmart’s data to deliver a competitive advantage.
Clay Johnson and the Global Business Services team will also report into Kumar.
“The technology of today and tomorrow enables us to serve our customers and associates in ways that weren’t previously possible. We want to take full advantage of those opportunities,” said Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, in a statement about the new hire. “Suresh has a unique understanding of the intersection of technology and retail, including supply chain, and has deep experience in advertising, cloud and machine learning. And, he has a track record of working in partnership with business teams to drive results,” he added.
“Walmart is one of the great success stories in how a company evolves over time to serve the changing needs of its customers, and today, it is in the midst of a very exciting digital transformation,” Kumar noted. “With more than 11,000 stores, a high-growth eCommerce business and more than two million associates worldwide, the potential for technology to help people at scale is unparalleled, and I am excited to be part of this.”
The hire comes at a time when Walmart and Amazon are battling head-to-head across a number of fronts, including e-commerce, omnichannel, advertising, logistics, brick-and-mortar operations and even the cloud. Kumar’s more than 25 years of technology experience will help here, as he has deep experience in retail, e-commerce, advertising, cloud and machine learning, the retailer says.
Walmart has more recently been positioning itself as a tech company, not just a retailer. Former CTO King pointed to Walmart’s use of technology like VR headsets and machine-learning powered robots at this year’s SXSW, explaining that Walmart was building a tech organization but struggles with its perception as being just a warehouse-like store known for low prices.
Kumar will begin his new role on July 8.
Below is the full memo about the hire that was distributed this morning by Doug McMillon to Walmart’s internal teams:
Re: Suresh Kumar appointed Global Chief Technology Officer and Chief Development Officer
The technology of today and tomorrow enables us to serve customers and associates in ways that weren’t previously possible. We have started a significant digital transformation in our business, but we have a long way to go. We want to pick up the pace and increase the magnitude of change, so we’re creating a new role, reporting directly to me, of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Development Officer (CDO), and I’m excited to announce we have found a uniquely qualified leader for this position in Suresh Kumar.
Suresh has 25 years of technology leadership experience, coming most recently from Google and previously working at Microsoft, Amazon and IBM. He has a unique understanding of the intersection of technology and retail, including supply chain, and has deep experience in cloud, advertising and machine learning. And, he has a track record of working in partnership with business teams to drive results. He is not only a strong technologist, but a strong business person as well.
As the Global CTO, Suresh will set our technical strategy, combining advances in computing with Walmart’s strengths to deliver the best customer experiences. As the Global CDO, he will lead the team in building tools and systems to digitally transform our business operations, using the scale and power of our data to deliver a competitive advantage while improving the productivity of our associates and their experience of being part of Walmart.
Our Chief Technology Officers (U.S., Sam’s and International) will dually report into Suresh and their respective business leaders to ensure our technology teams continue to meet the needs of our customers and associates. Clay Johnson and the Global Business Services team will also report into Suresh.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our technology team for the progress they’ve led and for their ability to make things happen during a period of change in our industry and our business.
Suresh was most recently at Google, serving as Vice President and General Manager of Display, Video, App Ads and Analytics. Prior to Google, he was the Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Cloud Infrastructure and Operations. Suresh spent 15 years at Amazon in various leadership roles, including Vice President of Technology for Retail Systems and Operations, and he led Amazon’s retail supply chain and inventory management systems. Before Amazon.com, Suresh was a research staff member at IBM T J Watson Research Center.
Suresh holds a PhD in Engineering from Princeton University, and a Bachelor of Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He and his wife Gayathri currently live in Cupertino, CA and have two daughters. He will be based in our Sunnyvale office, officially starting on July 8.
Please join me in welcoming Suresh!