Career growth success stories.

Team Member Spotlight

Share This
Career Curves: How to grow with Premium

There’s a common perception that career paths move in straight, pre-planned lines; but that’s rarely true. Careers have twists and turns, new opportunities, and unexpected challenges that change our trajectory.

We sat down with a few #PeopleofPremium to hear how they’ve maneuvered the curves to grow their own careers at Premium.

Meet the team: Sherry Blankenhorn, Regional Manager, Chris Knowles, Senior Regional Manager, and Christina Tarraza-Feliciano, Trainer

What led you to your career at Premium?

Chris: My background is in consumer electronics. I worked in big box retail stores like Circuit City and Best Buy in the home theatre department. After that, I was a field market manager in Austin, TX for a major appliance company.

Sherry: I come from a totally different background. I spent 23 years in banking. I began working at the Federal Reserve Bank in the securities vault in Birmingham, AL; worked in many other roles and departments for 13 years then went to a commercial bank, working my way up to an AVP position in Correspondent Banking.  When I left banking, I started my own business advocating for people with disabilities for 7 years.

I got to a point where I needed a part-time job to stay home and help my grandfather. I talked to a friend who knew someone that was working as a Premium Zone Leader and through that connection, was lucky to start at Premium a week later. When I first walked into Walmart as a Merchandiser in 2012, I had no retail experience whatsoever.

What roles have you had in your time at Premium?

Cristina: I began my career with Premium in 2013 after completing grad school. I was a Retail Market Manager and worked on some international projects in Mexico and Canada. Now, I’m in a corporate training role.

Chris: I started at Premium in 2017 as an Associate Regional Manager on a dedicated team for a major technology brand. After a year, my program was reduced so I transitioned into Recruiting. A Program Manager position on the Operations team became available and was a perfect fit. I was able to help launch a group of field market leads and trainers and assist at a major national retail chain.

In 2019, I accepted a role as a Regional Manager on one of Premium’s newest dedicated teams. The Pet team has 100+ field reps representing Royal Canin and Eukanuba brands in PetSmart, Petco and other regional retailers. Since then, I have been promoted to Senior Regional Manager. It has been incredible getting to interact with cats and dogs while promoting a brand that really supports pet health and nutrition.

Sherry: I started in 2012 as a Retail Merchandiser in Birmingham and became a Zone Specialist. After a couple of years, I became a Zone Leader. Then in 2017, I accepted a position to be a Field Coordinator for Florida and Georgia. Three months later I took an interim position as a Retail Market Manager for the Atlanta market. At the end of 2017, Premium blessed me with the company’s first-ever Field Excellence Award.

In 2017, Premium was announced as one of Walmart’s 5 Preferred Service Providers and we began developing our Walmart-Dedicated PSP team.  I wanted to be a part of a brand-new program, something I’d never done before, so I interviewed for the Territory Manager job in Alabama. In May 2020, I moved up to the Regional Manager position for the Southeast and am still one of four Regional Managers on our recently merged the Walmart PSP team which is one of Premium’s largest programs.

“When I walked in, I had no merchandising experience. But it’s been advancement after advancement because new opportunities become available. I would never have thought I’d be here. Never.”
– Sherry Blankenhorn
District Manager

What experiences at Premium have prepared you for where you are today? 

Chris: Launching an entire program from the ground up was a bit stressful and intimidating. I had seen others do it, but I had to rely on the guidance of those managing above me. There was pressure to make sure that the team I was leading offered the right support to the field. We came through it unscathed, and now I think about those challenges as a significant point in my career. Challenges help us improve – they aren’t something to shy away from.

Cristina: Once you’ve survived the launch of a new program at Premium, you can do anything in the world, right? There’s so much involved in order to bring it to life including working with various corporate teams at Premium – HR, Recruiting/Onboarding, Training, Field Management, Client Service, Operations Support Center. We work hard to make sure we have the right team in the field, and that they’re prepared to take on the project. It’s incredible what can be accomplished at every turn and is rewarding to know you helped create that growth.

What advice would you give to someone just getting started at Premium?

Sherry: Speak up and share your thoughts and ideas. If the instructions are wrong, let us know.  If something could be done differently to make a job easier, share your thoughts.  Reps help keep us headed in the right direction in the field of operations. One of the things I say to my team is “If you’re going to come to me with a problem, please come with possible solutions. Help the team by thinking outside the box.”

Cristina: Similarly, when there is an obstacle, don’t just complain about it. Instead, recommend a thought-out solution. Every idea won’t be gold. But you may point out a flaw that other people haven’t solved. Your idea may spark another, even more significant, idea.

“When there is an obstacle, recommend a thought-out solution. Every idea won’t be gold. But it may spark another, even more significant, idea.”
– Cristina Tarraza-Feliciano

Even on our Facebook groups, you’ll see reps sharing best practices while they’re at the store. They’re going above and beyond to help the team. Going that extra mile is crucial to success wherever you end up.

Chris: Make sure to prepare in advance. Always follow up with additional questions to ensure you can deliver what the client is trying to achieve. Learn from your mistakes and challenge yourself to be better.

Cristina: We’ve all had to learn lessons the hard way. No matter what, be sure to start building relationships with those around you right away.

What’s the best way to build relationships with stores?

Sherry: We have to build strong relationships to partner with our stores. Premium team members go into the store as a guest and as a partner. We have to balance our clients’ needs with what the store must accomplish. It’s okay to ask stores, “How can I help you?” or “What are you looking to accomplish?” Once you understand how you can help the store be successful and show the store you’re ready to work with them, it opens up the dialogue to accomplish goals for our clients and the store; making for a strong Premium presence in Walmart!

Chris: Adding on to that, once you’ve introduced yourself, make the dialogue a bit more personal. Many times, I’ve seen conversations start by showing off photos of kids and dogs. Eventually, stores won’t see you as a vendor coming in to perform a service, but as a partner and a resource.

What should an employee do if they’re ready to advance their career with Premium?

Chris: Listening plays a big part. Whether you’re a part of a team or leading a team, you need to listen and watch. You can learn from everybody, and that’s how I realized the difference between a manager and a leader. Field reps shouldn’t be afraid to ask their manager what they can improve on.

“If you have ambitions for your future, seize any opportunity to get better and let others know you want to try new things.”
– Chris Knowles
Sr. Regional Manager

I would also encourage anybody to reach out to co-workers. Share what you know and invest in the people you work with. What would you like to see improve? What questions do you have? It’s never bad to hear too many ideas.

Sherry: We always need to be open to learning. You can see when someone is ready to move up. Every time they achieve a new goal, they’re ready to take on more. They show it in the way they carry themselves, the way they interact with others, and the solutions they bring to the table.

Cristina: Say something to your management and express it at any opportunity you get. Don’t be shy! Be open to constructive criticism to help you grow. Show off your skills that you feel would benefit the role you are interested in. That may include going above and beyond a job role, but it is worth it! Ask your manager about our management development opportunities as well. Premium has a lot of skills-based training to offer you may not know about.

Why do you like being a part of the Premium family?

Cristina: We aren’t just dedicated to the client. We’re dedicated to our teams and to helping each other. Our clients set a high bar, but we do a great job of balancing our resources to set realistic expectations, preparing the team to hit goals, and communicating through the process.

It’s easy to be dedicated to something that you love. I love the people that I work with. I love the support system that we have. Whatever it is you’re doing, I believe you should do it with passion and dedication. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at. When you love your job, you’re going to be really good at your job.

Chris: No other company has helped me grow so many different skills or has shown they actually care about your growth. I always try to build that same loyalty and exhibit that care with those that I manage. We know it can be stressful. But like everything else in life, getting past those things gives us the skills to keep improving.

Sherry: I do a lot of reflecting on how far I’ve come at Premium. Ron Travers (Premium’s founder) had a genuine desire to see people succeed and wanted them to have the opportunity to move up within the company. This man’s vision has really changed my life to have the opportunities I’ve had here. His spirit of leadership still lives on within us. The culture and everything he believed in is still here and the reason Premium is still successful today.

Thank you, Cristina, Chris and Sherry for sharing your Premium stories and bringing Premium’s culture to life!

Are you ready to create connections at retail?


We’re hiring for flexible part-time and full-time positions supporting today’s most exciting brands.