Shared meals weren’t optional when Feng Walkup was a child. Regardless of what the day held or what beckoned outside their home, the first-generation Chinese-American family would gather around the dinner table at least once a day. That’s when Feng’s father would impart his wisdom on his children, giving Feng the roadmap for her success, not to mention a precious memory.
“My father always told me to go above the line,” she says. It was his way of encouraging her to do more than is expected. He talked the talk, and he walked the walk, Feng notes. “He always did more than he was asked to do.”
Feng’s father passed away in 2010, but his legacy lives on in the work ethic of his youngest daughter. So much so, she was the first recipient of the Pride of the Jersey award in the Japan/Korea/International Pork Group of Hormel Foods International Corporation (HFIC).
“Feng takes personal accountability for delivering key results,” says Jack Shao, who manages the business and oversees her work. “[She] always asks, ‘What else can I do?’”
On The Move
Feng has been with the company since 2000. Midwestern roots and Mark, her college sweetheart, contributed to her pursuing a position at the corporate headquarters of Hormel Foods.
She visited Mark in Austin, Minn., in 1999, deciding straight away that was what — and who — she wanted for the long term. Feng returned to her job in California and continued to apply for openings at Hormel Foods. Her perseverance paid off. In 2000, she joined the company as a quality control engineer and married Mark the following year.
Her move from the West Coast brought Feng closer to her parents and siblings in Iowa, and to her family values, which she says align beautifully with the culture of Hormel Foods. Indeed, one of her favorite things about the company is the hard work its employees put forth every day.
Her enthusiasm, energy and knowledge of the international pork market is remarkable. We are very lucky to have her on the team.Jack Shao, International Pork Manager
That’s something Feng knows more than a little about. She emigrated to the United States in 1991 from Guangxi, China. Unable to speak or understand English, she concentrated for “a year or two” on learning the language before applying to college.
“It was as if I had to start over,” she says. “It was really difficult. I almost wanted to go back.”
But she stayed, learning enough English to enroll in Scott Community College, where she found she had ample command of the language to be able to understand her professors’ lectures. Reading and writing assignments were a bigger challenge, however. Feng found herself working “two times harder than her classmates.” Still, she believed it was worth it.
Again, Feng credits her father with giving her the drive to succeed.
“He influenced me the most. He was very poor in China and had so many different jobs,” she says.
Meet The Family
Her father’s work was physically demanding and not lucrative, yet he gave his all. Even after coming to the United States as a retiree, he and Feng’s mother were the full-time babysitters for their grandchildren — all 10 of them.
“I think they liked it,” she laughs, imagining the stamina it took to corral that many children day after day. Feng and Mark have two kids of their own – 15 and 12 – and know how busy life with youngsters can be. Especially when balancing responsibilities at home and at work.
Mark is a supervisor in the transportation and logistics department of the Austin (Minn.) Plant. Feng’s current role as an international sales and marketing manager has her traveling abroad two or three times a year. In addition to covering the Asian market – China, Hong Kong, Japan, Southeast Asia and Korea — the Hormel Foods Latin American division is under her purview.
Her work in Asia, in particular, is aided by her sense of the culture, and ability to speak Cantonese and Mandarin.
“Knowing the culture makes it so much easier to communicate with our customers,” she says.
Jack, for one, is grateful.
“Her enthusiasm, energy and knowledge of the international pork market is remarkable. We are very lucky to have her on the team,” he says.