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Ed Wulf's secret to his success — “o le ala i le pule o le tautua”


Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Approaching almost two decades with Nordstrom, a luxury department store chain headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Ed Wulf has made a tremendous impact as a leader at some of their busiest stores across the country, leading with pride, heart, and passion.

As the only Samoan Director/ Store Manager for Nordstrom, Ed said that working for Nordstrom has afforded him life experiences and professional experiences that he doesn't think he could’ve gotten anywhere else.

Ed’s daily routine starts off with a morning workout with his trainer, and around 9:30 AM, he heads into his store and begins the business day with a store rally, then performs a leadership check-in and rounds off taking care of customer follow-ups, human resources follow ups and touching base with his employees.

Ed also included that he transitioned into his role as a Store Manager at the end of October last year. In talking about his cultural background, Ed he referenced a Samoan proverb that is widely known and understood that goes, “o le ala i le pule o le tautua”, which loosely translates to “the pathway to leadership is through service,” a proverb that all Samoans learn at a young age, with expectations to serve family, church and community.

 “As a first-born in America for my family, as both of my parents and sisters immigrated here from Western Samoa, at the time, my parents had ambitions to create a better life and opportunities for our family and that’s why we’re here now,” Ed explained.

 “I grew up being taught how to serve and to serve regardless of whether we felt like it. — our culture is preserved and strengthened by our acts of service and taking care of the family/ village we’re from, and that parallels with how we operate here at Nordstrom, and our approach to supporting those around us and even those beyond our immediate scope.”

Ed said that finding his place at Nordstrom was always natural because it aligned with the values that he was taught growing up, and for this, he remains forever grateful.

As an AAPI leader in the Nordstrom chain, Ed shared insights about his career journey and the key factors that contributed to his growth. “Having worked for every regional manager in the company, it makes me thankful for that experience, where I was the student, or apprentice, where I try to absorb and take in as much as I can.

 “I felt like my leaders saw something in me that I didn’t realize in myself, and I’m forever grateful to them for opening the doors for me. At times, I will still feel like the student in the room and I still try to enhance myself to be better, and to be curious and ever evolving.”

As the Store Manager, Ed communicated about how his ethnic background plays a factor, both good and bad, in his daily interaction with customers. “One thing I’ve had to overcome is this ‘humbled’ approach to everything.

For instance, it’s a very Samoan thing when you are young, you do not have a voice at the table — you respect your elders, and you never talk back. I’ve had to do my best to overcome that, and I’ve come to know and learn that my voice matters and there are still times where I catch myself.”

 “I’m super upfront with my leaders that support me, upfront with how I am and things I’m working on, but I’ve also had to figure out how to show up in this capacity to be an effective communicator. When it comes to customers and how to deal with them, I think for me it has always been natural.

“Growing up in the Samoan culture when it comes to hospitality and hosting, as kids, we had to be the ones to do it for our parents, for instance — you never asked anyone if they wanted water or a cup of tea, you just served it, and before that, you’ve already prepared and have it all ready to be served.

“When it comes to serving people, I just do things — just put me in front of a customer and I will win them over, that’s one of my superpowers.”

In concluding this feature with Wulf, he was asked what advice he would give to people who aspire to pursue leadership roles.

 “Specifically to our Pasifika people — do it, go after it! We show up in the usual spaces — music, sports, etc. — and when it comes to the fashion space, there’s not a lot of representation especially on the business side. Our community is so vast, and we have so much more to offer!”

Samoa News congratulates Ed Wulf on his success, and wishes him all the best in future endeavors and in representing the Samoan culture far and wide in the fashion industry.