Before he was a Publix associate, Deli Retail Improvement Specialist (RIS) Vlad Balenko was a customer. While in the store one day, he witnessed a manager stop what he was doing to clean a spill. Impressed at the manager’s willingness to do such tasks, Vlad immediately knew he wanted to work for Publix.
A native of Ukraine, Vlad came to the U.S. after earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in computer science. He didn’t know much English and was working part time at a restaurant when he applied to Publix in 2009.
Seeing his potential, Store Manager Steve Myers hired Vlad as a part-time grocery clerk at #153, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.
“I was self-conscious about the problems I had with English, so I was really working on it,” Vlad said. “When I had time, I would watch TV with the captions on to try to learn what they were saying, and I would look up translations in the dictionary.”
Vlad’s determination to succeed led him to work even harder. He cross-trained to work in the deli and left his restaurant job when he was promoted to full time. He became an assistant deli manager in 2011 before being promoted to deli manager two years later. He’s grateful for the mentorship he received, especially from Deli Manager Jared Hamilton and Deli RIS Patty Tucker.
In 2016, he moved to help open store #1520, Cary, North Carolina, and was later promoted to his current role as deli RIS for the Charlotte Division. He’s responsible for improving deli operations.
Vlad has found more than a career while working at Publix. He also met his wife, Olga, when they were both store associates.
“I’m from Ukraine, and she’s from Russia, but we met at Publix,” Vlad said.
Olga is finishing up pharmacy school and hopes to return to Publix as a pharmacist. Knowing that Publix provides for him and his family, Vlad enjoys sharing his personal experience with associates.
“It’s important to work hard every day and give 100 percent of what you have,” Vlad said. “You can be anyone with Publix. You just need to be ready for opportunities.”