This month’s Member Spotlight
Culture & Engagement ESSA, at PepsiCo
I’m Culture and Engagement Communications Lead for the Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa region. That’s rather a mouthful; so in a nutshell my role is shaping a shared vision through relationships and storytelling.
My background is in communications, working for global consumer, digital and FMCGs including Colgate-Palmolive and Starbucks, together with some years in media with a major newspaper. These experiences shaped how I work – I have a nose for news and opportunities, but I’m also not afraid to ask ‘so what?’; ‘why should anyone care?’. Your audience are your judge and jury, their needs come first.
Whilst many people know and love PepsiCo’s products – such as Tropicana, Lays, Pepsi – I was amazed that in my region alone 45,000 people sit behind this success. Yet within this juggernaut, there’s a start-up mind-set where you can share ideas and make things happen on PepsiCo’s global stage. It’s an exciting mix.
I’m naturally curious, and my role is well suited to this. I’m always asking – what skills or knowledge will I need? Who’s leading the way in a new area? This is why connecting with skilled external experts, partners such as LEAD Network, is a must. Equally, organisations like LEAD spur me on to learn more, which includes taking on gender and sustainability studies at Cambridge University. This means I have more expertise to invest to LEAD – so it forms a circular knowledge economy of sorts that benefits everyone.
Why are you passionate about the mission of the LEAD Network?
Many moons ago I studied Anthropology in London at UCL. I knew then what I still know now – people are power. In fact, one of LEAD’s favourite quotes is from Anthropologist, Margaret Mead; “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.”
In 2006, PepsiCo started on a journey to transform the way we do business so that we can deliver strong financial returns in a way that is sensitive to societal needs. We call this Performance with Purpose, and it’s our fundamental belief that the success of our company is inextricably linked to the sustainability of the world around us. This includes clear gender diversity goals for 2025 – including gender parity in our management teams.
With a background in marketing and comms, I know that two heads are better than one – especially if those two heads have different perspectives. Diversity brings fresh ideas. So, when I met with Sharon, LEAD Network’s Executive Director, and learned of the vast networking and knowledge-sharing structure behind the Local Chapters and Committees, I knew this was something special. Something that in 5, 10, 20 years’ time, would bring positive change using the best tools there are – constructive debate and collaboration.
What would you say is one of the most adventurous or riskiest moves you’ve made professionally?
It’s fairly recent in fact. I was hungry to be challenged in a new way, so I left the comfort of my friends, family, job and cosy flat in London to join PepsiCo in Barcelona. I uprooted myself from more than a decade in Marketing, moving into the HR Function, and took on a large multi-market role. I’ve never been one for doing things by halves!
The risk was totally worthwhile.
It gave me a blank canvas, a chance to approach things with a ‘beginner’s mind-set’. Understanding context is key, so I read history books on the city and read PowerPoint decks on PepsiCo, but I was open to asking questions too; forming my own opinions as well as lending my fresh perspective to existing challenges.
My biggest professional takeaway from this has been sharing cross-functional knowledge, for example seeing how marketing tactics can drive HR success in engaging people. LEAD Network encompasses this; here in PepsiCo Marketing, IT, Supply Chain, HR and Sales are working together to deliver PepsiCo and LEAD’s goals, and they’re uncovering new opportunities in the process. I really enjoy this internal partnering piece – it’s very creative and innovative in its own right.
What have you triumphed over?
I moved from agency life to my first in-house role in 2007 for a digital photo brand. It’s a different beast indeed – a broader business view, with longer integrated 1-2 year planning cycles working with tech teams, operations, product, sales and customer service.
One day at an event I got chatting to a creative lighting designer. He mentioned an exciting new project. What he told me sparked my interest.
18months later my company was staring at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; with drawings, created by kids from across the UK projected onto Buckingham Palace. It was stunning and made us a UK household name. Yet to get there, we’d had to change our whole 2 year plan – from IT who built the platform, to marketing who invested in merchandise creation, and many other teams. Collectively we’d had to learn at speed to deliver this unplanned project.
It taught me to take calculated risks, and to be flexible in accommodating new ideas and opportunities when they arise. I also learnt not to be scared of scale – but to welcome it. It proves if you have a clear shared goal, the right network plus passion you can achieve great things!