Want to know what’s good and what’s difficult about working at PepsiCo? Two recent college grads talk about how they started and where they are now in their PepsiCo careers on “Flipping the Fair: The Career Fair, Reinvented” podcast.
It’s truly a hands-on leadership opportunity that you won’t find in many other places, especially at 22.
senior university relations representative
John Palumbo (host): Hey, everyone. Welcome to another episode of PepsiCo’s Flipping the Fair, the Career Fair Reinvented podcast. I’m your host John Palumbo. So in the last episode, we spoke with senior vice president of supply chain for PepsiCo Foods North America, Laura Maxwell, and she gave us some great background and behind the scenes information about the company. We talked about PepsiCo’s position and initiatives around important topics like purpose, diversity, sustainability, and a lot more just to give you some background, the background that you really need about the company to determine if it’s a good fit for you. Now, while it obviously makes sense for us to talk to a seasoned company veteran like Laura to get the inside scoop, we also think that it’s very important for you to hear from some folks who are recently out of college and new to the company to get their take on what it’s like working at PepsiCo, as well.
So with that in mind, I have a couple of guests with me today. I have Haley Anderson. Haley is a sales district leader who started at PepsiCo in 2018, and I have Alexandra Parks, who is a university relations representative who started at PepsiCo in 2015. So they have just enough time under their belts to really give us the real scoop. Hi, Haley. Hi, Alexandra. Thanks for being here.
Alexandra Parks (university relations representative): Hi, John. Thanks for having us.
Haley Anderson (sales district leader): Hi, John. Excited to be here.
John Palumbo: Okay, so this is an important episode because the listeners out there are really counting on both of you to give them the real scoop about what it’s like to work at PepsiCo and they’re going to know if you’re just blowing smoke or if you’re just saying good things because you know your boss is listening. They’re going to want the good, the bad and the ugly. You both promised me before this that you were willing to do that. So, why don’t we start by learning a bit about both of you. Maybe you could take us back a bit and tell us where you went to college, what you studied, when you graduated and of course, how you found PepsiCo and what made you say, “That’s a company that I want to work at?” Haley, why don’t you start?
Haley Anderson: Absolutely. So I graduated in May of 2018 from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. So I graduated with a Bachelor’s in marketing and a collateral in international business. So how I met PepsiCo was through the sales forum at Tennessee. I was looking at a lot of different companies and something that was important to me was culture and people. So I knew that my job could change, but the culture and people would stay the same. Every time that I met a PepsiCo employee, we always had great conversation and it was important from a retention standpoint for me to stay with a company for a long time. PepsiCo gives me the unique opportunity to hold various roles.
John Palumbo: So a lot of your choice had to do with the people that you met.
Haley Anderson: Absolutely. People and culture. The people I work with are who I’m with day in and day out and I think that’s what’s most important to me when looking at companies. Because you can hold different jobs, but the people are always going to be there.
John Palumbo: Alex, how about you?
Alexandra Parks: Yeah. So a little bit about myself. I went to Purdue University where I was a student athlete and I graduated during the spring of 2015. At Purdue, I was a management major. I first got connected with PepsiCo through a career fair that was hosted by the School of Management at Purdue. It was really after that first interaction with the company that I was immediately intrigued and I really wanted to learn more about the company and the roles they were recruiting for. When I remember back to my time as a senior in college, I wasn’t exactly sure about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to take my career long term. So I was determined to find a company that offered a lot of different opportunities and would give me the chance to make my own career path after I got some experience and a few years under my belt.
John Palumbo: What sports did you play? You were an athlete in what?
Alexandra Parks: Yeah. So I ran track and field at Purdue.
John Palumbo: All right. All right. So Haley, maybe you could tell us a bit about your role. What’s your title? What do you do? Where are you based? Those kind of things.
Haley Anderson: So currently I’m in Knoxville, Tennessee, and I am a small format sales district leader on our beverage side of the business. So-
John Palumbo: What does that mean? What’s small format mean?
Haley Anderson: So small format, that’s all of your small format gas and convenience stores.
John Palumbo: Oh, okay.
Haley Anderson: So I’ve got a couple of Dollar Generals in my territory, but primarily gas and convenience stores.
John Palumbo: Right. Alex, maybe tell us a bit about your role, title.
Alexandra Parks: Yeah. So I also started in sales and did the same job as Haley, but on the Frito-Lay side of our business and I was out in the suburbs of Chicago. And then about a year ago now I made the transition onto PepsiCo’s Campus Talent Acquisition Team. I have a really cool job as a university relations representative, where I get to lead our overall recruitment and engagement strategy at four different universities. In this role, I’m based out of our headquarters office in Chicago, but I also travel a lot to the four universities that I lead, which is a lot of fun. It gives me the platform to share PepsiCo’s opportunities on campus and find some great talent to join our organization.
John Palumbo: That’s great. All right. So let’s hit the rewind button and I’d love for you both to tell us what it was like for you when you first started working at PepsiCo and maybe bring us up through today. I mean, how did your day-to-day life change? What was that transition like from school to work? I think a lot of the listeners would be interested in that. And things like, were you’re freaking out at the beginning? Were you nervous? Was the job what you expected? Things like that. Haley, what do you think?
Haley Anderson: I started full-time in our rotational program on the beverage side. So I spent time in all of our departments learning the business truly from the ground up. I got to learn how to run a warehouse shift. I managed a team of our delivery bay drivers for a few months, and I also got to assist in running a sales territory during my rotation. So the rotation program-
John Palumbo: When you say rotation, what does that mean?
Haley Anderson: So rotation program for the beverage side, so it’s set up to where you spend three to four weeks in all of our departments. So you’re spending time in the warehouse. You’re spending time with our operations team, working with the merchandisers or the delivery drivers, and you’re also spending time learning what the sales reps are doing as well as what our sales managers do on a day in, day out basis.
John Palumbo: So you basically get to touch all aspects of the business and see what’s going on just to learn each aspect.
Haley Anderson: Right. So it’s really unique because you’re set up to learn and be a sponge. So for a huge corporation like PepsiCo to set up that that platform, it was awesome for me to see and get to experience. It was critical in the role I have now in setting that foundation and understanding our business because it’s very complex and there’s a lot of different moving parts. So it’s unique that you have a company set up that program to be a sponge and to learn. It makes that transition from school to work and your career a little bit smoother because you’re still in a learning environment and you’re growing your capabilities every day. You’re learning how to be a people leader and how to manage a team and grow a sales territory without being held accountable for sales targets and sales goals in that first leadership role that you hold. So having 12 months to learn and to be a sponge and learn all of our different departments, it was awesome.
John Palumbo: That’s interesting though, how it’s almost like your education. It’s like continuing education, right?
Haley Anderson: It is.
John Palumbo: Yeah.
Haley Anderson: It is. It is.
John Palumbo: That’s interesting. Interesting way to look at it, that it was, “I’ve been learning for four years,” and then they ease you in by continuing to learn. How about you, Alex?
Alexandra Parks: Yeah. So for me, when I look back to when I first started working for PepsiCo, I do recall being very nervous. I had previous intern experience from when I was still in college, but there’s just something about starting a full-time role that makes you naturally feel like there’s a little bit more pressure. If I could even give just a little piece of advice here to any of the college students that are currently listening, it’d be that there’s really no need to be nervous. I know that’s easier said than done, but I’d really advise everybody out there to really just show up on their first day with a positive attitude and willingness to learn and everything else will naturally fall into place. Also John, you had asked about the day-to-day and how things have changed, which yes, they have dramatically changed from when I was in school. I think it will look a lot different than what you’re used to, but as with everything else in life and with time, you’ll naturally adjust.
Honestly, one of the things I’m most thankful for about PepsiCo is there is a built-in training and development program that you go through when you first start. Specifically with my experience starting in sales, which really gave me the foundation and also the confidence to then move into a management role where I was able to lead my own team of frontline sales representatives.
John Palumbo: That’s great. So I recently had a conversation with senior vice president of supply chain for PepsiCo Foods North America, Laura Maxwell, on a different episode and I grilled her about topics that matter to college students and your generation. Things like finding a purpose-driven company, having a real and genuine commitment to sustainability, a focus on diversity, things like that. So I’m wondering, and Haley, I’ll start with you when, when you were looking at companies, what were things you were looking for? It might even be those things that I just mentioned. And how did PepsiCo measure up?
Haley Anderson: So for me when considering companies, it was important for that company to align with my personal values. So a company that is going to pour into a community and operate with a purpose-driven strategy. So I’m very passionate about developing people, pouring into a community and recruiting the best of the best talent for our organization. I think that Pepsi has definitely delivered and over-delivered on what they promised and I get to see that day in and day out. I get to see it worked out from the inside out, which is awesome.
John Palumbo: Yeah, that’s pretty cool and that’s interesting. So Alex, what were things that you were looking for? I mean, like I said, it might be some of those things that we discussed. And how do they measure up?
Alexandra Parks: Right. So for me, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do right out of college. I didn’t have everything planned out. So I wanted to find a company that I could grow within and have a lifelong career. PepsiCo really offers a lot of stability for their employees when it comes to careers, simply based on the quantity of opportunities that we have available. You can truly make your own career here and that’s one of the main factors that I took into consideration when I first decided to work for PepsiCo. In addition to that, I would also add diversity. As an African American female myself, I wanted to ensure that I would fit within the company and the culture, and that my voice would still be heard within such a large organization.
John Palumbo: So they really did live up to their promise.
Alexandra Parks: Yes, absolutely. The career opportunities are limitless and PepsiCo gives you a great platform to explore your interests and find your true passion. I think I speak for most when I say that we all desire to be in a role where we wake up each morning and feel inspired to do our jobs. I can truly say that’s how I feel today being part of the Campus Talent Acquisition Team at PepsiCo. Also when it comes to diversity at PepsiCo, I would say the company has given me a great network through our employee resource group programming that we have within the different functions of the business. So through a lot of those ERG groups, I’ve been able to participate in a ton of events. I would say I’ve been most active within the WIN group, which focuses on women as well as MOSAIC, which is a network for African Americans.
John Palumbo: Oh, that’s great. So listen, this is the question I’m looking forward to ask. So I want you both to tell me, and Haley, I’m going to start with you, I want you to tell me the best thing about working for PepsiCo and the worst thing about working for PepsiCo. Go ahead, Haley.
Haley Anderson: Okay. So I think this is a twofold. So I think the best thing, and Alex, you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the best thing would be the access to new products and all of the snacks, especially the ones that we get to sample and try prior to their launch date in the market. But I also think the flip side-
John Palumbo: So that’s actually true. You get to try things before anybody, before anyone even gets their hand on.
Haley Anderson: Yes.
John Palumbo: Okay. That’s great.
Haley Anderson: It’s great. But the flip side would be having access to those products and snacks all the time.
John Palumbo: I know. All right, Alex, how about you? Best and worst.
Alexandra Parks: Yeah. I would agree-
John Palumbo: That’s great.
Alexandra Parks: … with Haley as well, but in addition to that, I would say one of the best things about working for PepsiCo is the level of ownership that you get straight out of college is really unmatched. PepsiCo is really one of the few companies that give students management experience when they’re leading a team of, let’s say on average, 10 to 12 frontline sales representatives producing 300 and thousand dollars a week, all at the age of 22. It’s truly hands-on people leadership opportunity that you won’t find in many other places, especially straight out of college. So I think it’s phenomenal. And then the worst thing is a little funny, but we have so many acronyms that you could honestly make a small handbook out of it, but at the same time, it also makes things pretty fun because we almost have our own language that only PepsiCo employees understand.
John Palumbo: Yes, you do. Just for the listeners, before we started this podcast, actually one of the things that I had to say to both Haley and Alex was, “If you use acronyms, make sure you explain what they are-
Alexandra Parks: It’s our own language.
John Palumbo: … because it really is unbelievable.” All right. So love the honesty too, Alex. A question for both of you. One last question. If you could give your college selves some advice about searching for a job, I’m curious, what would that be, right? Maybe even, what might you have done differently when it comes to the process? Haley, I’ll start with you.
Haley Anderson: I would say to focus more on the people you interact with and the passions that they have for whatever job or company that they work for. I would also say look at the long term and not the short term for your career. I was fortunate enough to have a program that was set for me to learn all aspects and to be a sponge, which it’s super incredible that a company as big as PepsiCo invests so much in a new hire and going off of what Alex said is, you have a lot of responsibility and ownership at such a young age. So getting to lead a team and to grow your sales and to build capabilities of a team is really incredible, and you also have opportunities that are limitless.
John Palumbo: Yeah. That’s great. How about you, Alex? What advice would you give to your college self, but what might you do differently as well?
Alexandra Parks: Yeah. My advice would be to be open and also to ask a lot of questions. I think whether it’s at a career fair, a coffee chat or other engagement events that are being held on campus, students should really take advantage of the time that they’re given to speak with a recruiter or maybe a key executive from a company and really pick their brain about their role. Ask some questions about what their experiences have been like. I think naturally the more that you learn about a company and the people that work there, the easier your decision will be.
John Palumbo: Yeah. You know what? I think that’s an interesting point too, because I think a lot of times you’re hesitant if you’re in college to talk to these executives and be open but everybody knows the position, I guess, you’re in so they expect it, but you are hesitant to do that. I mean, it is a little bit intimidating, I guess is the word.
Alexandra Parks: Right. I would agree. I think naturally it can be intimidating, especially from the perspective of a student, but at the same token, I think naturally we’re all people, right? At the end of the day and we all have different experiences that we are willing and open to share. So I think it’s all just about your willingness to speak up and ask the questions that you’re currently thinking about.
John Palumbo: Yeah. I think earlier, and Haley, I think you made a great point early on when you had said the people at PepsiCo, they’re just great people. I think that probably makes that a little bit easier because I think when you’re talking to executives at PepsiCo, it is a different experience than potentially talking to ones from other companies because it’s a very just open, honest, friendly environment. That’s not just words. I mean, that’s really the truth. So Haley, Alex, thank you so much for all the time, all the information. I think you gave us a really great glimpse into what it’s like getting started out at PepsiCo, so I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Alexandra Parks: Thanks, John.
Haley Anderson: Thank you.
John Palumbo: For those of you listening, we hope this episode did give you some unique insight into PepsiCo. If you like what you heard, click on the link in the episode description to learn more about our internships or full-time opportunities. Thanks so much for listening and be sure to tune into our next episode where we’ll be talking about what it’s like to work in the supply chain management area at PepsiCo.
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