Life at PepsiCo

Dare to be your best self: Balancing work, health and family

Swirl pattern

After her husband’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, associate Erin Powell was told conceiving their second child would be difficult. Luckily, PepsiCo’s holistic fertility benefits were there to support her family when she needed it most.

In 2019, Erin Powell, a Senior HR Manager supporting PepsiCo Beverages North America (PBNA), and her husband, Thomas, were blindsided with news no one wants to hear. “It was Mother’s Day weekend,” she recalls. “And my husband was diagnosed with cancer. He was 30, worked out like a maniac and was the picture of physical health.”

At the time, their son, Hayden, was 8 months old.

A diagnosis that changed everything

The next two or three weeks were a blur. Tests, questions and uncertainty filled their lives. “We just didn’t know how things would go,” she says. “It was so stressful. But I had to try to stay somewhat intact for my job and family.”

Luckily, Erin’s husband was able to get good care quickly. And Erin’s supervisor at PepsiCo was beyond understanding. “She told me to take the time I need,” she says. “I didn’t tell too many people, but everyone was understanding as to why I might need to be MIA every other Monday. They just didn’t know I was sitting on email while my husband got infusions.” People at PepsiCo, she says, were always supportive — and gave her space.

We wanted another child and knew we’d need support.

After chemo throughout the summer, radiation in the fall and surgery in December, Erin’s husband went into remission. “We were thriving,” she says. “We received a cute 2020-themed care package from friends. And then the pandemic hit, and we were like, ‘Great.’”

Erin and her family were grateful for the work flexibility they had during this period. But they also knew they would soon face another hurdle. “Treatments like radiation can block conception,” she says. “We wanted another child and knew we’d need support.”

Exploring fertility options at PepsiCo

In January 2021, they began to explore options. “It was really intense,” she says. “I just tried to ride the wave a little bit, but also was like, ‘Can we not have a life-changing event right now?’”

She started talking to a colleague about her situation. “She told me that PepsiCo has a fertility solutions program,” Erin says. “And I said, ‘Yeah, I know — I’m in HR.’ But then I looked into it more and realized that even I wasn’t fully aware of its scope.”

She told me that PepsiCo has a fertility solutions program.

For U.S. benefits-eligible employees, assisted reproductive services (e.g., IVF), egg freezing, surrogacy assistance and adoption aid are all covered, up to a lifetime maximum benefit of $35,000. This can be life-changing — and life-creating.

Overcoming challenges of IVF

A single IVF cycle — which includes ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval and embryo transfer — can cost from $15,000 to $30,000. And that doesn’t even consider that most women and couples require multiple rounds to successfully conceive.

I enrolled in PepsiCo’s program, and they just took it from there.

“Ultimately, the recommendation was to do IVF,” Erin says. The physical, financial and emotional aspects of IVF were overwhelming, but her primary nurse at Optum helped her through the process. “My nurse, Nicole, was phenomenal,” she says. “She understood that I had no clue what I was doing. She was almost like my personal therapist and helped me identify a fertility clinic within five miles of my house.”

In spite of everything, Erin says she’s grateful she at least knew the reason why she and her husband had to undergo IVF. “So many couples try out IVF because they’ve been trying to conceive for years and don’t know what’s going on,” she says. “But we knew exactly what was going on. Everyone was very hopeful.”

We were just elated. We spent months with this goal in mind.

The next few months involved countless tests, injection of stimulation medications and egg retrieval. “My Optum nurse would also always check in on me when she knew I had an embryo transferred,” Erin says. “For the next nine days, it’s hard to think about anything else.” In addition to emotional support, Erin’s nurse also answered any questions about billing. “She was a quarterback,” she says. “She knew the PepsiCo benefits, and she knew how to handle the insurance company.”

Within three months, on Mother’s Day weekend — two years after her husband’s cancer diagnosis — Erin found out she was pregnant with their second child. “We were just elated,” she says. “We spent months with this goal in mind.”

Grateful for work-life balance

Naturally, a journey like this takes up a lot of mental resources. It becomes more important than ever to have work-life balance. “I remember literally being at the negotiating table at work and would get calls from the fertility clinic letting me know how many eggs were viable,” she says. “Sometimes I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, if only people knew.’ Like, ‘Hey, I got to step out for a quick call! OK, how many eggs?’”

We do ourselves a disservice when we think we’ll be judged for prioritizing our health and well-being.

Although Erin says everyone — even people who didn’t know exactly what was going on — were supportive, her experience allowed her to reflect about life and work: “We do ourselves a disservice when we think we’ll be judged for prioritizing our health and well-being,” she says. “A lot of the time, that conversation is specific to women. But it’s also important to men and all people. My husband is finally getting to a place where he is comfortable talking about what he’s been through.”

Prioritizing health and well-being at work

A stigma exists, Erin says. “There’s a feeling that all of us need to just put work as our number-one thing and be the best employee,” she explains. “More and more, we see that’s just not the case. We need to prioritize our own health and well-being. When you take care of yourself, that spreads into other facets of your life — including work.”

Erin has clear advice for anyone: “You need to be unapologetic with boundaries,” she says. “No matter where you are in your career, you have to protect your personal space in whatever way is authentic to you.”

When you take care of yourself, that spreads into other facets of your life — including work.

Mother’s Day in 2023 will be Erin’s second as a mom of two children, Hayden and Riley. “I just don’t take it for granted at all,” she says. “I’m very reflective about this time. Last year, I was coming back from maternity leave. The year before, my husband was in remission.” It’s a reminder, she says, to always be grateful.

Dare to be

In this story series, we champion PepsiCo associates who dare to take risks, think differently and have the courage to build something better, whether at work or in their personal lives.