PepsiCo was known as a talent academy, where rising executives took on tough assignments and either sank and left the company or swam and moved up.
Former CEO of Pepsi Indra Nooyi’s memoir is an inspirational story of how a woman made it to the top in male-dominated corporate America. An excerpt describing her first day at Pepsi…
Wayne Calloway, the tall, redheaded CEO, was exactly the laconic leader I’d met in my interview. But he was also a fierce competitor, a former college basketball player who rode Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He’d served in the US Army before joining Frito-Lay as a salesman. PepsiCo was known as a talent academy, where rising executives took on tough assignments and either sank and left the company or swam and moved up. Wayne was focused on hiring and people development. He was determined to double revenue every five years. So far he was succeeding.
Wayne thought PepsiCo needed me more than GE needed me. He was astute. I had a rare international perspective and experience that would help his bottom line. He also sensed, I think, that a woman was long overdue in his executive ranks.
White American men held fifteen of the top fifteen jobs at PepsiCo when I walked in. Almost all wore blue or gray suits with white shirts and silk ties and had short hair or no hair. They drank Pepsi, mixed drinks, and liqueurs. Most of them golfed, fished, played tennis, hiked, and jogged. Some hunted for quail together. Many were married with children. I don’t believe any of their wives worked in paid jobs outside their homes.
I am not detailing these characteristics to focus on these particular men. My colleagues were smart, creative, dedicated people and shouldered tremendous responsibility and stress. They built a beloved enterprise. The fact is that PepsiCo’s leadership mirrored almost every senior-executive suite in corporate America in 1994. Even the most accomplished women were still milling around in middle management. The number of female CEOs among the five hundred biggest companies that year was zero.
Importantly, the men I worked with didn’t judge one another on how their work and family lives came together. They were plenty competitive but also caring and supportive of one another through crises, including divorce, illness, or troubles with their kids.
None of this crossed my mind when I met them. I was well aware that I was an outsider: I was still the eighteen-year-old girl at IIM Calcutta; the Indian immigrant in the polyester suit at Yale; the vegetarian, expectant mother in La Crosse, Wisconsin. At BCG, I had been inside many industries, but I’d never encountered a female client. I didn’t think it was odd to be in meetings with dozens of men and no other women. At Motorola and ABB, my world was engineers, scientists, robots, and machinery. I’d never had a close woman colleague with a job like mine and had never seen a woman in a workplace who was senior to me.
When I got to PepsiCo, I was warmly welcomed. My new office was on the coveted “4/3”—the company nickname for building 4, floor 3–down the hall from the CEO and the rest of the top executives, and it had five large windows, a sign of status in the organization’s informal rule book.
I was offered a reasonable budget to furnish my space, although I didn’t spend it all. I selected a utilitarian cherrywood veneer credenza and a desk that came in a flat box, a conference table with six chairs, a white board, and a flip chart.
That June, about three months after I moved in, 4/3 was abuzz. Pizza Hut USA, with 5,100 restaurants, said that it would probably miss profit estimates for the second quarter and that the outlook was pessimistic for the rest of the year. The results for Taco Bell, KFC, and a few other of our eat in chains also looked shaky.
Missing profit guidance was a significant crisis: PepsiCo shares were likely to fall, and they did. When the news got out, the stock plunged 15 percent, and three times the normal number of shares traded that day. Wayne acted fast. Within days, he created a new role-CEO of worldwide restaurants-and convinced Roger Enrico, a shrewd veteran PepsiCo executive who had stepped back to recover from a heart attack, to take the job.
I met Roger later that week when he walked into my office. He didn’t smile. “Hi. I’m Roger Enrico,” he said. “Normally, I would have interviewed the new head of strategy. You’re the first one who was hired without my input.”
“Hi, Roger,” I said, cheerfully. “I’ve heard so much about you. I’ve been so looking forward to meeting you.”
“I need to know everything about the restaurant business and exactly what the hell is going on in our restaurants,” he said. “I’ll see you in Dallas in ten days. You are now my chief strategist. Dettmer approved it.”
That was the whole conversation.
So now I had my original corporate strategy and planning job, reporting to Bob, and a second job, chief strategist of the restaurant group, reporting to Roger. My work was about to double; no one discussed my pay.
Excerpted from My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future by Indra Nooyi, by permission of Hachette India
My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future
Pp 328, Rs 699