PepsiCo president charts path to diversity and success

Indra Nooyi speaks to MIT Sloan community as part of Dean's Innovative Leader Series

PepsiCo CFO Indra NooyiIndra Nooyi cites what she calls the “five Cs” as her road map to success: competency, courage and confidence, consistency, compass, and coaching.

And Nooyi embodies every one of them. Her demeanor is light but frank, her presence positive and affirming. She appreciates her position in the corporate world, but at no time does she underestimate the work involved to reach that point, nor does she seem content to rest on her laurels.

The president and CFO of PepsiCo, Inc., spoke Feb. 28, 2006, to an auditorium packed with members of the MIT Sloan community — students, faculty, and staff — and shared her thoughts on achieving career success, balancing work and life, and the importance of diversity in the corporate world.

Developing diverse, inclusive work force

During her speech, she explained some of PepsiCo's efforts to make diversity and inclusion part of everyday operations. Most importantly, the company made its diversity-oriented goals both clear and measurable.

High among these goals is the development of a diverse and inclusive work force, she said. Hiring a broad spectrum of people ensures that you get the best and brightest talent in the entire population, and you are left with employee representation that mirrors the consumer base.

Similarly, Nooyi said parity must exist in promotions both among men and women and among diverse employees. To that end, diverse employees are developed at a faster rate than before, and in locations outside of the U.S., leadership is cultivated from the local population.

‘Nurturing environment for workers’

Training programs have been developed for leadership, and the company seeks outside input to provide what Nooyi classifies as a “rich set of experiences and viewpoints.”

PepsiCo even includes diversity in both relations with their suppliers and in the products they sell, she said. In the past several years, the company has grown ethnically based extensions of its Frito-Lay and Doritos brands to the tune of $100 million in sales.

Under Nooyi's leadership, PepsiCo has seen tremendous growth, and she said that success is attributable as much to its commitment to diversity as to any other factors.

The company has embraced a philosophy of diversity and inclusion in just about every aspect of its operations, and this philosophy has led to a corporate entity that is not only profitable, but is also a nurturing environment for its workers.

Describing diversity as a “universal good” with “no downside,” Nooyi emphasized how much PepsiCo has learned in the process.

Time for ‘practical learning’

Eager to impart the benefit of her experience on a rapt crowd of students, Nooyi also took some time to share some well-learned advice.

Saying, “Don't ever lose sight of your true North,” she detailed her fourth “C,” compass. In every great leader, she explained, the heart and soul always points to true North.

Citing another C, competency, she stressed the importance of identifying that skill for which you are the go-to person and fine-tuning that skill throughout your career. Learning is a constant, she reminded the students, pointing out that when they graduate “desk learning has ended, but [practical] learning has just begun.“

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Indra Nooyi's bio (PDF) >>