Across PepsiCo, hundreds of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) trained employees impact every product we produce.
These STEM skills are crucial to our success as a business. For example, growing crops sustainably and optimizing yields requires expertise in agronomy, crop physiology, genetics and genomics. There is a great amount of math involved in projecting how to source the ingredients needed to feed people in over 200 countries and territories and making more nutritionally-advantaged foods requires expertise in exercise physiology, metabolomics, rheology, computational analysis, and nutrition science. To reduce our carbon footprint, PepsiCo engineers are constantly developing new food-production technologies and lighter packages. It is for these reasons, we work tirelessly to develop next-generation STEM talent at PepsiCo.
In this series of interviews, STEM mentors inside PepsiCo explain why and how they mentor.
Deardra Griffin, Supply Chain Operations Plant Director, Bridgeview, Illinois
When I was a young engineer coming up the ranks, an individual took the time to help me and give me valuable advice, which truly assisted me in becoming a better engineer and leader. Today, I want to do the same for others, especially women.
When I mentor young women at PepsiCo, I advise them to distinguish themselves as a mature professional. I advise them to be prompt to meetings, to set clear targets, and to assert themselves as emerging leaders. My advice is grounded in personal experience: Mine is a story of overcoming and perseverance. By sharing my story, I encourage others so that they can see beyond their current circumstances and envision what success could look like, despite apparent obstacles.
My expectations from my mentees are that they listen and search for the lesson that they need to learn. Sometimes people hear, but don’t listen – look, but don’t learn. I try and teach them the difference. This has been successful for my mentees. For example as Plant Director, I find that I mix mentoring with leadership of my team. As my direct reports look for innovative ideas and ways to improve our business, I weigh in. I’m constantly challenging folks to do more with less, to make products that will help the company reduce its environmental footprint and help us achieve our Sustainability objectives.
The biggest challenge for me as a mentor is keeping track of the preferred media that young people use to communicate. I’ve had to get used to my mentees’ preferred communication styles and adjust accordingly. I could be grumpy about that, but actually I’m grateful: my mentees force me to stay current with the latest communications technologies.
Mentoring is a virtuous cycle. Early in my career, at one of my very first jobs, my boss mentored me like I was his daughter. He provided professional training on time management, computer skills, and work ethics. He even offered advice on professional dress, mingling with others at work, and encouraged me to go further on my educational journey. In fact, he nominated me for an elite Master’s Degree program, which I completed in 1997, and which also opened a breadth of career opportunities for me.
Now that I am well into my career, my greatest pleasure is when a mentee keeps in touch with me, and evolves from a mentee to a peer and a true friend. Such is the case with a mentee of mine from 20 years ago who still calls me today.