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.
Joan Pertak, SVP & CIO, North America Beverages, Somers, NY
I didn’t have a mentor early in my career and I wish I had—which is why I am so passionate about mentoring today.
Fortunately, 25 years into my career at PepsiCo, I’ve been able to make up for lost time. The opportunity to mentor others came very early in my career, shortly after I began to manage a team. I realized that if you show people you have confidence in them, then give them some direction and support, they will surprise (and occasionally amaze!) you with their results.
As a woman in technology, it was very important for me to help women set stretch goals and achieve them.
One of my goals as a mentor is to urge mentees to play offense with their careers. I’ve observed that many women in STEM roles believe that if they simply work hard on specific assignments, someone will notice their great work and promote them. I tell them they need to be much more aggressive than that. To succeed, emerging female STEM talent must spend enough time in a role to not only learn the job but to also deliver value. That value usually only comes after you have learned the role well enough to contribute beyond the scale and scope of your daily tasks.
Alternatively, I caution women in STEM careers not to play defense with their careers. Defense is played when people pursue only those career opportunities in which they are positive they will succeed. I push women to not take the safest role, but to stretch beyond their abilities and work extremely hard to succeed.
Finally, I think the most important lesson a mentor can teach is to help mentees understand that to truly flourish, the mentee must put herself in the service of something bigger than her own personal ambitions. It’s not just about your career, I tell emerging STEM talent; it’s about the long term success of the enterprise. Once I get people thinking big about what must be done to drive growth and innovation across a company as big as PepsiCo, the conversation ceases being about “my” job and transcends into a discussion about “our” business. Of course, when those in STEM careers begin to focus on that bigger picture, and are guided and groomed for success, the results get even better. And everybody—the mentor, the mentee, and the company—wins.