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Ten Lessons to Remember from PepsiCo’s ex-President, Indra Nooyi

Updated: Feb 12, 2019

It has been quite some time since we last discussed about woman in business. Similar to Angela Ahrendts’ story, Indra Nooyi is also one of the most successful executives known in this era. Lauded as the number one businesswoman by Fortune magazine multiple times, Indra Nooyi grew from humble beginning in India prior to her career taking off in the United States. Having been through initial hardship and success for the past couple of decades in various industries, Indra Nooyi has  shared her values via multiple interviews and other outlets (i.e. realistic LinkedIn posts). Here is a brief summary of ten lessons we need to remember from PepsiCo’s ex-top woman:

  1. Be Bold!

The world is full of ideas and to be heard, Nooyi, advises us to be bold in expressing ourselves and our ideas, and take action towards realizing our goals and believes. As in her own words, ‘The bolder we can be, the better!’

2. Connect with others

One of the advantages of being a top executive in a large corporation is the accessibility and near-endless network that they have. And that is one of the most crucial factors to success as accessibility to wider network is equivalent to higher exposure towards diverse sets of thinking and perceptions.

‘We cannot re-write every single book…, but what we can do is to learn from other people’s written experience.’

3. Think for the long term

Unlike political issues and investors, a leader’s vision should always be overlooking the long-term sustainability of the company. Nooyi shares that she views her role as the top woman in PepsiCo as the catalyze of legacy that is being built. She shares a time when she initiated healthier products for the customers and an environmentally safe and friendly workplace for PepsiCo employees. Transforming a company whose main product is a drink full of bubbles, sugar and caffeine, into a company with ‘healthy’ branding is no easy task. But throughout her time, in between the brand transformation and acquisition of F&B giants (i.e. Quaker Oats Company), she has managed to deliver her long term strategy with an 80% increase of sales throughout her 12 years tenure in PepsiCo.

4. Throw a temper tantrum once in a while

Having learned this from the legendary Steve Jobs, Nooyi advises that following our intuition, overt negative reactions towards an idea might be good for the end product. Without perceiving the negative reactions or the ‘temper tantrum’ as a discouraging and punishing behavior, the overt—either positive or negative—reactions indicate a strong emotional connection and passion that we  have towards a particular project.

5. Be a long-life student

We hear the term of ‘continuous learning’ rather often, but Nooyi advises us to learn theoretically and practically. Learning is not only about attending courses or reading a book or two monthly, but it is also about how to read widely, observe and believe in what you actually see in the market, as well as how to make connections between factors or facets that might not be too obvious.

6. Work through purpose

Remember the article we did on the meaning of work? Nooyi also acknowledge the importance of meaning and purpose of work among today’s workforce. She has continuously placed emphasis on the constant changes that are happening and to align our company accordingly. As more millennials  join the workforce, meaning and purpose of work is no longer placed upon survival or mere paycheck. Individuals are seeking for a deeper meaning and purpose of their work instead.

Check out our brief article on meaning and societal perceptions around it.

7. Follow your dream(s)

Reminded by her then 12 years old daughter, Nooyi encourages individuals to work hard and focus on your dream(s). Challenges and setbacks are mere obstacles that we have to persist through. Nooyi’s advise to persevere  in achieving our goal is to find a solid support system and to be willing to make unavoidable (and most of the times hard) trade-offs.

8. Be willing to make sacrifices

Although sometimes people believe that it is possible to have it all, Nooyi set us back to the ground of reality that the perception only exist in the mere surface. We have to understand the realistic impossibility for one to have it all without exhausting every drop of energy one has. Instead, we must  acknowledge and accept that there will be collateral damage upon obtaining anything in life, we must be willing to make the trade-offs and strategize to have the least collateral damage upon achieving our goals.

9. Throw yourself into your passion and calling

‘Whatever you do, throw yourself into it, throw your head, heart and hands into it.’

Aligned with point six about working purposefully and meaningfully, Nooyi shares that she found passion and calling within her work, leading her to perceive work as a passion—rather than a burdensome obligation.

10.  Care and be human

Last but not least, she reminds us to be humanized in the workforce, to care for each other and have each other’s back. This trait would enforce a positive environment, strong sense of belongingness within a team and would strengthen teamwork and might even help with talent retention!

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