As one of the world's 50 most admired companies, according to Fortune magazine, PepsiCo Inc. inhabits a rarefied place within corporate America. And landing a job there is, for many, the ultimate career achievement.
The iconic brand, which is second only to rival Coca-Cola Co. in soft-drink sales, recently has sought to refashion its image. Under the leadership of Indra Nooyi, its first female CEO, the Purchase, N.Y.-based company has sought to "green up" its business practices and appeal to a more diverse range of consumers and potential employees.
Beyond soft drinks, the company also sells Tropicana juice, Frito-Lay brand snacks, Quaker oatmeal and other food products. It had combined sales of nearly $58 billion last year and employs about 294,000 workers worldwide.
So what's it like to work there? Despite its size, Pepsi remains a fast-paced and innovative place to work, says Lesley Butler, senior marketing manager for Tropicana.
"I don't feel like I'm in this huge, huge company," says Butler, 30, who joined PepsiCo six months ago from Bain & Co., where was a strategy consultant in the consumer packaged goods industry. "I really like that aspect."
Though she's only been at PepsiCo a short time, the Harvard Business School graduate says she's been there long enough to witness a shift in the company's strategy, embracing a wider world view, which includes the creation late last year of its global nutrition group.
The objective of GNG, as it's known within PepsiCo, is to boost sales of the company's nutrition brands to $30 billion annually by 2020, from its current $13 billion a year.
PepsiCo's nutrition brands include Tropicana and 26 other juice brands worldwide, and it's Butler's job to help grow the business -- in part by understanding how people the world over consume juice.
That includes time spent overseas, including a recent trip to China, to learn about the unique tastes of people worldwide. One difference that she noted from past trips is that juice isn't a common component of breakfast, unlike in the U.S.
Many cultures don't include a cold beverage with their first meal of the day, says Butler, preferring to serve it later in the afternoon.
A number of characteristics stand out when it comes to describing PepsiCo's culture, Butler says, including the enthusiasm that many coworkers bring to the job. "They are so passionate about their brands and their consumers," she says. "That is really infectious and something that is very motivating for me."
That perception is familiar to Michael Hamilton, another recent hire at PepsiCo, who joined the company 10 months ago as a category manager for beverages. In that role, Hamilton, 30, makes the most of shelf space by examining sales, volume and consumer preferences, which vary from store to store.
Hamilton's territory includes about 700 stores throughout Texas. He is based in Plano, where the company's Frito-Lay unit is based. Hamilton landed his job with PepsiCo through Cameron-Brooks, a placement agency that works with junior military officers to find work in the civilian sector.
Hamilton, a West Point graduate and Army pilot who saw two tours in Iraq, says he enjoys his job because it allows him to use analytical and other skills honed during his military career.
But at PepsiCo there's more variety, says Hamilton, who's married and has an infant daughter. "Everyday, it's a new role."
Further, Hamilton says that he's learning a lot about the business world, equating the knowledge he's gained as equivalent to a "miniature MBA."
"Especially for me, leaving the military, not knowing a tremendous amount about business -- I think PepsiCo has done a great job with training," he says.
PepsiCo's Hiring Process
Though there are a number of qualities that PepsiCo looks for during the hiring process, a key one is the ability to quickly recognize potential to grow or improve the company's business.
"We look for people [who] are results-orientated," and who seek professional improvement daily, says Paul Marchand, vice president of global talent acquisition.
It's a quality he refers to as "seizing the day," and becomes apparent during interviews when applicants describe past achievements, including education, success in previous employment and personal experiences, such as athletic pursuits or, as in Hamilton's case, military service.
PepsiCo also looks for an "innovation mindset" that goes beyond products and packaging to include other areas of the business, including employee policies and benefits, logistics, workplace environment and more.
"We look for people who are inquisitive, are curious and are wanting to take a box and stretch it, twist it and turn it," he says, adding that Pepsi is eager to find employees who will rethink the company's processes and practices to help it improve.
Marchand says that PepsiCo also is committed to creating a diverse workplace, including enlisting the talents of disabled workers through an initiative known as EnAble, which seeks to recruit "people with different abilities," among other things (see the video below).
The company also was among the first corporate sponsors of LimeConnect, an organization that matches college-level and professional candidates who have disabilities with private employers. Google, Bank of America, Target and Goldman Sachs also sponsor the program.
LimeConnect's goal is to help workers with disabilities, such as those who are deaf or who have less obvious disabilities, such as attention deficit disorder, get jobs in corporate America, though it may not be a position with one of the sponsoring companies.
"It's a bonus if they do," Marchand says. "But the reality is that we're doing good for the broader society, if many of these students get jobs with other companies or continue on with [higher] education."
Next: What It's Like to Work at Coca Cola
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