What attracted you to learning and development?
I started my career in higher education, first at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, then Yale School of Management, because I believe that higher education is the gateway to prosperity. I loved being at the intersection of teaching, research and business.
How did you get your start at PepsiCo?
Working in university executive education was incredibly rewarding, but I didn’t get to see the impact of learning over time because our participants would come for a few days and then leave. When PepsiCo gave me the chance to become chief learning officer in February 2019, I jumped at it.
How have you seen technology shape workforce L&D?
Technology is embedded in nearly everything people do, so learners expect their employer to use technology to help them learn. Learning in the flow of work is a big use case: I’m on my laptop or my mobile, and I need some quick instruction, so I log on to my learner experience platform for a 3-minute video or article.
From your leadership experience in your previous roles, and now as a learning leader at PepsiCo, in your opinion, what’s an important trait every leader should possess?
Let’s talk about the turbulent times we’re facing now. Everyone is looking to leaders for three things: decisiveness, calm, and regular, reassuring communication. Never underestimate the value of staying in touch with your team and your customers, even when you don’t have anything more to communicate than a simple update and a “How are you?”
What is your favorite piece of career advice?
Carve out an area of incompetence. Professor Jennifer Aaker gave this advice at a women’s leadership program at UC Berkeley. If you’re perceived as being good at a lot of things, people will constantly ask you to do those things, even when they’re not your job. In other words, set boundaries.
Everyone has a different journey to CLO. What were some key formative experiences you had that allowed you to accelerate to where you are now?
My first job was as a copy editor, where I learned the importance of good writing and attention to detail. I still use these skills today. Then I got a graduate degree in public policy. Seems like a random choice for someone with my career interests, but the analytical skills I learned were priceless. I became much better at critical thinking, and I learned how to communicate with people who value an analytical approach to problems.
When I moved to higher ed, I learned the importance of using research-validated initiatives at work. Academics (and I’m not one, but I have spent a lot of time with them!) have a saying: Is the outcome because of or in spite of what you did? Example: Are employees performing better this year because your company does annual performance reviews, or in spite of this practice? Did PepsiCo sell more Lay’s because of the new bag design, or in spite of it? These questions are very hard to answer, but they are important to ask. As CLO, I endeavor to use research-backed methods in our learning solutions, and I also want to teach associates to critically examine their own initiatives.
Were there any particular mentors or supportive figures who were helpful along the way?
Several hiring managers gave me a shot at jobs even though I didn’t have the perfect qualifications yet. I have benefited from managers who hired based on potential rather than experience.
Looking ahead: What’s in store for L&D at PepsiCo?
So much! We are moving many of our in-person programs online and creating rich virtual experiences. We have new leadership programs, a new learner experience platform, more learning in the flow of work, more leaders as teachers and more investment in our learning culture. What’s not changing is our commitment to being a partner to and an enabler of the core business.
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