Summer Internship Series: Alumni Connections in the Workplace

Last week my PepsiCo summer internship came to a close. After spending ten weeks cultivating a sales growth strategy plan for Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, I had the opportunity to present my recommendations to an audience of senior leaders at both PepsiCo and Bundaberg. It was honestly such a blast to show off my knowledge of the brand and my newly developed sales skills! While I’m confident that I added value to the Allied Brands Team with my project work, I wanted to use this blog post to reflect on the impact this internship had on me. More specifically, I want to highlight some of my key takeaways about business, sales, and PepsiCo.

Firstly, I learned the crucial role that empathy plays in business. Prior to this summer, I had naively assumed that the corporate business world was very cut and dry– where everything was dictated by numbers and quantitative gains; however, I am pleased to report that that is not the case. I learned that much of business is oriented around people. Working on the Allied Brands Team, it was extremely important to understand Bundaberg’s perspective and goals. For example, Bundaberg prefers their products to be in the craft soda section, but PepsiCo wants to shift them to the mixer section because of category growth. Empathy helped me engage in conversations that were productive for both Bundaberg and PepsiCo. Also, being in Commercial Sales, it was essential that I understood how other divisions functioned including marketing, finance, and legal to make sure my sales strategy suggestions were realistic. In short, empathy played a big part in cross-functional alignment internally (within PepsiCo) and externally (with Bundaberg). 

Secondly, I learned about the power of storytelling. Throughout my internship I often found myself submerged in detailed data about Bundaberg’s performance. Exploring massive Excel spreadsheets and scorecards gave me great insight into where Bundaberg is selling very well, where its competition is selling better, and what factors might explain those patterns. However, as it came down to the last few weeks of the internship, I needed to consolidate those extensive details into a digestible 10-minute presentation. I was eager to include specificities of the data, but I learned that a good storyteller filters through the complications on the back-end to create a coherent and succinct plot. This process reminded me of writing a research paper– you could have 30 pages of notes from articles and books, but you have to identify the key pieces of information and communicate their importance to your professor. For a business storyline, I learned that it is key to hook the audience upfront with the size of the prize (meaning, how profitable the opportunity is for the company), then brief them on the top opportunities for growth, followed by how you plan on securing those opportunities. This is a natural progression that will keep them engaged. 

In addition to those two key takeaways, I also learned what makes a company great. In short, it is the people. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, PepsiCo has an amazing Holy Cross alumni network. Within that network sits Anne Fink ‘85, President of Global Foodservice. She is a superstar at the company and in the business world. She was the keynote speaker for the annual Holy Cross Women in Business Conference in 2008 and 2014, and served on the Board of Trustees at Holy Cross for eight years! I had the opportunity to connect with her one-on-one during my internship, and it was such a dream come true. We chatted about everything from our families to my summer project. I saw first-hand why she is such a great leader: she is super easy to talk to, down-to-earth, and extremely humble. Her character shines through in an interview conducted by a former Holy Cross student from 2019. Throughout my internship I connected one-on-one with more than 40 people, and meeting with Anne was certainly a highlight of the summer. My introduction to Anne was facilitated by our common Holy Cross background, but I also noticed that many other top-tier leaders at PepsiCo were very accessible. For example, the Commercial Sales Intern Leaders put together a Speaker Series: interactive connects with PepsiCo senior leaders, including VPs of several divisions. Listening to these leaders speak about their careers and being able to ask them questions was incredible. I reached out to several of these leaders after their respective Speaker Series, and every single one of them was more than happy to connect one-on-one with me. It is clear to me that servant leadership is a key pillar of PepsiCo, and that element shaped my internship experience in such an amazing way.

Although my internship ended just a few days ago, I can already tell that it will be a formative experience for my professional journey. I couldn’t have done it without the guidance of my Allied Brands Teammates (most notably Pranay Malik, Eric Whitehouse, and Maegan Moriarty), the support of my Holy Cross family at PepsiCo, and the company’s incredible network. 

A huge THANK YOU to Caroline Quinn ’22 for sharing her reflections, lessons learned, and bringing it all back to the Ciocca Center.   Read about the first half of the internship on the blog. Congratulations on a successful summer internship, we wish you continued success!