With 13 years of experience as a Talent Acquisition leader for a Fortune 100 company under her belt, Shoba Menon knows a thing or two about the qualities that help candidates stand out and position them for a successful, long-term career. It’s not just about hiring talent for where they are now but for where they’ll go — especially with PepsiCo’s support and development resources behind them.
“I always remind my team that we are not recruiting talent just to fill the current need, but we are hiring for future roles that will be identified through PepsiCo’s People Planning Processes,” said Menon, Global Technology Talent Acquisition Director. “PepsiCo is a talent academy where the next generation of leaders are trained, coached and developed.”
That’s certainly been true of her own experience at PepsiCo. When Menon was hired, she knew her full professional potential was seen and supported from the start. PepsiCo was investing in her for the long haul. That’s one reason she’s been able to rotate into new positions, across different functions of the business, every two to three years, ensuring that her work continually feels fresh and exciting and, most importantly, that it provides her with critical experiences.
Recently, Menon shared with us some of her biggest takeaways from a decade-plus of leading hiring efforts for a storied company, some of the innovative work PepsiCo is doing today, and the skills and qualities she looks for in candidates the most.
How long have you been in your role, and what were you doing previously?
I’ve been with the company for more than 13 years, in various talent acquisition roles, and am currently leading Global Business Services and Global Technology (IT and Data) for PepsiCo. I've been very fortunate to have had the leadership team's support to rotate to new positions over the years, and that has given me immense exposure to PepsiCo's various corporate functions. Each role at PepsiCo grew me personally and professionally — it is really amazing to see how our Senior Leaders are so down to earth and have an open door policy. I witnessed and learned from their ability to break down complex issues into simple, digestible strategies. This learning is one I value the most as I reflect on what it takes to be a global leader managing multiple teams across different businesses and regions around the world.
Did you ever see yourself in a global role? Why or why not?
I didn’t envision myself being in a global role because I was mainly U.S.-focused throughout my career. When I transitioned into my current global remit, I was pushed into unchartered territory that came with a lot of ambiguity, like having to learn different employment laws. I ended up thriving in an environment like this and embraced it as a learning opportunity. I’m particularly thankful to have had supportive leadership teams that saw my potential as an employee based in Texas but more importantly, they recognized my ability to manage through a variety of complex roles – that’s what truly readied me for my role today. My scope expands to markets around the world including India, Egypt, Poland, Mexico and the U.S., and the strategies I develop can’t be one size fits all. You have to customize your style and approach to suit these markets.
As a Talent Acquisition leader, what are the top three qualities you look for in a candidate?
1. Positive Attitude
Hiring people with an upbeat outlook helps create a vibrant and productive working environment for the individual and others working with them. Also, productivity is not only about cost – it is also about time and team cohesion, which is their ability to collaborate and work towards a common goal.
Hiring for intellectually curious talent means they are not only qualified for the current role, but also have future stretch within the organization – that's how you start creating the next bench of talent. In addition to the people planning process, we have an innovative Learning and Development team who launched the PEP U Degreed platform to help employees find learning courses customized to their development and areas of interest. As a talent academy, PepsiCo is where the next generation of leaders are trained, coached and developed through various in-house assessments, coaching and mentorship.
3. Strong Work Ethic
Talent who demonstrate a strong work ethic are dedicated and reliable. They deliver their best and organically motivate others around them to excel. It's always great to see peers sharing best practices and being each other's support model, which creates an environment of care, empathy and appreciation for each other's work.
Are there any specific skills recruiters are looking for in tech candidates?
According to a recent study, a recruiter spends an average of six seconds reviewing a candidate's resume, and with today’s enabling technology, this can also be done by Artificial Intelligence. With that, it has become even more evident that the "job match" is crucial in the process. As Talent Acquisition partners, it’s critical we conduct thorough interviews with candidates that allow us to not only determine their qualifications, but also assess three core components:
Strong verbal and written communication skills are very important, but being a good listener is one of the best attributes of an excellent communicator. If you listen, you can articulate the issue or answers to questions more thoughtfully while enabling oneself to ask educated questions in return.
2. Teamwork and Team Comradery
Both are imperative to influence, problem solve and get things done. At PepsiCo, collaboration is key – not just on one’s immediate team, but also cross-functionally. This enables both individual and group success.
3. Experience & Diversity of Thought
Experience is the knowledge or skills someone has gained directly throughout their career. This qualifies candidates for the job and speaks to their abilities to navigate complex organizations. PepsiCo particularly values diversity of thought coupled with a candidate’s experience. The diversity a candidate can bring to a team enables greater knowledge sharing, promotes fruitful debates or discussions, challenges unconscious biases, encourages out of the box vs. status quo thinking, and ultimately contributes to stronger individual, team and business performance.
Research tells us that women are less likely to apply to a job they don’t feel they 100% qualified for, whereas men will apply to a job if they meet 60% of the qualifications. What’s your advice for women who are less likely to apply to jobs based on their perception of the qualifications?
Don’t overthink or lead with uncertainty! If you feel good about the role, take a positive stride and simply go for it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If you dream about a particular path, job or career move, make it come true for yourself. Confidence in yourself will take you farther than you may think.
How can women focus on developing their professional skills? Can you share any online classes or programs that would come recommended?
Instilling a lifelong learning capability better positions us in life, both professionally and personally. I highly recommend going through Emotional Intelligence training. This training helps build our emotional quotient to be more self-aware of our surroundings and behaviors. It is essential in the workplace to effectively communicate and empathize with others in order to overcome challenges and defuse conflicts. There were times in my career where I overanalyzed everything and was so critical about my own work. This training helped me overcome my challenge of second-guessing everything, a behavior that may be common amongst women who have a high bar for themselves. What we tend to do is forget that we are human and it’s okay that we make mistakes along the way. Through this training, I learned to be more lenient on my own work and gained greater self-awareness and better self-control, which can easily be forgotten or taken for granted at times.
Tell me a little about some of the innovative projects that are happening at PepsiCo.
PepsiCo is going through an exciting transformation – digitizing customer and employee experience through modernization and optimization. We have amazing projects globally within the business as well as HR, where our Global HR Operations team, along with Talent Acquisition Leadership are innovating our candidate experience through technology and automation.
To support PepsiCo’s vision to Be the Global Leader in Convenient Foods and Beverages by Winning with Purpose, we defined a new set of aspirations: to become Faster, Stronger and Better. “Faster” means winning in the marketplace, being more consumer-centric and accelerating investment for top line growth. “Stronger” is about transforming our capabilities, cost and culture by operating as one PepsiCo and leveraging technology as a key enabler. And “Better” is all about integrating purpose into our business strategy and doing even more for the planet and for our people.
What's one thing PepsiCo does — whether a formal policy or program, or more in terms of office culture — that you think is particularly unique or unexpected?
Culture shapes who we are, our identity and our beliefs. It allows individuals to offer a unique diversity of thought and individuality. PepsiCo recognizes the strength this has for the company and its associates. One example of how PepsiCo embraced this is through the “Have a Say” campaign, a top-down initiative spearheaded by PepsiCo’s EVP & Chief Human Resources Officer. The campaign promoted one of our PepsiCo Way behaviors, “Voice Opinions Fearlessly,” and enabled employees to be direct and transparent about what improvements they expected across multiple areas of the business — everything from management to processes to bottlenecks, all with the goal of continuously advancing our company culture.
While I thought that was a brilliant idea at the time, I’m even more impressed with the employee engagement and some of the work that has since come to fruition. The time invested by the leadership team is significant. Most importantly, they showed their commitment to listen to employees and act. It's been so rewarding to witness some fantastic ideas being implemented in a faster and focused manner.
What is your No. 1 piece of advice for women pursuing a career in tech?
Actually, I have a few pieces of advice!
First, believe in yourself! We are so critical about our capabilities and we often overthink before applying to jobs. We must aim high!
Second, plan and deliver one level up; let your work speak for itself. This is one of the most memorable pieces of advice that has resonated with me throughout my career. By doing this, you're not only setting yourself up to learn, but you’re preparing for the next role while the expectations are lower.
Third, foster your personal and professional brand, because, ultimately, it goes a long way. Allow your work to complement your reputation.
Fourth, be open to challenging and ambiguous experiences — as long as you stay organized, confident and are invested in yourself, you will exceed expectations, even your own!
Finally, get comfortable with being a lifelong beginner. Cultivate a willingness to learn new things that will propel your skillset and maintain an attitude of mindfulness, always.
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