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2020 was the year many companies took action to address the need for systemic change towards racial equality. PepsiCo, as one of those companies, has pledged to contribute more than $400 million over five years to initiatives designed to lift up Black communities and increase Black representation at PepsiCo in its Racial Equality Journey (REJ). Amana Watkins, Talent Management DE&I Lead for Global Groups & Functions, is developing the corporate strategy for the global food and beverage company’s impressive commitment.

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Watkins took the newly created position of Talent Management DE&I Lead for Global Groups & Functions at PepsiCo in late 2020. In a recent conversation, she shared how her new role came to be.

What is your new role like? What are your main priorities?  

As Talent Management DE&I Lead, I own the implementation of a multi-pronged strategy that ensures our talent processes are equitable, and where we have opportunities, we create changes. It expands to include diversity awareness, talent development and analytics. The role is a perfect chance to combine my HR business partner background with my passion for diversity. The main priority has been understanding our current state and what we need to put in place to achieve our racial equality vision.

Can you explain PepsiCo’s Racial Equality Journey and what does it mean to you personally?

The U.S. saw new heights of civil unrest in 2020 and PepsiCo responded with our Racial Equality Journey (REJ) commitment for Black and Hispanic communities. In my role, I translate these business and community initiatives into the what, the how, and the why. As a company, we’re intentional about being inclusive, recognizing and respecting one another, and actioning on the necessity to drive change. 

On a personal level, I’m passionate about supporting Black-owned businesses. The shirt I’m wearing in the above photo was created by an African American female designer out of Cedar Hill, TX. 

I try to be intentional with translating this commitment beyond words into purpose-filled actions both in my career and in my personal life. 

How does your own experiences and perspective contribute to this role?

In my career, I’ve always been supported in voicing my opinions. When I first joined PepsiCo as a global IT HR Business Partner, innovation and disruption were (and continue to be) at the forefront of decision-making, and I embraced the opportunity to share my ideas and point of view. As HRBPs, we learn the business that we partner with, and it’s exciting to bring different approaches to new challenges and make a greater impact. In this role, I often evaluate our current processes to discover what’s working in talent development, and what we can do differently to achieve more meaningful outcomes. This space allows for new methodology, learning, discovery and commitment.

What resources or tools has PepsiCo provided you with to help you advance your career? 
I’ve been provided with various leadership and development opportunities both internally and in partnership with external companies.

At PepsiCo, we offer high-quality programs through DE&I that target more specific needs based on ethnicity, gender, etc.  This programming builds leaders and higher levels of engagement.

One of the most memorable opportunities was when I took part in the Transformational Leadership Program for Women at PepsiCo, which is a DE&I program. It allowed me to talk about my career and what I wanted to do next. It was then I recognized I was hungry for a role that combined both passion and purpose.

When I realized this aspiration, my mentors and sponsors encouraged me to pursue my current role. Throughout my career, I’ve had supportive leaders who have fostered my inherent desire to grow and be challenged. PepsiCo has phenomenal people, many of whom have provided insights and guidance. That’s priceless.

You're an active member of PepsiCo’s MOSAIC employee resource group, which supports Black employees. How and why did you first get involved with this group?

I sought out MOSAIC as soon as I learned about it. My parents strongly emphasized giving back to the community, so I’ve always been involved in volunteering, whether it was through church, community, or my sorority. I went to a MOSAIC meeting and immediately signed up to volunteer. 

How has MOSAIC helped you and your employment experience at PepsiCo? What have you contributed to the ERG?

MOSAIC was the first ERG at PepsiCo. There was a need for Black associates to be able to network and connect. There wasn’t a formal avenue to do this and those who had this need created it. The ERG’s purpose quickly expanded to how we, its members, can not only engage internally, but also impact the business and our community. Those founders had a vision that carries on today through each ERG within PepsiCo.

ERGs allow associates to experience leadership roles outside of their day-to-day responsibilities. I initially came into MOSAIC as the Diversity and Retention Chair for Plano, TX. From there, I co-chaired the MLK celebration twice, PepsiCo’s largest ERG event. The next move was to co-chair the MOSAIC national board, which provides direction and support for all the MOSAIC chapters in North America.

ERGs took on a new meaning in the lives of our associates in 2020 – to be a team of allies and catalytic agents as the U.S. faced unseen levels of civil unrest during a global pandemic. They forged safe spaces in a virtual world, listened, and showed authentic empathy through verbal and visible support to all who were in need.  

Do you have a piece of advice that’s helped carry you through your career?
Discover the sweet spot between your passion and abilities and make certain you are in the right place! 2020 slowed us down and made us realize that it’s necessary to prioritize what is truly important. It’s about doing what excites you at a place where you can contribute your gifts and talents, influence others, expand yourself to conquer the dreams you haven’t shared, go after the vision that you jotted down, and be unapologetic about who you are.

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