Considering a career in R&D? In this field, you’ll never be bored, says Ariela Thomas, R&D Associate Principal Scientist at PepsiCo
. “The day-to-day is never the same in R&D; I go from spending an entire day in meetings to all day in the labs.” In her experience, a career in R&D provides a path where you are able to constantly grow and evolve.
As for tenured R&D leaders, they reveal that this field remains exciting and innovative — no matter your level of experience. “This path is challenging, rewarding and fun,” shares Bety Tovar, VP, R&D for the Product Development Global Function at PepsiCo. “The learning opportunities are endless: from new product development, to developing breakthrough technologies.”
Best of all, when this innovative work comes to fruition, it is incredibly rewarding. “From a business perspective, there is no greater reward than seeing our innovation on the shelf after all our hard work,” remarks Danielle Barbaro, the VP, R&D at PepsiCo Beverages North America.
These three R&D professionals share tips for accelerating your career in this field — no matter where you are in your career journey.
1. Commit to becoming a lifelong learner.
R&D is a field that, by definition, involves constant innovation, learning and growing. So, it’s important to remember that no matter how experienced you are, you need to be willing to grow and expand your knowledge in this field constantly. It’s no wonder that Thomas lists intellectual curiosity as a top trait you need to excel in R&D!
As for Barbaro, she advises: “The best you can do is to show up, be fully invested and be conscious of what you don’t know, so that you can find the resources you need to fill the gap.”
While there will always be more to learn, you also need to remember to believe in yourself and celebrate your accomplishments. “You may always feel you can do better — but it’s important to acknowledge your success,” Barbaro says.
2. Networking is key!
To better grow in this field, both Barbaro and Tovar emphasize the importance of collaborating with colleagues and connecting with the talented and passionate people around you.
“My biggest piece of advice is to create a robust network, and, within that network, make sure that you have mentors and sponsors,” Tovar remarks. The people around you will help you succeed throughout your journey and inspire you every day.
3. Be honest and open with your career ambitions.
“Share your aspirations with your managers and peers,” Thomas tells us. “Understanding your professional capabilities and your aspirations is important in helping you find the right opportunities when they arise.”
“However, being vocal about what you want is only step one,” says Barbaro. “Then, continue to ask for feedback. Be open to it and embrace it...Work hard, stay focused and define a path to get there.”
4. Find your specific passion.
R&D is an immensely large field with endless opportunities. So, finding what interests you most is important.
PepsiCo’s Global Talent Rotation Program gives employees the opportunity to try out different teams and areas of the business. Thomas, for instance, got transferred to PepsiCo’s Breakthrough Transform Team through this program, and found a unique interest of hers: supporting long-term innovation in compression popping. This is used for real-world applications like Quaker Rice Cakes and other food products — and Thomas gets to help with them all, making a real-world impact.
In R&D, the positive impact you make on other lives can also become your passion. “Every day, I wake up inspired to ensure my team and I develop transformational product experiences for our consumers,” Tovar says. “Our mission is to create smiles with every sip and every bite.’”
5. Find your people.
If you want an exciting career collaborating with talented, creative and thoughtful people, R&D is the career for you. Be curious, be open and find what makes you happy. And a company like PepsiCo has leaders and development programs that will support you in achieving these goals.
Across PepsiCo R&D, there is a “culture of true collaboration,” shares Thomas. “Colleagues are always willing to help you and give you guidance … Our people do the best they can to make team members feel supported. We have so much expertise and technical know-how that I truly feel like I learn something new every single day. I’ve also had amazing managers at PepsiCo who were all crucial to my growth.”
PepsiCo’s positive culture is intentional throughout all levels of the organization, Barbaro reveals. “We are focused on figuring out the ‘right thing to do’ when it comes to our employees, customers and consumers,” she says. “R&D proactively improves our portfolio from both a health and wellness and a sustainability perspective. I am extremely proud of how we work together and what we deliver.”
And, most importantly, she emphasizes that at PepsiCo, “our people are our greatest asset.”