Why Having 9 Months to Prepare for My New Role Was a Total Career Game Changer

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Why Having 9 Months to Prepare for My New Role Was a Total Career Game Changer

Photo courtesy of PepsiCo


Starting a new job is stressful. No matter how excited you are for the role itself, the pressure to quickly get up-to-speed and not ask the same questions twice will wear on anyone. And if you have a clear set of 30/60/90-day expectations with your boss, it’s hard not to feel like the clock is ticking to prove yourself from day one.

That is, unless you work for a company that truly believes in your abilities and is committed to setting you up for maximum success. That’s what it’s been like for Talya Kazzaz, Sr. Director, Sales and Customer Management, who’s built the last five years of her career with Frito-Lay North America holding a variety of leadership roles.

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Kazzaz started with the company as a Zone Sales Director in the Chicago metro area as part of the Designate Program, a 9- to12-month leadership development program designed to train senior leaders on the ins and outs of the business. “The Designate experience is one of the most fantastic career opportunities I’ve ever been given,” Kazzaz shared. “As a Designate, I was given nine months to learn my job, the people and the company before I was given full responsibility of the role, which is unheard of. PepsiCo believes in your personal and professional development, and that’s clear with all of the tools and trainings they give you to not only learn a new role, but also be successful along the journey.”

Trusting the process

Sometimes, to grow your career, a leap of faith needs to be taken. For Kazzaz, this meant becoming a Designate with the understanding it would involve relocating to an unknown location. And being open to making that kind of change, she says, is ultimately what’s helped her to achieve vertical and lateral growth and additional leadership opportunities. 

“I learned in my career that the more you open yourself to opportunities, the more personal and professional growth you’ll see,” she said. “I knew I had to move if I wanted to grow and learn at an accelerated pace. Knowing the value of PepsiCo and how the organization supports career growth, you have to trust the process and know that the company is not going to invest financial resources in you if they don’t trust and believe in you.”

As she moved through the Designate program, Kazzaz says PepsiCo supported her not only through its resources, tools and trainings, but also through a belief in her ability to lead.

“The most rewarding part of this role was the opportunity to learn and lead with a large degree of autonomy,” she recalled. “I was the equivalent of a small business owner leading a $150MM sales territory with 14 direct reports and a team of 150 people. I had financial metrics to deliver against, but I also had the ability to develop my own strategy to lead my team to win in the market with our customers.” 

A model for mutual success

Ultimately, the program helped Kazzaz strike an ideal balance between being empowered to follow her own lead while also receiving helpful guidance from mentors. And there was no shortage of mentors to be had, she added.

“I was surprised at the amount of support I was given and how many people genuinely cared about me and my development,” she said. “I was set up with mentors and coaches not only across sales but also headquarters, supply chain and other key functions in the organization to make sure I understood how to navigate a new company and was set up for success.”

Now, that’s a type of support that Kazzaz is determined to pay back to other up-and-coming female leaders. 

“I’ve always been an advocate for women and their development, as I spent the first 10 years of my career in a very male-dominated industry,” she said. “Simply put, I make time in my schedule to mentor and bring women with me because it’s a priority for me. I've always had an active leadership role in organizations like WIN (Women’s Inclusion Network) at PepsiCo, and I’m a member of NEW (Network of Executive Women). Through both forums, there are opportunities for women to learn and challenge themselves in a safe space and grow personally and professionally, and I do what I can to support other women along the way.”

Building a career that counts

On the subject of professional development, Kazzaz has some choice advice for other women in sales who are looking to elevate their careers. Here’s what she had to share: 

1. Stay authentic

“First, I would say, focus on being your authentic self, and stay true to who you are. You should understand your strengths and areas of opportunity and work to surround yourself with people that are better than you in order to learn fast.”

2.  Set good goals 

“Set your goals, aim high and create a plan. Find a sponsor or mentor who will pull you along.”

3. Say no when you need to

“It’s OK to say no — for instance, if you are asked to do something that doesn’t align with your goals and objectives and isn’t critical to the job.”

4. Don’t fear failure

“If you are going to fail, fail fast, learn and move on to the next thing.”


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