Maureen Connolly. Photo courtesy of PepsiCo.
Listen to this episode of Fairygodboss Radio to discover Maureen Connolly's inspiring journey at PepsiCo, from her start as an intern to her current role as the eCommerce Sales Manager for Walmart.com.
Maureen shares insights into the people and empowering culture at PepsiCo, emphasizing the company's dedication to developing female talent. She also discusses the importance of building a network, the value of showing empathy, and the impact of vulnerability in professional and personal relationships.
Tune in for valuable advice on leveraging the people around you and embracing challenges to fuel your growth.
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[Recorded on November 6, 2023]
Maureen joins us from PepsiCo where she's worked for more than five years. In her current role on the eCommerce team, Maureen manages the Pepsi Beverages portfolio for Walmart.com and is responsible for how the brands come to life digitally. She partners heavily with internal and external stakeholders to influence Walmart.com assortment decisions, drive future eCommerce strategies with PepsiCo’s biggest customer and optimize the website to create a seamless user experience.
Rounding out her three years of experience in eCommerce, Maureen previously supported the Target.com and Costco.com accounts across the company. But Food Service is where she got her start with the company. She completed a PEP Food Service Sales Summer internship in 2017 and joined the organization full time the following year. Since then, Maureen has experienced accelerated career progression through a variety of roles within PepsiCo Beverages North America, including Sales & Strategy and eCommerce.
Maureen graduated from College of the Holy Cross where she played Division 1 Field Hockey. She currently lives in New York City and works out of the eCommerce Hub in Manhattan.
Gabi Carachilo: Hello everyone. And welcome to Fairygodboss Radio. I am so excited to be joined by PepsiCo's eCommerce Sales Manager for Walmart.com, Maureen Connelly. Maureen, welcome to the show.
Maureen Connolly: Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Gabi Carachilo: Thanks for being here. Let's jump right in. I would love to start at the beginning of your journey at PepsiCo. What initially led you to the company?
Maureen Connolly: Yeah, I will take a couple steps back because I think it's helpful to build some context onto how I even found PepsiCo or how fate brought myself and PepsiCo together, as I like to say. I went to undergrad at a small liberal arts college called College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. And one of the interesting things about that college is that every student goes into college undeclared as a major. There's a lot of requirements across sciences, across arts, just to get you exposed to stuff you might not have even thought you had an interest in to begin with. I often say I was probably the most undecided student that walked through the doors of Holy Cross.Long story short, though, I did end up – I was actually a chemistry major in college. Obviously that changed, but, one thing that ultimately led me to PepsiCo was I had been able to get an internship at a biotech company. That experience was basically a hybrid between working in a lab, doing a lot of technical science lab type work, but then the other half of that was working with the VP of Sales. And that really opened my eyes to, hey, like there's a lot out there in terms of sales, in terms of business. And that was really what motivated me and inspired me during that internship, as opposed to more of the technical lab type of work. So after that summer, I kind of repivoted myself, wanted a bit of a change from pursuing maybe a career in the medical field or in biotech. So through Holy Cross, I was able to get in touch with PepsiCo, who oftentimes recruits interns from the college. And I was lucky enough to get in touch with some Holy Cross alumni who also worked at PepsiCo. I really was able to get my foot in the door that way. So I was brought to PepsiCo through a Food Service Sales Internship program the summer going into my senior year of college. Was kind of a long winding road to get to PepsiCo throughout college, but the moment I did, I really fell in love with the culture, the team, and just everything that PepsiCo had to offer was really a good combination of everything I was looking for at the time. So it was really lucky to stumble upon that through my college network.
Gabi Carachilo: Wow, that's amazing. I am a huge advocate of those undeclared programs. I joined in an academic exploration program when I began my collegiate journey and there's so much value to that experience and as well as those internships. Could you tell us a little bit more post internship, the types of roles that you've held at PepsiCo and your current position today as well?
Maureen Connolly: Yes, definitely. So I interned at PepsiCo in a part of the organization called Food Service, and then post my internship was able to come back full-time in more of a national sales strategy role. So, this was vastly different from what I did during my internship. But again, the beauty of PepsiCo, it's such a big company. There are so many different parts of the organization to explore. But coming out of college, was placed in a national sales strategy role was an awesome place to kind of relearn PepsiCo. Obviously, as an intern, you only have a summer with the company. You do get a full immersive experience. But coming back full time, this role was based out of our PepsiCo beverage business unit. So I was working solely on the PepsiCo beverage portfolio, supporting PepsiCo from a sales strategy lens – looking at things, you know, three to five years out. How are we thinking about different products, different brand launches, all the things, I mean, a bit more of a longer term lens. So that was my first role right out of college, an awesome way to learn the business, get really grounded and kind of core things and all of the different tools that are really important at a big company. And then from there, I actually was able to make the pivot to our PepsiCo eCommerce organization where I still sit today. I did want something a little more fast paced, a little more high touch, and immediate – call it immediate satisfaction. You do something and see it right away. So, I made the pivot to the eCom org where I supported Target.com and Costco.com from an eCommerce lens. And this was during COVID. Basically, I joined February of 2020. So I had like a month of trying to learn what the eCommerce org was and then COVID hit. And as everyone knows, that dramatically shifted consumer preferences. A lot of people didn't want to buy groceries in store, so they pivoted towards online channels. So you saw that world completely blow up, which was a really fun place to be during that time. And from there have held a couple of different roles and currently support our Walmart.com eCommerce account.
Gabi Carachilo: Wow, that is absolutely remarkable. I am one of those consumers who went to the eCommerce way of shopping all online during COVID and I have not gone back. I am tried and true with the efficiency of eCommerce shopping, even for groceries.
Maureen Connolly: You're not alone. Yes.
Gabi Carachilo: But kudos to you. I mean, gosh, what a remarkable journey. I mean, if I have it right, you started as an intern, then held four different titles in just about five years. Those transitions seemed amazing. A ton of learning, ton of progression. How have you been able to grow at the company and so quickly?
Maureen Connolly: I think a lot of that comes down to the PepsiCo culture. Honestly, thinking about things like career growth and career progression at an individual level. That is embedded in the PepsiCo culture. Like as an intern, I recall people talking about, oh well, what do you want to do in five years? I'm like, in five years, I'm just trying to get through this summer. It just really showed me how much of a priority it is within this company to not only, you know, grow individuals in their current role, but as they're taking on new projects, as they're expanding on different critical experiences, everyone in my circle, mentors, managers, I've been very fortunate to have people that they're always pushing me to think three, five, ten years out to help me understand like, hey, you want to be this in five years. let's backtrack and understand exactly what type of roles, what type of critical experiences are needed to get there. So I honestly credit a lot of that to just the culture that's embedded in PepsiCo. It's not uncommon for people to move very frequently and very fast. I also think you have the beauty of a global organization where there are so many different roles, there’s so many different functions. And oftentimes you can feel like you're having a career pivot, but all within the PepsiCo walls, which I think is a really awesome thing.
Gabi Carachilo: It's amazing. So not only does the company have that opportunity given the size and the scope of work that PepsiCo touches, but it sounds like they really support and facilitate that internal mobility and that career progression, which is fulfilling for the folks who sink their heels in and want to grow with the company, but also from a retention strategy as well, it makes business sense. So we've talked a little bit about your progression and I'm sure there's a wealth of reasons why you've stayed at PepsiCo for as long as you have. What has kept you there?
Maureen Connolly: I think a lot of it comes down to the people. It sounds so corny. I wish I could frame that up in a less corny way, but it is, it could not be more true. There are a lot of, you know, consumer companies out there, a lot of other companies that on the outside look a lot like PepsiCo, but it is so common to run into people at PepsiCo that have been here 10, 15, 20 plus years. And I think they all would say the same thing, that we have a very special culture. That not only just supports its associates, but it just, it makes you want to stay. I think the people that I've been fortunate enough to work for, I want to work hard for. It's a place you want to be, and a lot of that just comes down to the awesome people that come through here. So, a lot of it is that, and then I also just think the fact, again, that I touched on earlier, that this company is so global. There's so many different opportunities that you have. And really, you're in the driver's seat of your career, so you can kind of have other mentors help you, but you're never going to find a situation where there's not an avenue you could explore, not a function you could try if that's something you wanted to pursue. So I think the combination of the amazing people as well as just the scope of PepsiCo make it a really awesome place to stay and get that career development, seek amazing new critical experiences. Again, all within the PepsiCo walls, you feel like you're making big moves, but you don't have to leave the company to do so, which is a really powerful thing.
Gabi Carachilo: That is so powerful and so important and rare in today's world. It's not very often that you see folks who have that type of tenure with one particular organization. It's a question you've already touched on a bit, but I wanted to see if there was anything else you'd like to add. And the question is, how would you describe the people and the culture at PepsiCo? I think you've pulled the curtain back a little bit already on that. Anything more you'd like to add there, Maureen?
Maureen Connolly: I think the people at PepsiCo, one thing that comes to mind is, incredibly selfless, honestly, a lot of times with their time, I've been so impressed by everyone I've come into contact with. Everyone is so willing to not only just work and collaborate on the day to day, but people want to be mentors. People want to help you grow and help you succeed. And again, at a company like PepsiCo, no one has the same career. There's not a roadmap for how a salesperson builds their career, how a marketing person builds their career. But you have such a wealth of knowledge in the people around you that it's such an amazing network that is able to kind of help you and guide you along the way. And I would also say they're just extremely agile. Again, huge company, fast paced organization. I've also just been so impressed by the way that people are able to tackle problems, collaborate quickly. It really oftentimes does feel like a big team where things don't always go right, but there's always a solve, there’s always people that can help. And just having that awesome sense of true team collaboration and agility that everyone seems to embody and just adapt to has made it a really pleasant and fun and dynamic place to work, while simultaneously feeling like I'm learning so much from them and continuing to grow and build out skills just from the people around me.
Gabi Carachilo: It sounds like a really energizing place to work, fun, and that's what came to mind for me too, right? When you have a group of folks who are invested, who are committed, who are willing to be agile and creative to tackle problems collectively, even when you're working with really large, global teams in some scenarios. That is incredible. I'm sure there are many listeners who will be tuning in who are ready to join the team. They want to sign up and work at PepsiCo. So for those who may be interested in that career, what are some of the key skills or qualities that you believe PepsiCo values the most in its employees? Some of those we may have already hinted to already.
Maureen Connolly: Yes, definitely. I would say the ability to collaborate is a huge one. Talked a lot about the scope and scale of PepsiCo. It is a massive organization. You are never operating by yourself. And so the ability to work and influence cross functional partners and tell your story and work with stakeholders in a really seamless way is incredibly important. It does not matter what function you are. It doesn't matter what level you are. You are always going to be collaborating and working as a team in every aspect of your job at PepsiCo. I played sports all my life, and so being part of a team has always been really special to me. I think that's just another reason that I've stayed at PepsiCo and why I love it because it seems silly, but it truly is like one family, one team. And so that ability to be collaborative with any stakeholder you run into is super important. And then the other thing that I have touched upon is just being dynamic and understanding that things are going to change. It's really just a matter of how you're going to react to it. One of the things I've loved learning from other people is acknowledging that things are going to change and then making sure that your team and the people around you feel like they have a game plan for how that plan is going to adapt. Change is the only constant, and that is very true at PepsiCo, so your ability to be collaborative through times of change will make you really successful here at PepsiCo.
Gabi Carachilo: It's so true, and maybe even more true in the past recent years, right? Lots and lots of change we've seen. I'd love to talk about your interactions with women in your industry. How have these interactions influenced your journey, and are there any individuals who've been particularly supportive or influential?
Maureen Connolly: I love this question. I would say I feel so privileged to have kind of grown up the last five years here at PepsiCo. And the reason I say I feel privileged is because from the moment I interned, I never felt anything other than just fully supported by women as well as men. Like I know there are other people that have worked in other industries, other companies that have almost come before and, and told vastly different experiences. So none of that is lost on me, but I would say I feel so fortunate to have just for the past five, six years been at a company where their priority is how do we ensure that women are thriving here? How do we ensure that we are building them up, making them feel seen, all of the things? I think again is just embedded in the culture and I would say I have learned and been so inspired by so many women here. I think it's the coolest thing when you know you have a boss or a manager that's giving a big presentation and then the next day they're showing pictures of their kids trick or treating in the streets. And whatever having it all means to you as a woman, whether that's having a family, if that's accelerating in your career, if that's a hybrid of both, I've just been inspired by the fact that you can have it – you can make it work – and feel like it's a really awesome place to foster a career, as well as, a family if that's something that's important to you.
Gabi Carachilo: That's amazing. We hear and read a lot about how women can help lift other women up. And it sounds like that's truly ingrained in culture at your company. And I'm one of those working moms who that's guilty of showing pictures of my kids at Halloween haha.
Maureen Connolly: Haha, I love it. Keep it up.
Gabi Carachilo: Jumping into the topic at hand, but it's great. And to your point, right? Everybody has different personal and professional goals, but it's wonderful to see those come before us, pave that way, be a depiction of what that can look like, and shatter those boxes of what that mold may have been limited to in the past.
Maureen Connolly: It's inspiring for sure. And I know I didn't call anyone specifically out. I feel like there’s, it's almost the norm that I work with these amazing women, these amazing moms. We've talked a lot about the breadth and scope of PepsiCo. You have women in all different parts of their life, all different, you know, seasons, and so it's really just inspiring to see them all navigate, you know, go from being single to maybe married and then having their first child and coming back to work. And it's all just really inspiring to me to see PepsiCo as an organization that supports us through it all, whatever phase of life you might be in.
Gabi Carachilo: It's amazing. It's amazing. Looking back on your work experiences, is there something that stands out as a valuable lesson learned?
Maureen Connolly: I would say something recently, I won't take credit for this, but something that I heard over the past couple of months that has really resonated with me as I continue to think about my career and even supporting others and theirs, is that oftentimes I felt like early in my career, I would shy away from challenging roles. I would hesitate to take on new projects, whether I, not even necessarily, I didn't believe in myself, but I might've just not felt like it was the right fit, or overall just shied away from something. But some advice I got recently was you should find situations and you should run towards them. Things that scare you, you should be seeking those types of opportunities out. And I've heard that before, again, it's not necessarily original. But over the past couple of months, I've been reflecting on that a lot. And I think it's amazing advice. Like the amount of growth that you can get from chasing opportunities that scare you. Accepting stretch projects that you might not even feel ready for, but maybe a mentor tapped you for, or you've just been told it could be a good experience, you know, looking past that and seeing that, hey, there can be a lot of growth here, run to those things that scare you as opposed to shying away has been something that's easier said than done, but important to keep at the forefront, I think, as you continue to just build out on the personal side as well as professionally. How are you seeking those opportunities that will really stretch you and push you in a way that you might not have even thought possible?
Gabi Carachilo: I love that advice. And it's not just seeking them out, it's running after them, chasing after them. There's something to that. That's amazing. I'll have to reflect on that and keep that in mind. And with those stretch assignments or new opportunities or those areas that can feel a little uncomfortable, they present challenges, right? Challenges that we all have to work through. And we mentioned it earlier that the past few years have been incredibly challenging in many ways. What are you doing differently as a result? And do you have any advice for our audience on how to persevere through those challenges?
Maureen Connolly: Yes, definitely. It's been a crazy last few years. I would say one of the biggest things for me is just continued empathy. Again, not a revolutionary concept, but I think the more that you can be empathetic and just understand that, again, that expression, you don't know what anyone is battling and in a certain day and just being open and being a space for people to come to if they need it. And also just acknowledging that on the other end of the phone or in a meeting, whatever it might be that someone might be going through a lot and just being empathetic to that in these challenging times that we've had the past couple of years and just will likely continue to have, I think is really important. And something I've been doing a little bit more just in terms of empathy and my advice to others is within your friends, within your work network, whatever it might be, there's a lot of power in being vulnerable with your colleagues and with friends. I think I tend to skew a little bit more on being a closed book as opposed to an open book. But I think particularly over the last couple years, I have found tremendous value and insight in just being a bit more open on, “Hey, I'm struggling with this.” “Hey, I've been going through this. Can you maybe provide a perspective or give some advice?” I think there's something really powerful about just opening yourself up a little bit more. Oftentimes other people have either gone through the same challenges as you or have already worked through what you're trying to work through, and so I think. The more that you can kind of open yourself up and leverage the people around you that want to help you, that want to see you succeed. Again, I've just found tremendous value in that. I feel like it's brought me closer to people and opened up my relationships in a whole new way. So yeah, I would say empathy is a big one, but also just being vulnerable and, you know, allowing yourself to open up to people so they can also open right back up to you as well.
Gabi Carachilo: I agree wholeheartedly. I think it creates such a great level of trust among teams as well. When you can have that safe place to have those authentic, empathetic, maybe slightly vulnerable discussions. And I love to see that that's something that you're practicing among your team. Next up is one of my favorite sections and it's our fast five questions. Are you ready to jump in?
Maureen Connolly: I hope so. Let's do it.
Gabi Carachilo: All right. My first question for you, Maureen, is what is your favorite way to practice self care?
Maureen Connolly: Ooh, good one. Okay, this is probably, I don't know if there's bad answers here, but I am a big sleeper. I love sleep. I prioritize it over a lot of things in life. So I would say my best way to practice self care is if I can strategically get to bed early. There’s nothing more relaxing to me than being in bed early, putting my phone down, and just having a moment to myself before I really shut eye and go to bed, as well as in the morning. I think having a peaceful night's rest, whether that's like going to bed or even finding time for a nap that reenergizes me in a lot of ways. So, big sleeper, really try to prioritize it because I know it just, it makes me better emotionally, physically, just makes me a more well-rounded person. That's my version of self care is ensuring that I prioritize things that I know will help me in the day and a big one for me is sleep.
Gabi Carachilo: I love it. And no, there's no bad answer or wrong answer here. I am a lover of sleep as well, especially after having kids. I'll take sleep anytime I can get it. Number two, any books, podcasts, or resources that you'd like to recommend to our audience?
Maureen Connolly: So I'll be honest, on the book front, I actually, I tend to skew a bit more light beach reads. We're coming out of the summer, that's typically where I do a lot of my reading. I love the Reese Witherspoon top book list or any of the summer books. My favorite one I read this year was The Guest List. That was a great one, that was a nice beach read. I use honestly books oftentimes as a bit of an escape, just light, easy reads there. But actually from the podcast front, I have recently been kind of relistening to the How I Built This podcast where they interview different entrepreneurs. And I know that's been around a while, but I continue to be inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit. I think oftentimes within our PepsiCo eCommerce org, we tend to embody that too, a lot of the work that we do is, you know, net new, cutting-edge in a way. And so I think. Even though we've been on this eCommerce journey for a little while now, it's inspiring to me to be reminded of all the risks that people took to start these mega companies and they failed more times than they succeeded before, you know, things really took off. So I listened to one recently from the founder of Vuori, which is like an activewear brand that I personally love. So it's just a good way to connect these national brands that you love or websites, whatever it might be. To the people that built them and I'm always just inspired and so wildly impressed by everyone that comes on there.
Gabi Carachilo: Amazing. My next question is, what is your favorite PepsiCo product?
Maureen Connolly: My favorite PepsiCo product is, I'm a big sparkling water drinker. PepsiCo owns Bubly, it's a sparkling water brand. I'll take any flavor any time of the day. Such a good brand, so much variety. So that's definitely my favorite and it's, you know, fairly new over the last couple of years. So just a cool way that PepsiCo has been able to innovate and it's become a fan favorite, myself as a prime example of that. So, Bubly.
Gabi Carachilo: I am a fan of Bubly as well. We are sparkling water house. That's for sure.
Maureen Connolly: Awesome.
Gabi Carachilo: At Fairygodboss, we have a special tradition where we encourage our guests to share a moment of pride and accomplishment and we believe that by celebrating our achievements, we not only empower ourselves, but inspire others as well. So, could you please share with us a personal or professional accomplishment that you are especially proud of?
Maureen Connolly: Yes, I was actually able to receive an award this year at PepsiCo. It was called the Ring of Honor. It was a sales award and it was a really awesome award to win because there was a big three day event that took place to kind of honor all of the 200 PepsiCo winners that received this award. And the other cool part of this award, it was a fully global sales award. So they brought in all 200 global sales associates from every part of the world to one's place to celebrate for three days. So not only was it, you know, an honor to win the award, but it was a really memorable PepsiCo experience for me because I was meeting people from all walks of life, all different career trajectories and history. nd to be with fellow colleagues that I had never met before that do, you know, similar things to me, but in completely different parts of the globe, to have a forum with everyone to come together and be celebrated was one of the coolest and most memorable things that have happened to me, definitely career wise ever and just in general is something I'll never forget. So really, really was humbled and honored to have received that award, which was a ton of fun. And then on the personal side, I actually ran my first marathon last year. If you knew me in college, again, I played sports all my life, but like not a distance runner, I would say max I did was like three miles and tapped out, but really pushed myself to run a marathon, kind of a bucket list item that I wanted to do. So I was able to run the New York City Marathon last year, which was a huge personal accomplishment. And not only is it just completing the race, but also the newfound community that you find with exploring a different hobby or a different passion, like in this case, distance running, was also super impactful and inspiring to me. So I ran New York last year and I'm doing another one in a couple of weeks. So it's kind of been a newfound hobby for me, which again, just knowing Kind of that this wasn't in my wheelhouse several years ago, but I've kind of been inspired and found a newfound passion for it has been really fun and something I'm proud of.
Gabi Carachilo: That is amazing. Both personal and professional achievements. Congratulations. Those are no small feats and something very, very much to be proud of.
Maureen Connolly: Thank you.
Gabi Carachilo: Well, we have reached the end of our conversation, which I've really, really enjoyed. And I have one final question, which is what would be the number one piece of advice you'd like to leave our audience with?
Maureen Connolly: My biggest piece of advice, I touched on it earlier, two things, one, leverage the people around you to help you. There's likely no need to reinvent the wheel on most things in life. People are the best resource that you can possibly find, whether that's in your personal life or your professional life. Opening yourself up to the people around you is only going to make you so much stronger. So that's one. And then the second piece of advice that again, I'm really honing in on these days is just find those things that challenge you and run to them. The amount of growth that you can experience by seeking out challenging, maybe stressful, potentially difficult situations is really what's going to push you and fuel you into that next step. And at the end of the day, we're all just seeking to grow personally and professionally. And the best way to do that is sprinting to those challenging situations and just tackling them head on.
Gabi Carachilo: Absolutely. Well, here's to sprinting after those opportunities. What a wonderful discussion, Maureen. Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate your time, your advice, and for you sharing your stories with us. It was great.
Maureen Connolly: Awesome. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.
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