Alumni IFBC

What does Aleksandra

as Digital Associate, Digital Data at PepsiCo, UK

What have you been up to since graduating?

Plenty! Right after graduating I moved from Germany back to Poland for a fantastic summer, only to move again in September to start a new adventure. Right before handing in my thesis I found out I have been accepted into the Digital Grad programme at PepsiCo UK. I’ve done two rotations there, one in ecomm and one in data, insights and marketing. Once my programme has ended I’ve moved to London and took on a permanent role in digital data.

Besides that, I’ve been traveling and camping along the British coastline (pre-lockdown, of course) and baking plenty of sourdough bread.

Any challenge that you face?

I’d say the biggest challenge was finding my way around a corporate environment and dealing with ‘impostor syndrome.’ But once you get into the rhythm of your work and start seeing it come to life and be appreciated, all those worries go away.

How did you get your current position?

It was a crazy process! I was trying to procrastinate writing my thesis and went on LinkedIn, where I saw a sponsored post mentioning a competition. The idea was simple: come up with an innovative solution for PepsiCo and you can win great prizes and a job!

I remembered one project we’ve done in Innovative Product Development and thought it was great enough to turn it into a winning idea. The first stage was a simple one, where I prepared a one-page PPT presentation and recorded a one-minute video of myself talking about it. Surprisingly, I went into the second stage, where I developed that idea into a longer presentation. That too was accepted and I moved on to the next stage, where I worked with a real manager from the company to build my business case.

The last stage were finals in Reading, UK, where over two days all finalists presented their ideas (amazing ones, really!) and got to know the company more. A few days later I found out my project was really liked and I was offered a spot in the programme! The whole process took about three months and was a great experience.

My first rotation was in sales, where I was really dropped off the deep end and go to explore my strengths and weaknesses. After 6 months I decided I love working with numbers and analysing them, but also doing some more creative work and that’s exactly the placement I got in the second round. I worked in 3 teams and under 3 managers, so time-planning was essential, but for sure I learned a lot! After that rotation ended, I decided to stay with one of the teams and here we are now.

The medium of communication at work is English and sometimes Polish when catching up with local teams. We’ll be launching the system I’m working on in Germany soon, so I hope to brush up on the language then.

What was your motivation for choosing that job?

I just really enjoyed the challenge of the competition! To be fair, I applied for a slightly different programme than what I got in the end, but seeing everything from the perspective of time, I wouldn’t have done anything differently.

I stayed with the data team, because I enjoyed working with them and the projects I was given – as soon as I started, we kicked off a massive one, that’s still in progress today! But a great thing about a company like PepsiCo is, you really get to explore things you’re passionate about. You like what some other teams are doing and would like to learn more? Simply grab a coffee with them and get involved!

Do you have opportunities in other European countries? If yes where, if no, why not.

Yes, I work in ‘centre of excellence’, which means I’m working with all of our European teams. Before lockdown, we were planning a road trip, where we’d go to a different country each month and present our system. Also, relocation to a different market is always a possibility if you plan it well enough with your managers (since we’re a digital team, working remotely was never a problem).

And since we have offices all over the place, it’s not uncommon for people to work from a different location. One year I went back home for the whole of December and worked from our Warsaw office to be closer with my family.

What experience do you take out of the IFBC programme?

Oh, so many great experiences! Amazing people and really fascinating study subjects. You really learn the soft skills required by any job (working in teams and under pressure, project management and planning) and open your mind to so many new ideas.

And yes, I think I feel prepared for the job. Even though my work right now is not precisely in food business (although for a massive food business), I think I couldn’t have got it without having studied IFBC. All of those skills mentioned above, thirst for innovation and openness to change and experiences are necessary in any fast-moving environment. I think those are the skills you gain in IFBC. Of course next to top-class food knowledge.

Did you have an idea where IFBC will lead you or was the content of the programme an eye opener to you?

I had an idea, but the way it was taught was a massive surprise! In my home country, university is a more serious school. You listen to the professors and get to ask questions but not really exchange ideas in a diverse environment like IFBC. Also, the demands of studying at two universities were definitely a surprise, but such a positive one!

What advice will you give to your 18-year-old-self?

Stop worrying so much, it’s going to be grand!