Learning the PepsiCo Way

Casey Mendoza

Casey Mendoza

Guest Writer

This is part of Das Tor’s ongoing Internship Insights series, in which second-year students write about their summer internship experiences.

My name is Casey Mendoza. I’m originally from Beaverton, Oregon. I graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Business, a concentration in Global Politics and a minor in Spanish. Towards the completion of my undergraduate degree, I realized my interests were majorly in business management and global cultures. I wanted to pursue a career path that  utilized my desire to understand how culture impacts the business decision-making process and enhances communities. This would fulfill my desire of learning and working internationally.

The big question I had was ‘how would it happen’  because I honestly had absolutely no clue. All I was certain about was the need to connect with like-minded individuals that felt the same way.

I researched several international MBA and MiM programs before I finally came across Thunderbird. It was here that I felt totally at home. Now, I am surrounded by a network that is as culturally curious as I am.  

How I got my internship

I landed my summer internship as Supply Chain Operations Intern at PepsiCo  by attending the company sessions at Thunderbird. By taking advantage of the Thunderbird network, you accelerate the interview process and ultimately have an extra edge. 

I was looking for a supply chain role and wanted to gain added experience in that field. I was in attendance when PepsiCo presented their supply chain operations internship to Thunderbird. I immediately emailed my resume to their recruiter, and they reached out to schedule an interview the following week. 

 At that point, I filled out a formal application and began preparing. Angelique and the CMC (Thunderbird Career Management Center) were instrumental in helping me to prepare for the interview. After a mock interview with them where I practiced interview questions and STAR stories, I felt excited and prepared. 

During the 45-minute interview, I let my personality shine, realizing that PepsiCo hires people based on their fit with company culture as much as their subject knowledge. For every question they asked, I had a STAR story ready. However, I think it might have been the questions that I asked the panel at the end of the interview that excited them most and connected us on a deeper level. After the 45 minute behavioral interview was completed, we spent an additional 30 minutes chatting about how Covid had affected their supply chain and how PepsiCo was integrating 4th IR technologies into their supply chain. The conversation was great! 

 A few hours after that interview, they called back with an offer. This story highlights that though the hiring duration could take awhile, it could also be very quick. Sometimes all it takes is a week–and a company that’s the right fit–for everything to change in your favor. 

More about PepsiCo

Going into PepsiCo, I was aware they made Pepsi soda and Lay’s chips, but there is so much more to the company below the surface. They own 23-billion-dollar brands, they have a global reach, and a major focus of their company is making a positive social impact by focusing on sustainable initiatives and utilizing their supply chain network. For example, because so many children rely on their schools to provide their lunches, PepsiCo fills this void in the summer when the children are out of school by using their distribution network to bring lunches to underserved communities. 

PepsiCo’s CEO, Ramon Laguarta, is a Thunderbird alum who is an outspoken leader in business sustainability, diversity, and inclusion. PepsiCo values their workforce, offers a competitive salary, nurtures their global community, cherishes a work life balance, and values “winning with purpose.” Their senior leadership holds the same values that their junior leaders hold. They look for people who share these motivations to join their team. Many staff there change positions every 2-4 years, so staff are always advancing, learning, and growing. PepsiCo also has extremely accessible leadership, so you are always learning from the best in the company. For example, during my internship, I was able to have a 1-on-1 with the West Region VP of Supply Chain, the Senior VP of Optimization, and the Senior VP of Supply Chain, who reports directly to the CEO of Frito Lay. 

My role in the company

During my internship with PepsiCo, I worked out of a distribution center (DC) in Spokane, Washington. A DC is an intermediary between a manufacturing plant and the product’s final destination. After the products are made at a manufacturing plant, the finished goods are trucked to the DC, which then distributes them to the individual store. A fun fact I learned is that Frito Lay does Direct to Store Delivery (DSD), so every bag you see at a store–whether it be at a Walmart, 99 cent store, or gas station–was put there by a Frito Lay employee.

Every day was new and interesting while working at Frito Lay. Some days I would meet and learn from various supply chain leaders, while other days I would work in the warehouse, analyze product allocation, go on “ride alongs” to deliver the products, work on my assigned intern project, or participate in different virtual intern events. 

I was tasked with several different projects during the internship. One was preparing our distribution center for a third-party safety audit. It was my sole responsibility to check every facet of the operations to ensure we were ready for the comprehensive audit. I was proud to be given such a meaningful project, and I felt very supported by my managers who would answer any technical questions I had. One of my projects was related to warehouse allocation. This entailed using various operations platforms to analyze the warehouse and ensure that every product was at the most efficient spot to be picked by warehousers. I would inspect certain metrics like volume, product type, and product size and then submit modifications to my manager to rearrange the product placement in the warehouse and increase picking efficiency.  Flexibility was permitted throughout the internship. If I wanted to learn how to pick in the warehouse, they would set it up. If I wanted to meet someone from the strategy department, or from a different business unit, all you had to do was ask. If I was interested in shadowing another position, they would make time for it. When I indicated interest in something else, I needed to be proactive and make a request, and they would oblige or pass me along to someone who could.

My advice to other students

For those interested in working for PepsiCo, be duly aware that an important aspect of their hiring is finding people that are good cultural fits. For any company of interest, make sure you do your research on company priorities, including what the company culture looks like and how you would fit into it. I also recommend knowing their main brands, plus knowing what your favorite product is (mine are the Lays Sabor Jamón Presunto and Doritos Hot Limon). I also recommend that during the interview process you reach out to CMC for interview support and assistance in developing STAR stories that you can apply for various questions and scenarios. For example, I had one STAR story that I could use to demonstrate a time I led a team, a time I had to manage people, a time I had to deal with a challenging team member, etc. Most importantly, sell your personality. Companies are critical as to who they allow to join their team, so you want to make sure you are demonstrating qualities of someone they would want to work with. 

Ultimately, I highly recommend utilizing the career resources at Thunderbird and reaching out to your Thunderbird network. Be patient and continue pushing so when you land an interview, you can really let yourself shine.

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