Paths To Success: Five Career Lessons To Learn From Indra Nooyi

When Indra Nooyi left her home in south India to study at Yale, she departed with the understanding that doing so would make her “an absolutely unmarriageable commodity.” Today, the investment has paid off—Nooyi is both married and the CEO of the giant multinational food and drink company, PepsiCo. Here are five career lessons that you can learn from the woman in charge of Lay’s, Pepsi, Cheetos and Doritos.

Be a rebel.

Growing up in Chenai, Tamil Nadu, India, Nooyi played cricket and was a guitarist in a band, activities that were rare for girls in her social strata. She continued to rebel against convention by moving to America to attend university, disregarding social pressures and chasing her career ambitions.

Recognize the importance of education.

Regardless of her financial aid at Yale, Nooyi struggled to get by, working as an overnight receptionist and wearing a sari to an interview at a prestigious firm because she could not afford a business suit. Despite these difficult circumstances, Nooyi’s dedication to her education motivated her to push on.

Form strong work partnerships.

When Nooyi’s longtime colleague, Steven Reinemund, was promoted to CEO of PepsiCo, Reinemund refused to accept the position unless Nooyi served as his second in command. In this way, Nooyi’s close connection to her coworker led to her promotion from Chief Financial Officer to President of the corporation.

Have a “hip-pocket skill.”

Nooyi claims that every worker should strive to cultivate a “hip-pocket skill,” a special ability that makes a person uniquely useful in the workplace. Nooyi’s skill is her ability to express a complex idea in simple terms, which she credits as being a primary reason behind her ascendance at PepsiCo.

Learn career skills everywhere—even at the game!

One of the trademarks of a great thinker is that the person is constantly learning, absorbing knowledge from the unlikeliest places. Nooyi, for example, enjoys watches championship-game replays of the Chicago Bulls to study teamwork concepts that she can later apply in the workplace.

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