Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Indra Nooyi

Today Indra Nooyi, President and CFO of PepsiCo, Inc, came to speak at Sloan. I really liked her, but found her talk to be a bit more mixed. The topic she was supposed to be speaking about was "Diversity in Action." I kind of felt that the talk that resulted was like an Atkins diet sandwich: two really crappy pieces of bread surrounding some real quality stuff in the middle.

I did not like what she said about diversity (or, for that matter, the number of times she used the word "diversity.") She spoke at length about how PepsiCo tries to hire a diverse set of people, with at least half being minorities or women. I cannot stand demographic creation such as this. As a woman, I would rather not be hired than be hired because I am a woman.

For example, I once had words with a supervisor because I felt he did not treat women with equal respect as men. He told me that he feels very strongly about his women, and goes out of his way to hire and protect us. In that very statement, he revealed his different standards for treatment of the genders. While I appreciated that he thought he treated women well, the idea that he had to differentiate showed that I was still viewed as a woman, not as an engineer.

Anyhow, on to my bullet points. Like I wrote, I really liked Nooyi. When she spoke about her personal experiences, she was an engaging and intelligent speaker. She gave five C's that are essential for being a good leader:
1. Competency: What do you do best? Are you the "go to" person for this skill? Once you have this skill, never stop fine-tuning it.
2. Courage and conviction: Without these, you are not a leader; you are just another competent person.
2a. Confidence: You will find confidence comes from role models. She cited her mother as one of hers, having always believed in her. She then told a wonderful story about a bad suit-buying trip which resulted in her wearing a sari and being herself for an interview, which resulted in an offer from Booz Hamilton.
3. Consistency: This is about efficincy. Leaders erode trust when they waffle. There must be a logical reason for all choices.
4. Compass: Each of us has an internal compass which should know "true North." In other words, know yourself and your direction.
5. Coaching: Find supportive, encouraging, and blunt mentors. Mentors usually choose their mentees, so be sure to show off your other C's in your every day doings.

Hmmm...then my notes have such enlightening tidbits as "this diversity stuff is crap." I really don't like the whole affirmative action thing (at least as it pertains to myself), if you can't tell =) I just think it gives others the right to assume that I am where I am today, or that another minority is where he is today, due to our gender or ethnicity. I do think that a way to solve this is to be sure to recruit equally...that is give people equal opportunity to get the job, just don't hire or promote any differently.

Okay, this isn't a rant about my feelings, so back to the talk.

One thing I really liked is that she said that her competency is her problem solving. She has the ability to demystify the most complex situation, to assign others to it, and solve it. She said she was perceived for being like a dog given a bone once given a problem.

Her closing words were also very intelligent. She said there is no such thing as a work-life balance at her level or ones similar to it. Work becomes life, life becomes work. One must make tradeoffs constantly. One might not feel like he or she is good at anything, but one needs to be comfortable with who he or she is.

So, in short, a great speaker, but too bounded by the topic assigned for her speech.


Yoav said...

Here's another C: Counting. 2, 2a, 3... It's 6 Cs and not 5 ;)

Ilana said...

Thanks for making me laugh out loud in PDD, yoav! =D

Yoav said...

I can do it even when I'm not sitting in class... I impress myself...