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Interview: Suzanne Davies, Career at Pepsi Co Future Brands

4 min read
AUTHOR: Grace Williams contributor: Suzanne Davies

Can you tell us where your career began?

When I was younger at school, I actually really didn’t like science. Which is funny, because now I’m a STEM advocate for Pepsi Co to get more people into the food industry. I feel like I am talking to my old-self, trying to persuade myself to go into it.

Originally I was very interested in nutrition, personal training, fitness and I did Food Technology at A-Level. I started studying Nutrition at Nottingham and attended a few Food Science modules and realised I love science applied to foods, so I actually changed my degree after first year to split Food Science and Nutrition. Once I knew the vast amount of jobs available in the food industry, I stuck with that as my career focus for the future.“Understanding how a business works, how teams work, how the politics works, you can’t really be taught it until you’re embedded into a company, like Pepsi Co, where you absorb it all really quickly.”

For me I was focused on nutrition and personal training when I first started university. After one year at university, my mindset shifted to actually there are a huge amount of jobs available in the food industry and it’s a really exciting place to go to and I made the change over and don’t regret the decision!

Did you do a placement during university and do you feel university prepared you for the working world?

I did a placement between my second and third year at Pepsi Co which set me up to return to the company once graduating. When I did graduate, I decided to do a Masters in Research whilst working full-time. The fundamental building blocks of the science that I was taught at Nottingham was critical for me to do my research when I graduated, for example, starch chemistry, building on analytical methods, like RVA and DSE’s.“There is also the soft skills element, it’s not just about the technical food science knowledge.”

Nottingham had a module all about problem-based learning. We got given a problem, we were given two days to solve it and then present it back. The reality of that is that set me up perfectly for real life and going into work. We probably get longer than two days, but we still get given a problem where we need to hypothesize what the issue is, challenge, test and then present back to senior leaders about how we think we can solve it. All of those modules were really relevant to be able to do my job after graduating.

What role did your placement play in readying you for a career in the food industry?

My placement year at Pepsi Co was in the snacking department and it was focused on emerging markets. It was a crazy place, we had a pilot plant facility that we could use to develop products based in Italy. So I flew to Italy 14 times on my placement year! I met a lot of people in the company, as well as other companies. It really helped build my network and soft skills. Nottingham could prepare you to a certain extent on the soft skills, but understanding how a business works, how teams work, how the politics works, you can’t really be taught it until you’re embedded into a company, like Pepsi Co, where you absorb it all really quickly.

Pepsi Co really expect you to deliver, there’s a huge opportunity in a big company, you have a lot of responsibility early on and then it grows throughout the year if you’re willing to take it on. It’s almost expected when you come in that you’ll be treated like a full-time employee and you need to deliver results for the business. So that combined with final year, really set me up to go back into industry after graduation. 

Video interview conducted on 24th March during Careers event, ‘Future-proofing sustainable nutritious product development’.

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