Written by Amy Yu, BHP sophomore
Liz Williams, Chief Financial Officer of Taco Bell USA at Yum! Brands and a BHP alumna, visited BHP sophomores in their weekly Honors Lyceum course last Wednesday. Williams shared her wisdom and even brought free Doritos Locos Tacos coupons for everyone. With an undergraduate degree and MBA in marketing, Williams admits that her path to a CFO position at Taco Bell was not typical but says the marketing background has enriched her career.
Williams grew up in Iowa but fell in love with the University of Texas at Austin while on a college visit. While working towards a Business Honors and Marketing degree, she also found time to serve as president of the Texas Panhellenic Council and as a member of Student Government. She also interned at Dell when the company was still a “smaller start-up” with only a few employees and interns. After graduating in 1998, Williams stayed in Austin to work in brand management with Dell. She found that while she enjoyed her work, she wasn’t passionate about the high tech field and left to pursue an MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
After Northwestern, Williams went on to work for Boston Consulting Group. While working on different cases and projects there, she discovered a passion for consumer, retail and packaged goods. As a result, she left BCG for Yum! Brands in Dallas, where she led corporate strategy before choosing to specialize in the finance track within the company. She joined Taco Bell in 2011.
Williams said that though she has worked in several different and unrelated industries, the key to smooth transitions is to “let things pull you.” She noted that Yum! Brands pulled her into an industry she was already passionate about and she was excited to part of the team that introduced Doritos Locos Tacos and will soon be introducing Taco Bell breakfast to the public. She advised students to explore different industries and fields to discover what they love and attributed her much of her success to mentors that guided her and encouraged her to develop her potential when she was unsure of her own abilities.
The lyceum course stresses leadership and ethics, which Williams said she has had to address during her time in corporate America. She stressed the importance of “doing the right thing,”even when the correct choice may be difficult to make in the short-run. She also addressed the 2011 lawsuit against Taco Bell that claimed the chain did not use real meat in its products, saying that while the allegations were damaging and false, as a leader she treated the lawsuit and other obstacles as learning experiences.