Thinking Big and Bold at PepsiCo: A BHP Alum Shares Advice for New Hires

As you head off from this semester to start your summer internship or first full-time job, you may be wondering how you can make a big impact at your company right out of the gate. Courtney Duncan, BHP Class of 2012, and Kent Hoffman, a 2012 University of Michigan grad, work for PepsiCo in Finance and Marketing, respectively. They took the time to share how they were able to bring bold thinking to PepsiCo in their first few years on the job through a unique program called Connect Tank.

What is Connect Tank (CT) and how did it get started?

Courtney: Connect Tank, started in 2014, is PepsiCo’s very own version of Shark Tank! For the past 5+ years, PepsiCo has sent employees down to the SXSW Interactive conference to gather ideas that could be applied to our business. After my second year of attending, I struggled to find a way to get some traction behind the innovative ideas brought back. My committee within our Connect Employee Resource Group (think student orgs for grown-ups) set out to fix that. After a brainstorming session, we came up with Connect Tank—an 8-week development program that allowed teams of employees to vet out a solution to a topic gathered from SXSW culminating in a show during which teams stepped into the tank to pitch their proposed solution to a panel of Sharks (cross-functional Senior Leaders) for funding.

Courtney Duncan is involved in Employee Resource Groups (showcased on the wall pictured) to get unique experiences outside of her day-to-day role.

Courtney Duncan is involved in Employee Resource Groups (showcased on the wall pictured) to get unique experiences outside of her day-to-day role.

Why were you excited to get involved with Connect Tank?

Kent: CT provided an opportunity to network with and learn from great leaders in every department at PepsiCo. But what most excited me about Connect Tank was that it was led by recent undergrads from a variety of schools and departments. We were a group of passionate people who said, “Let’s go do this,” and made it happen. It’s inspiring to work with a group of employees who have a strong drive for results and a desire to collaborate.

What impact did Connect Tank have on PepsiCo?

C: In our first year of the show, all four of the teams that pitched their ideas received funding for activations that ranged from revamping how we talk to consumers to how we predict demand during inclement weather. Beyond that, CT set the tone for the “Think Bold” cultural shift that Frito-Lay values as part of its plan to build for a great future. Big growth doesn’t come without big thinking, and Connect Tank allows employees to step out of their day-to-day role to do that. We’re excited to see how year two of CT turns out as it has set a precedent for analysts making a splash from day one.

K: My CT project team, all first or second year analysts, developed an employee advocacy platform, which was funded by our CMO, Ram Krishnan. The application enables passionate employees at PepsiCo to share content about new product launches and brand programs with their friends and family on social media. Since receiving funding, we’ve launched at Frito-Lay HQ and have begun rolling out into the broader Frito-Lay organization. We even had an opportunity to meet and present the idea to the CEO of Frito-Lay, Tom Greco.

Kent Hoffman, far right, during his pitch with fellow analysts in Connect Tank.

Kent Hoffman, far right, during his pitch with fellow analysts in Connect Tank.

What kind of impact can you have at PepsiCo in an entry level role?

C: You come across unique opportunities to take your ideas straight to the top. When I worked on the Innovation Finance team, I sat down in the CFO’s office to present a holiday product that had challenging margins. I came in to ask him how we should proceed, and he instead flipped the question on me and told me to decide. Our executives understand that analysts spend a lot of time in the data to get the full story, so analysts have a very valued perspective on where we should stand on a proposition.

Tell me a favorite story about your time working on Connect Tank.

K: One of our goals for Connect Tank was to generate broad awareness of the event and inspire employees at every level to think like entrepreneurs. The challenge was that we had to break routine to achieve this – schedules are busy, attention is scarce, and time is limited. We dressed up someone from our team in a shark costume and had him take photos with employees during lunch. Was it a bit silly? Of course. Did every employee leave the cafeteria that day knowing about CT? Yes, and it resulted in great attendance at our premiere.

What tips would you have for students starting their first internship or job?

K: Focus your energy, drive for results, learn constantly, and have some fun!

C: Don’t be afraid to ask questions to A) allow yourself to learn most quickly and B) poke holes in the system. That’s how you can find inefficiencies and drive for change within your role. Companies are looking to you to bring a unique perspective to the table, so make sure to deliver on that.


Courtney Duncan is currently a Finance Sr. Analyst on the Net Sales Finance team in the Texas/Oklahoma region. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2012 with a B.B.A. in Business Honors/Finance and a B.A. in Hispanic Studies.

Kent Hoffman is currently a Marketing Sr. Analyst on the Lay’s Brand team. He graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2012 with a B.B.A. in Business Administration, concentration in Marketing.

Connect with us!

Twitter: @PepsiCoJOBS



BHP Students Making Positive Impacts in the Rio Grande Valley through New Organization

BHP students Sam Garcia, Nelson Chen and William Herbst joined up with BBA student Tom Jackson to form an innovative new student organization called the Sustainable Dairy Goat Initiative earlier this year to address poverty problems in the colonias of the Rio Grande Valley.

Garcia, who is from the Valley, came up with the idea after learning more about the concept of microfinancing to assist those in poverty, and using agriculture to overcome barriers to entry, during a class he took while studying abroad in Argentina. He was recently recognized for the initiative, receiving the University Unions Pal-Make A Difference Award.

Garcia raised goats growing up and had spent time in the colonias during mission trips, where he witnessed the extreme poverty first-hand. He put the two experiences together and realized that providing those families with goats could be a great form of microfinancing and could have a really positive impact on families in the area. He recruited his McCombs School friends and started the organization.

This past winter the group donated the first six goats to two families. “Most of the people in colonias are first generation Hispanics of undocumented immigrants and many have experience working with farm animals,” said Garcia. “These families are using the goats to provide for their family and sell products made from the goats.”

The organization is currently working on becoming a non-profit and securing their 501c3 status. They are focused on raising donations from various sources to expand the initiative. Their goal is to provide 10 families with three goats each next winter. These families will be encouraged to form a dairy cooperative to sell their products and share business expenses.

The group is excited about the future of the initiative and pleased with the support they have received so far, which includes a house resolution filed by State Representative Bobby Guerra, a partnership with La Union del Pueblo Unido (LUPE) of Hidalgo County, raising $600 through a campus-wide event, and securing numerous donations for the initiative.

To learn more about the initiative or become a member of the organization, visit the Sustainable Dairy Goat Initiative website.

Senior Class Breaks Records with Make-a-Mark Campaign

BHP Class of 2015 at the Make-a-Mark finale event.

BHP Class of 2015 at the Make-a-Mark finale event.

Every year, the BHP senior class coordinates and contributes to the Make-a-Mark scholarship campaign. The campaign plays a crucial role in the growth of the BHP by contributing needed funding for merit-based recruiting scholarships. This year’s campaign, which culminated this past Thursday with a finale event, was the most successful campaign to date!

The BHP Class of 2015 exceeded their $20,000 goal, raising $27,488 with 100 percent participation from their class. The campaign also received $63,036 in contributions from faculty and friends of the program. Long-time BHP supporters Will and Beverly O’Hara generously contributed $60,000 of those funds. The total raised from this year’s campaign was a whopping $90,524. These funds will go into the Make-a-Mark endowment, which spins off funding each year for merit-based scholarships.

Will and Beverly were present at the finale event and shocked everyone when Beverly announced that they were going to double the $30,000 they had initially agreed to contribute to the campaign to $60,000 to honor the class for such a successful campaign. They had initially pledged to match the $20,000 student goal dollar-for-dollar, with an additional $5,000 if the class reached $20,000, and another additional $5,000 if they had 100 percent participation.

Will O’Hara was an accounting lecturer for 10 years and taught the BHP Managerial Accounting (312H) class for two years before stepping away from the role in 2013. This year’s senior class was the last class he taught and Beverly wanted to honor Will and this class and celebrate their graduation in a special way.

“Make-a-Mark is not only about raising funds for scholarships, but also about developing a habit of giving back,” says Will O’Hara. “Being lucky enough to have taught BHP students was one of the most rewarding things I ever did and we wanted to say ‘farewell’ in a special way.”

The BHP’s dream is to offer fifty percent of students some kind of financial aid. The success of this year’s campaign has certainly contributed to that goal. A big thank you to the O’Haras, the BHP senior class, and the faculty who were so supportive of the campaign. Also a huge thank you to the 2015 Make-a-Mark committee and co-chairs, whose names are below, for leading such a successful campaign.

2015 Make-a-Mark Co-chairs: Neal Makkar and Morgan Lunday

2015 Make-a-Mark Committee: Elise Loney, Jacob Spangler, Melissa Jones, Kiefer Shenk, Tommy Moore, Adam Petras, Lisa Kao, Neha Vaidya, Angela Morisette, Becky Pickert

Will and Beverly O'Hara with co-chairs Morgan Lundy and Neal Makkar.

Will and Beverly O’Hara with co-chairs Morgan Lundy and Neal Makkar.

HBA Hosts Successful Incredible Race for McCombs Students

2015 Incredible Race

This past Sunday, the Honors Business Association held its third annual Incredible Race event, open to all McCombs students.  Organized by the External Affairs committee, this event is an effort for HBA to both connect with other McCombs organizations while also giving back to the Austin community.

In the race, teams of two were given cryptic clues to find the location of eight stations hidden around UT. Once they found the location of a station, they had to complete the station’s challenge to gain access to another clue. The first three teams to find all eight stations and complete the eight challenges were declared the winners.

This year, HBA chose to donate all event proceeds to the Micah 6 Food Pantry, a food bank for the homeless and impoverished located right next to the UT campus. HBA has been consistently volunteering at the pantry for several years, so this year’s Incredible Race became an opportunity to contribute financially to an organization to which HBA has gotten quite close.  HBA raised approximately $150 for the pantry.

This event is also HBA’s avenue to connect with other McCombs student organizations, as HBA traditionally partners with another McCombs organization to plan the race. This year, in an effort to grow HBA’s presence in the McCombs community, HBA worked with five McCombs organizations (a record-breaking number) to organize the event. These organizations are:

  • Asian Business Students Association
  • Black Business Students Association
  • Delta Sigma Pi
  • Hispanic Business Students Association
  • University Securities Investment Team

All in all, this year’s Incredible Race was a great success. Despite the fact that this event only started two years ago, it has grown tremendously. Hopes are high that it continues to grow and make an even bigger impact in the McCombs and Austin communities.

A huge thank you to the volunteers from all of the organizations that participated, and all of the participants who made this event a success!

2015 Incredible Race 2