Quick Question

PepsiCo’s Jane Wakely Is On A Mission To Level Up Your Snack Break

"I get a thrill when I know that we've made a small moment of joy in someone's life.”

In Bustle’s Quick Question, we ask women leaders all about advice — from the best guidance they’ve ever gotten to what they’re still figuring out. Here, PepsiCo chief marketing offer and chief growth officer Jane Wakely shares her best career advice, favorite college courses, and why she always peeks into her friends’ cabinets.

As a kid, British-born Jane Wakely hoped to be a prima ballerina or the prime minister when she grew up. At the time, she definitely couldn’t envision the role of chief consumer and marketing officer at PepsiCo, aka the big name behind Doritos, Cheetos, Quaker Oats, Gatorade, 7UP, and, of course, Pepsi. But now that she’s one year into the job, she says it couldn’t feel like a better fit.

Throughout her career, which includes 20 years at Mars, Wakely has completely fallen in love with what it means to market brands. She even admits to peeking in cabinets when visiting friends just to see what they’re eating and drinking. “I'm vastly annoying when I go to a friend's house, because if I open the cupboard and they aren’t using our brands, I get very curious as to why,” the 50-year-old tells Bustle. “I even get a thrill when I look in the rubbish bin and see what's the share of trash.”

Wakely lights up when she spots friends or strangers using PepsiCo products, and she’s incredibly loyal to the brands she’s marketed, too. “You can look in my makeup bag or in my cabinets and find all the brands I've worked on,” she says. “Once you have a brand in your heart and soul as a marketer, it never leaves you.”

Here, Wakely shares her morning routine, the project she’s most excited about, and her advice for anyone who feels overwhelmed.

What does an average day look like for you at PepsiCo?

There is no average day, and that's another thing I love about my job. Sometimes my role is very creative and all about insight and understanding people. Other times, it's very scientific. The role of a marketer is to be a growth architect, which means you have to be analytical and understand repeatable patterns of behavior.

It's all based on understanding how people think, how they make decisions, and what people care about, but it's also based on empathy and creativity. I believe creativity and intuition can be huge magnifiers of the science of both. Bringing those two things together is what really gets me out of bed.

How do you get ready in the morning?

I have a little routine where I wake up and do 15 to 20 minutes of yoga every morning. I also have a pint of water, and then I do a brain dump where I write lists and get everything out of my head. I think, “What's the one thing that I can do today to lighten my shoulders and lighten the load for others?” There are always a hundred things I need to do, but I try to do that one thing — and it’s often the hardest or the thing I’ve been avoiding.

Do you do anything special to get pumped up before a big meeting?

About 20 minutes before a meeting, I’ll get into the zone. If I feel like the adrenaline's not flowing, sometimes I'll call someone to give me a pep-up talk. Once I’m in the zone, I relax, take a deep breath, and just be myself.

What would you say prepared you most for your current role?

At university, I discovered subjects like psychology, sociology, and organizational behavior that I hadn't even heard of at the age of 17 or 18. They opened my eyes to whole new areas of thinking, which I think shaped my love of being in an industry that's trying to improve people's lives and bring smiles to billions every day.

What project are you most excited about right now?

The Doritos brand is a triangle in a world of circles. It’s a snack that is distinctive and stands out — the meaning of Doritos is all about bold self-expression. That's how we think about the Doritos brand and how we express it, so we’ve been asking, "OK, how might Doritos make a difference to the people and communities that perhaps are not able to boldly express their views?"

In different parts of the world, we've been trying to lift up and do our part to shine light in a positive way on communities whose voices are not well heard. In Latin America, for instance, we've chosen to support the LGBTQ+ community. The team there has developed this program called Pride All Year, which is a series of amazingly creative platforms and events that do just that.

What does it feel like when you’re out and spot someone drinking Pepsi or eating Doritos?

Oh, I always get a thrill. I get a thrill when I know that we've made a small moment of joy in someone's life.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Don't be obsessed about what's next; be obsessed with doing a great job and creating the most value in the role you currently have. No matter how junior or senior you are, often the gift you can bring to others and to the organization is way bigger than what's written on the job description, so think about how you can make the biggest contribution where you are.

Don't be shy of asking for more responsibility or showing how you can add value. The most exciting things I've done in my career were never given to me — I sought them out.

How do you decompress at the end of a long day?

If I'm at home, I love to go for a dog walk. My family has a labradoodle, Lola, who brings us so much joy. Before we had her we didn't walk that much, but now we literally fight over who gets to take her out.

What’s your advice for women who feel overwhelmed or stressed?

If you can figure out what's in balance and what’s not and have the agility to tackle the latter, then you’ll know what you need to dial up and what you need to dial down. And remember, no one's a superhero — none of us can be perfect, and that’s OK.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.