Building a diverse workforce is firmly on the agenda for PepsiCo

Janssen is only 100 days into a new role at PepsiCo, having joined from Diageo where she spent nearly six years, most recently as Director of Global Sales Operational Excellence.

Interviewee: Ivanka Janssen – Vice President, Supply Chain, Europe, Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, PepsiCo

Before Diageo, Janssen worked at Philip Morris for 12 years, and with almost her entire career spent in supply chain at two major multinationals, she is now looking forward to taking on a third.

“PepsiCo is a true fast-moving consumer goods company,” she says, “and it’s so large, with so much complexity, that from a supply chain perspective it just feels like a beautiful organisation.”

Though she says it is early days to identify the company’s supply chain challenges, she is clear that there are three things on her agenda: diversity, end-to-end supply chain synchronization and innovation.

The first is something of a passion for Janssen, who is the founder and head of the Female Leaders in Supply Chain Network, which aims to increase the number of women in senior supply chain jobs, and has thousands of members on LinkedIn.

Janssen says PepsiCo – like so many others – needs to build a more diverse workforce, especially in operations, and she has personally committed to making that change and starting to build the supply chain of the future.

Her motivation comes from sourcing the best talent for the industry: “The shortage of supply chain talent will get bigger unless organisations focus on supporting universities, where the talent has to come from, to really promote supply chain as an interesting place to have a career. Young kids want to go into digital, or into small start-ups, or content creation. Traditional supply chain roles, and running manufacturing sites, sits absolutely outside that nexus, so it’s very difficult to attract young people and keep them motivated and interested.”

She continues: “When you talk about the gender piece, the issue becomes even more interesting. If we don’t tap into 50% of the population, knowing that it’s already difficult to attract people into these jobs, the problem gets even bigger.”

Janssen describes the challenge as a chicken and egg situation – operations are such male-dominated functions that they become tough environments for young women to enter, and so it is hard to break the cycle.

She says that she has never experienced any blockages, or felt that she couldn’t work her way up through the ranks, but admits that it has taken a certain attitude, and a lot of stamina, to get on. But, she adds: “It’s 2016 – we have driverless cars. It’s not logical that we still need to talk about having an equal number of females going up through the ranks to senior positions.”

While passionate about supporting women to progress their careers, Janssen’s other great love is supply chains. She has been working on the supply side since 1996, when her first job after graduating in economics was as a management trainee at Europe Combined Terminals, and she found herself, “by pure coincidence”, focusing on supply chain and logistics. From there she went to Philip Morris, initially as Customer Service and Logistics Manager, and worked her way through every aspect of the supply chain until she became Global Supply Chain Planning & Supply Chain Integration Director in 2008. She left for Diageo, as Managing Director Global Supply Chain, in 2010.

“I’m really pleased my career went like that,” she says. “I think supply chain is the real integrator between the two sides of a business, between the customer side and the manufacturing, commercial side. You see both sides and you get a very good understanding of the total business.”

She expects the function to continue to grow in relevance: “If you look forward, supply chain is still a bit underestimated as part of organisations and of the economy. The entire world is going to be one big supply chain, because everybody wants to start ordering everything online and everybody wants things delivered tomorrow, or preferably today. We are going to see new ways of purchasing goods, of picking them up, and everything is going to be much more network-related.”

And so to her second challenge at PepsiCo, which she says concerns a possible move into ecommerce, and the logistical changes that might result. “When I was at Diageo, I recall the CEO once saying, ‘In Europe, we have strong brands, and they sell by themselves. But where we can have an edge is in how we get them to consumers,’” says Janssen. “Without supply chain, the world would stand still. Then, with ecommerce, we get into a completely different ballgame.”

The third thing on her PepsiCo agenda is innovation: “Consumers are going to be very demanding when it comes to new things coming on to the market,” she says. “For supply chain, that can be a headache or it can be an opportunity to support top-line growth. We have to think about how we set up our supply chains and go-to-market operations so as to really support the innovation agenda.”

Over the last decade, Janssen says she has witnessed the role of supply chain changing significantly, as large companies appoint chief supply officers to their boards with equal clout to those in charge of marketing, finance and sales.

But her focus is on continuing to attract the brightest and best young talent into the field, regardless of what people have studied at university: “For me,” she says, “when you think about running a plant, of course it helps if you have an affinity with technology, but I don’t have a technology background and I still get excited about running an operation. So it’s not about the university education. It’s about the attitude of people, and if they have the ability to think conceptually, they can be very successful in supply chain.”

Janssen landed on her feet when she fell into supply chain on that management trainee scheme, and she would like to see more effort made to encourage graduates into similar careers. After all, it has served her well: “Supply chain has a real voice at the top now, and is recognised as delivering both bottom line and top line growth,” she says. “All three of the organisations that I have worked in have realised over time that supply chain is an absolutely crucial part of business success.”

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