Indra Nooyi wins Outstanding Woman in Business Award

Indra Nooyi

Five things that made all the difference in trailblazer Indian American’s journey to the top.

Indra Nooyi, former Indian American CEO of PepsiCo, received the Outstanding Woman in Business award last week from the League of Women Voters of Connecticut celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Nooyi. a long-time resident of Greenwich in Connecticut, was given the award in recognition of her stellar career that continues to inspire millions of women of color across the US and around the world.

But what is it that Nooyi did differently to make her way to the top? As one of the most successful Indian American CEOs ever adds another award to her long list, here are five key lessons to take from Nooyi’s life:

Leaders are not born, they are cultivated

Nooyi has often talked about how her childhood upbringing gave her the confidence and the courage to think she can dare.

As a child, Nooyi along with her sister would be asked on the dinner table by their mom to imagine themselves to be presidents, world leaders or somebody significant and give a speech.

Their mom would then choose the winner from the duo. This little play set the foundation for letting the girls dare to dream they could be anybody they wanted.

This lesson helped Nooyi later on in life to tackle any problem that came her way with confidence.

Make choices that come from the heart

As the CEO of PepsiCo, Nooyi took the company to greater heights. Their tried and tested products were doing great, but Nooyi decided to venture into healthy drinks and snacks too.

This move created some push back from the investors, but Nooyi thought of herself first as a consumer and then a business woman.

She thought of what would work best in the interest of consumers and would she herself want to snack on healthy food?

The answer was a resounding yes. After a brave start, the company registered profits coming from health food category

Never be afraid of newer technologies

It is sometimes more comforting to be in your comfort zone or try to operate within the boundaries you are comfortable with. But for Nooyi this approach was leaving out a lot to be accomplished.

So, in the midst of her career, when she felt there was a need to overhaul PepsiCo’s IT system, she decided to be in the forefront and take the lead.

Never mind, the fact that it was a new territory for Nooyi herself and she had to read dozens of books on the subject and even take lessons and important tips from experts in the field.

She invested her time, energy and even precious holiday hours to understand the system.

Next time, any new technology stops you from venturing near, go ahead and give it your best. If you can’t master it, you can at least learn it.

Bring in compassion to your workforce

A true leader is one who makes tough choices, but is not unaware of the challenges and responsibilities that come along with leading a team.

Nooyi showed to those who worked with her that compassion and recognition goes a long way.

She sometimes wrote a letter of gratitude and acknowledgement to a colleague’s parents and thanked them for their contributions in shaping their child’s career.

Imagine a CEO taking out time to thank their employees’ parents? Isn’t it a special touch?

Accept you can’t have it all

While men or women in power may seem from a distance as human beings with super abilities who can handle work-life balance perfectly.

But Nooyi in her various speeches and interviews maintained that it was impossible to have it all.

She accepted many times that it is tough to be a woman in the workplace because just as you are beginning to do great you realize you want children, then the kids need you, then your husband needs you more as middle age strikes followed by your parents who may be old and aging. So, it’s not easy and it is okay to prioritize.


Indian American trailblazer Indra Nooyi inducted into Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (November 20, 2019)

Indian American Indra Nooyi inducted into Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (November 18, 2019)

Indra Nooyi shortlisted by White House to lead the World Bank (January 16, 2019)

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