What’s the first step to becoming an agent of change? For many, it is a form of self-knowledge: recognizing what moves us to make waves. Given her role as Senior Director, Insights and Strategy at PepsiCo, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Surbhi Martin, a 2018 First Mover Fellow, is finely attuned to questions of motivation and purpose. What stands out, though, in conversation with her, is the scope of that consideration: from the workings of the brain to the trends that change an industry.
How do you want to grow as a professional through participating in the fellowship?
I’m most interested in learning from other fellows, who represent not only diverse backgrounds and industries, but also different perspectives, on how business can effect positive and impactful change. I want to listen carefully to learn about their experiences and ways of approaching problems.
I was quite impressed by our first three-day in person seminar. The design of the program required us to be more vulnerable and thus enabled us to connect more authentically. By the third day, any posturing (including my own) seemed to have fallen away. Going forward, I’ll look for opportunities to recreate that context for deeper collaboration on my own teams.
What issue(s) do you think will decide the future of your industry?
Both what and how people are consuming foods & beverages is changing quite rapidly.
From trends such as the proliferation of different dietary preferences (e.g., paleo, vegan), to consumers seeking more authentic brands, to the growth of the delivery channel, there is a lot of disruption in the food & beverage industry right now. As consumer behavior drives many of these shifts, it’s an exciting time of opportunity for players large and small in the industry.
The appetite, ability and speed of scaled companies to innovate to address those changing preferences will impact the industry. I personally believe companies like PepsiCo are uniquely positioned to meet those needs at the necessary scale through more affordable and accessible offerings.
What do you read, watch and listen for inspiration and insights in your career?
I read the New York Times regularly, and pay particular attention to the Corner Office feature in the Sunday Business section. The candid reflections and advice on careers, management and personal development usually prompt me to rethink my own thinking.
There’s also the classic on career advice from HBR: How to Stay Stuck in the Wrong Career.
When I’m looking for specific career advice, I turn to a couple of mentors, close friends and my husband. I feel fortunate to have an informal “board” that has advised me over the years.
For inspiration and reflection, my family and I regularly go up to the Catskills. I find I gain a lot of perspective when I’m up in the mountains and away from the hectic rhythm of New York City. I usually come back to work seeing things a little more clearly.