Named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report in 2008, Indra Nooyi has come a long way. Nooyi was inspired by her mother who encouraged her to believe from early childhood that she could be whoever and whatever she wanted. She credits a dinnertime game her mother created for her two daughters. “Every night at the dinner table, my mother would ask us to write a speech about what we would do if we were president, chief minister, or prime minister — every day would be a different world leader she’d ask us to play. She gave us that confidence to be whatever we wanted to be. That was an incredibly formative experience in my youth.”
Indra Nooyi currently serves as the Chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo. She’s thirteenth on the Forbes World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list and 82nd on the most powerful woman on the 2016 Fortune 500 list. How did she get there?
A 1980 Yale graduate, she held strategic positions at Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri before joining PepsiCo in 1994. She moved up through its ranks to become CEO following the retirement of Steve Reinemund. Under her leadership, PepsiCo has made great advancements including the acquisition of Tropicana in 1998 and an increase in annual profits from $2.7 to $6.5 billion.
Her personal achievements include:
- elected chairwoman of the U.S.-India Business Council in 2008
- Member of Forbes magazine list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women from 2008 to 2014
- Number one on the Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Women In Business from 2006 to 2010
- Recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders
Urged by her mother to marry by the age of 18 and start a family of her own, Nooyi chose to eschew family and cultural tradition and pursue a career. A rebellious streak as a young girl propelled this desire to achieve. She played guitar and participated in an all-girl cricket team – very non-traditional accomplishments in her social circle.
At her very first summer job, Nooyi wore a sari, not out of tradition, but because she was unable to afford a business suit. Although she wore the sari, she did not allow it to define her or lock her into a cultural stereotype. Of that difficult financial time, she says, “My whole summer job was done in a sari because I had no money to buy clothes.” Overcoming such financials setbacks, Indra was recently included in Fortune’s Top Ten Best Dressed CEOS in the US. Nooyi was determined to make her mark because of her knowledge and leadership. Of her business attire today, business suits often accessorized with colorful Indian-inspired scarves, she says, “What I would not do is flaunt my Indianess by wearing a sari to work every day, because it distracts from the job.”
What are you striving to achieve? Like this inspirational woman, you have to first believe in yourself and your skills. Don’t allow unfavorable circumstances to hold you back. Don’t allow tradition to define your future. Dubbed one of Corporate America’s Top Visionaries, Indra Nooyi says of her rise to the CEO position at PepsiCo, “In my heart I said, ‘I can do this better than anyone else can.”