A Refreshing Take on Marketing

Esperanza Teasdale, Vice President & General Manager at PepsiCo, shares her thoughts on work ethic, making authentic connections, and claiming your seat at the table (even when you weren’t invited).

NB: As VP and general manager at PepsiCo, you are the driving force behind PepsiCo’s investment in Hispanic small businesses. How does your background play into your work? What is your secret to success? 

ET: It’s the way I grew up with my parents. They were blue-collar workers in the US who worked hard and had strong work ethic and that is instilled in me.

My mom was Ecuatoriana and my dad Colombiano, and they ended up immigrating to Long Island because other family members were there already. Because my parents worked full-time, I grew up a latchkey kid, where I literally would take care of myself. Starting in first grade I had a lot of responsibility early on. I had the key to my house, I knew what time to leave, I would go with all the kids to school, come back, lock the door, and wait for my mom and dad to come home. 

I grew up with a lot of family around. Every weekend there was a reunion, dinner, or celebration happening. It was a loving household and I feel very lucky to have been with my family. 

These experiences served me well as I grew up, went off to college and built my career – leading to where I am today. My parents didn’t know a lot about the college process in the US as they didn’t go to school here and their English was limited. So one of my high school professors, my physics teacher, Mr. Adrian Duvall, saw the potential in me and that I was very interested in math and science, and he was the one that helped me with letters of recommendation, and ideas for which schools to apply to. That’s when I decided to go to college and study engineering. I went to Rutgers University in New Jersey and graduated with an industrial engineering degree. 

My parents were always supportive and endorsed me doing well in school and getting a higher education because for them it was about changing the trajectory that they had for me to have it easier, to have it better.

NB: What do you think it takes as a Latina, to succeed here in the US? 

ET: For me, it’s around authentic relationships and taking care of others. My parents were always very caring and welcoming. Whether it was extended family or visitors from Guayaquil that came to the U.S., we needed to support them. So I carry that element myself as well. And that’s also why, as a leader, I try to be very accessible to people. I try to be very authentic and build relationships that I can help nurture so that people feel comfortable and when they need something, good or bad, they know they can count on me to be there for them.

My parents also taught me commitment and the importance of making things happen. While they weren’t always meticulous planners, I admire their determination to achieve their goals, such as owning a home, which was a significant accomplishment for them when I was in high school. We always lived in apartments and for a long time, my dining room doubled as my bedroom, but my family provided me with all the essentials I needed, and I have always had their support.

NB: How do you use your work as a vehicle to bring about change in our community?

ET: I would say I’m very much a connector. I’m someone who tries to build authentic relationships. When there’s a tension I try to diffuse it, to remove it. If a relationship doesn’t exist, I take it upon that happen. But I do my best because, at the end of the day, we all have a family, we share our love for our job or what we do, we all have so much more in common than work, and I care about it. That’s why creating an inviting and accessible environment is something that I consider very important. 

NB: Suerte o Sudor? What percentage do you attribute your success to in terms of luck vs. hard work?

ET: I would say sudor for sure even though there’s some luck in it too. Finding someone who recognizes your potential and is willing to invest time and effort into your growth is crucial, but it takes a lot of hard work. 

There are times that I feel I’ve had to work harder than other people to have my voice heard, and to be rewarded. I’m very conscious of that and I try to unlock that for other people because things shouldn’t be that hard. There’s so much we can control, so much we can help people with, personally and professionally, that can make things a lot easier, and there are so many things in society that are made harder than they should be today. 

NB: What was your ponte las pilas moment (if you’ve ever had one)?

ET: I didn’t have a traditional path, I was an engineering undergrad, I got my MBA while I was still working in manufacturing and operations and then I decided to go pursue marketing. On my first try, I had someone who told me at a very senior level, “Why do you want to go into marketing?” And I explained why, they asked me, “Have you ever owned a lemonade stand?” When I said no, their answer was “Well, if you’ve never done that, then how do you know that you could be successful at marketing because you need to be entrepreneurial and if you’ve never owned anything or tried something like that, why would you be successful?” 

I thought that was a peculiar thing to say, a small example of a barrier, a moment where I had the choice to leave it, forget it, versus, I’m gonna make it happen. I don’t even know what happened afterward other than I knew I was going to make it into marketing and I ended up here.

NB: What is the biggest risk you’ve had to take that paid off in your career?

ET: Taking a seat at the table of senior executive meetings when I hadn’t been invited. I had an opportunity that came from one of my friends, coaches, and mentors. He had a big senior executive meeting where I wasn’t on the agenda, but I had helped put everything together. So I went to the meeting; I wore my suit, in case I could get a seat at the table and thought “I’m just going to be ready.” 

During the night he called me into the conference room and said “Do you see that seat at the table? It’s open. You need to sit there, and join us for this meeting.”

That was just one small moment, but it was how one person said “Take your seat at the table” and I was ready, I showed up, I was dressed, ready to go in, and ready to go home if it didn’t work out. But it worked!

NB: And what’s your advice to those who might feel that they’re not getting the right seat at the table? 

ET: Take it, make it. Bring the folding chair, or sit on a yoga mat. You have to be intentional, and you have to express your desires. Intentionality is critical, because at the end of the day, what’s the worst thing that can happen? You just gotta push yourself out of your comfort zone.

NB: We like to say that being Latina/o/e is a superpower. As one of the highest-ranked Latinas in corporate America, what superpowers do you bring to the table that perhaps others don’t?

ET: I love the idea that being Latina/o/e is a superpower. Growing up in two different cultures, two different languages, two different foods, two different personal experiences and journeys – it is a unique way to grow up and experience life.

What I try to apply is this collectivist mindset of the community, caring about people beyond your mom and dad. It’s caring about extended family, friends, neighbors, people that you might not know, and your colleagues. Authentic care and nurturing for other people, I feel, is very, very Latino. 

Inviting someone to La Pachanga, La Fiesta, or El Almuerzo – that’s pretty common, as we are very welcoming. That is part of the DNA that I have that I think makes me a great leader. Because for me, it’s always people first, and that means that I need an authentic relationship, knowing my team, knowing my colleagues, knowing what they care about, starting conversations with ” how are you, how was the weekend?” It is the element of just being human, and then getting into the business. 

I think it is an important pivot after everything that happened with COVID-19, with our economy, and with political and socioeconomic situations. We are forgetting that we’re humans at the core and that we have probably much more in common than not.

And that for sure is something that my parents always had because they were so welcoming and  caring. So I think that’s a really important piece as far as being a great leader. 

NB: Who is your atrevida/o/e preferida/o/e?

ET: My parents are probably the ones that I think about the most. They were risk-takers. My mom left a great job as an accountant in Guayaquil to come here with my dad. When she was here, she didn’t know English very well, so she couldn’t pass her accounting classes and learn all the accounting rules for the US. So she was a blue-collar worker after that forever. 

I also think about people like my Tia Laly, who is my mom’s sister, an incredible human who I grew up spending a lot of time with; and my closest cousin Laura Beatriz, when I would go back and forth to Ecuador. She came here when my cousins were teenagers to start over and it was really hard.  I try to see my Tia Laly as often as I can because I love hearing everything that she remembers about our family.

She always loved dancing and making us laugh until four o’clock in the morning. She is someone that I admire so much and that I care about. 

On the professional side, it’s my dear friend Marissa Solis at the NFL who you also interviewed. She’s such a caring human being; and it just proves that there are so many doing things in such incredible, meaningful ways that uplift people and communities.  

She is starting to change the narrative of a brand that’s iconic but also has challenges and opportunities. Seeing her elevate communities of color across the board, behind and on camera, makes me admire her and what she is doing so much. I’m glad that I am so close to her that I feel like I’m experiencing her journey with her. 

NB: Is there any piece of advice you want to give someone who wants to be an Atrevid/a/o/e but is struggling with believing in themselves?

ET: Surround yourself with different people and different energy. I’ve always liked the idea of surrounding yourself with people different from you because it forces you to flex, learn and experience something new. And I think that’s important for growth. 

You also need those folks that are going to be cheerleaders for you. Someone like Ana Ceppi to tell you “ponte las pilas,” and at the same time help remind you of all that you have accomplished and your worth. For me, it’s easy to recognize others but I can’t do it for myself and we all need that. We’re only humans, and we need positive energy to lift us.

NB: Talking about cheerleaders, you’ve been an incredible supporter of Latina-owned businesses. Seeing you ring the Nasdaq bell with taquerías, bodegas, and carnicerías owners by your side, and hearing you talk about el poder de nuestra comunidad, was beautiful. How did that moment feel for you? 

ET: It was surreal. I remember the moment when we talked about it, and then made it happen. It was a mic-drop moment to be able to do that. I think it probably hit me more when we were outside and we saw on the marquee of the Nasdaq the faces of our jefas and our team.

It was an incredible and powerful moment. And I know those women that were there with us will remember it forever. We did exactly what we said we wanted to do for them: elevate their voices and shine a light on these women who are working hard and kicking ass. It was thrilling. 

NB: Any last thoughts of inspiration that you’d like to share with everyone?

ET: I would just say again to go for it. Be open, and just keep your vibes and your energy as high as you can, because that’ll get you through quite a bit.