I was profoundly moved by the possibility of accepting the role as one of the first African-American female plant managers in my company and being an extension of my aunt’s dreams two generations before me.
I have worked in the supply chain field for most of my 20-year career; I joined PepsiCo in 2002. From my earliest days at the company, each time the Plant Manager role was mentioned to me as a possibility, I quickly said it was something I didn’t want to take on. In actuality, I wasn’t sure if I could be successful in the role, which was widely known as highly challenging. Yet when I began to think about what I wanted to do next in my career, becoming a plant manager kept revisiting my list of possibilities. I took a few months to network and find out more about the role. What I learned piqued my interest, so I called my mentor and told him I wanted to be considered.
A few weeks later, I received a phone call from my boss saying he wanted to talk to me about an “opportunity.” I was both excited and slightly afraid. As I listened to him share all of the great aspects of running a small plant, I was excited. When he told me the location was in Nashville, Tennessee, I was suddenly in shock. All I could ask him was, “Where’s Nashville?”
I politely told my boss I would call him back the next day, and then quickly called to share the news with my family. My parents were thrilled, but truthfully, I was not. I was stuck on the idea of moving to an unfamiliar place as a single person, and wasn’t sure I wanted the job. That evening, my father called and told me my great aunt wanted to speak to me.
In that conversation, my aunt reminded me that she and my grandmother were from the Nashville area. In addition, she shared with me how she had always dreamed of having the type of opportunity I was about to turn down. I was profoundly moved by the possibility of accepting the role as one of the first African-American female plant managers in my company and being an extension of my aunt’s dreams two generations before me. So I called my boss told him that I accepted the invitation.
That was over eight years ago, and I have not looked back since. My experience at that first plant inspired my commitment to making a difference with our front line managers and employees. Over the years, I have consistently delivered great results and have been fortunate to get promoted to increasingly complex roles, including multi-site responsibilities. I now coach our developmental leaders to strongly consider new roles in new places that allow them to expand their responsibilities beyond their comfort zones.
A big move proves to be a risk worth taking for a woman and her family.
Christie Smith, Ph.D.
Managing Principal & Leader
After being given many unexpected opportunities, one womans passes on that gift to others.