Former PepsiCo CEO Speaks on Faith, Family, and Work

On Thursday, October 11th, over eighty members of the HBS community gathered to hear former PepsiCo Chairman and CEO, Steve Reinemund, talk to the HBS Christian Fellowship about faith and work. During his hour-long visit, he discussed his career and fielded a variety of questions from students eager to learn how to successfully merge their Christian faith with their career pursuits.

Reinemund began the evening by giving a summary of his career, focusing on some of the major decisions he made along the way. He explained that many of his career decisions were based on conversations he and his wife had while still in graduate school. At that time, the two of them decided that “faith, family, and vocational calling,” in that order, were the things that they valued the most. That explains why seven years into his career at Marriott, when asked to move to California, Reinemund made a surprising decision to leave the company without a back-up plan. His reason: the move wasn’t right for his family.

Because many of the decisions that guided Reinemund’s life choices were based on the values he and his wife agreed to while still in college, he recommended that students use their two years in school to “learn about yourself and set the priorities for what you want to achieve in life.” He also stressed that, while balance can never be achieved one-hundred percent of the time, making adjustments to achieve balance will always be worthwhile.

When Reinemund finished his career summary, he fielded a series of questions. Many of the questions focused on his personal values and how they came into play on the job. He started out by saying that, in his experience, value-based leaders are more effective than those without strong guiding principles. He also explained that many of his career and life decisions were guided by a three-part model in which one’s “head, heart, and hands” are given special consideration. The “head” part of the model focuses on whether or not a person has the intellectual ability and experience to carry out a given task. The “heart” part of the model involves evaluating how a particular decision aligns with one’s moral values. The “hands” part of the model deals with assessing whether or not one has the capacity to get the job done. Reinemund believes the “heart” aspect of the model is most important and that an “uncompromising commitment to your moral values” is crucial to making good decisions.

Later, Reinemund was asked to give an example of a time when his faith was challenged on the job. Surprisingly, he answered that he never worked for a company where he felt like he had to compromise his beliefs. He advised that students seek out positions in ethical companies that don’t put their employees in compromising situations.

Throughout the evening, Reinemund was quick to point out that being a CEO was a fun and rewarding experience. When it came time for the final question of the evening, though, Reinemund harkened back to his earlier words about faith and family. One student asked, “What are you most excited about that God has done through you?” Reinemund said he was most proud of his children and the role he has played in helping them grow up with the right priorities for their lives.

The HBS Christian Fellowship Speaker Series aims to help students discern God’s will when making life and career decisions, maintain values and ethics in a competitive work environment, and live out one’s faith in the workplace.

October 22, 2007
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