Global flexibility and learning agility
A. Salman Amin '85
By Kari Richardson
People say "the world is getting smaller" all the time. But isn't that a bit of an exaggeration?
Not if the career in question is that of A. Salman Amin '85, a Pakistani-born, American-educated citizen who leads PepsiCo's operations in the United Kingdom and Ireland. As president of the division, he is responsible for selling food, beverage and snack brands recognized around the world, such as Quaker Oats and Tropicana.
Amin's global work history probably wouldn't have been so commonplace a few decades ago. Prior to his current role, Amin worked in brand management for Procter & Gamble, where he was assigned to diapers in Germany, potato chips in Asia and shampoo in Cincinnati. His work in Germany coincided with the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event with marketing implications as well as historical significance, as it prompted a quick rethink of many business issues, from supply chain to advertising to price points.
This global résumé, Amin says, has provided a host of lessons applicable to his current job, including "listen first and speak later" and "strive to understand those around you."
"The more comfortable you are with people from different backgrounds, the more learning agile you become," he says. "And you will struggle if you are not learning agile."
In Amin's current role, decisions about health and environmental sustainability loom large. His organization was the first to partner with the Carbon Trust, a group dedicated to reducing carbon emissions, by examining the production process of a bag of potato chips from farmers' fields to store shelves, and committing to a 3 percent yearly reduction of its carbon footprint. And to woo consumers focused on their health, PepsiCo UK & Ireland has concentrated on "better for you" and "good for you" products, including whole-grain chips, oatmeal and 100 percent juice.
Instead of steamrolling those who may not agree with the decisions he makes, Amin prefers to listen to different viewpoints and do some convincing if needed. It's an approach he honed during his Kellogg School days when he realized the only way to persuade his teammates was to use his intelligence and logic — and to be prepared to be persuaded himself.
"Kellogg was not about any one course, but an approach to working," he says. "It was about throwing away some rigidly held paradigms and thinking of new ways to get things done."
And that philosophy just might unite a shrinking world.