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A. Salman Amin ’85, executive vice president for sales and marketing at PepsiCo, told incoming Kellogg students Aug. 31 that a willingness to disclose and discuss past failures “is a key indicator of maturity and a willingness to grow.”

A. Salman Amin '85

Facing the fear of failure

PepsiCo’s A. Salman Amin `85 advises incoming students to learn from prior mistakes and to embrace change

By Sara Langen

9/3/2010 - One of the most important lessons A. Salman Amin ’85 has learned throughout his career is not to fear failure.

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Amin, PepsiCo’s executive vice president for sales and marketing, told Kellogg’s incoming Full-Time class Aug. 31 that even the most successful people in the world have failed at one point or another.

The new students packed the school’s Owen L. Coon Forum to listen to Amin advise them on how to thrive in their careers.

“I find it an almost infallible rule that you can learn more about people by talking about their failures than almost any other thing,” Amin said. “If a candidate is confident enough to be frank and forthright to disclose a failure and discuss it openly, that is a key indicator of maturity and a willingness to grow.”

Amin described his own experience with failure early in his 25-year career, when he was heading up the Sassoon line of products at Procter & Gamble Co. Amin said his key takeaway from the experience was that business is not all about numbers, but about people. Learning that he needed to listen and communicate more effectively was an important lesson that became a key factor in his future success.

As students begin their studies at Kellogg, they shouldn’t fear the possibility of failure, but rather see each experience as an opportunity to learn, Amin advised. As someone in a position to hire in his role at PepsiCo, where he drives integrated sales and marketing strategies for PepsiCo’s global customers, Amin looks for candidates who demonstrate that ability.

“Those who confront their failures and insist on learning from them thrive,” he said. “Those who hide from them or forget them repeat those mistakes or make even worse mistakes. There is no doubt in my mind the type of person I would rather hire.”

In the current climate of uncertainty, students should also understand the importance of adapting to change and tolerating ambiguity, Amin said.

“When times are good or not good, only one thing is certain — they won’t stay that way long,” he said. “Things are destined to change. Don’t be afraid of change —tackle it. Don’t shy away from change — embrace it. How you choose to cope with change will determine how you fare in the years ahead.”