Former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi on her second act and why we should ‘think hard about time’
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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Wells Fargo ditches forced arbitration, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is the only person of color left in the presidential race, and a former Fortune 500 CEO—and our colleague Michal—reflect on the importance of being mindful of how you spend your time. Have a terrific Thursday.
– The clock is ticking. This morning’s essay comes from Fortune senior writer Michal Lev-Ram:
On some level, we all know time is precious. But sometimes the universe chooses to bring that fact home in the most… vivid of ways.
Yesterday morning, I was scheduled to interview Indra Nooyi, the former chief executive officer of PepsiCo. After getting showered and dressed, I took a quick stroll over to grab a cup of coffee when a bird pooped on my head. With no time to start from scratch, I hurried to the closest bathroom to rinse the contaminated parts of my hair in the sink as best as I could.
When I sat down with Nooyi a short while later—doing my best not to worry about the state of head—one of my first questions was about time, and how life has changed now that she has more of it.
“It’s been liberating, not having to run a company,” she told me. “I loved my job running PepsiCo, don’t get me wrong. But I was bound to a schedule, and it was PepsiCo all the time.”
Nooyi, who was in town to speak at the Watermark Conference for Women in Silicon Valley, says she’s now devoting herself to “passion projects,” like writing a book that tackles the challenges of integrating work and family life.
In some ways, she says, she is busier than ever—in addition to working on the book, the long-time CEO is a member of Amazon’s board of directors. But Nooyi also says that, if she wants to take a break during the day, she now has time to take one.
Nooyi has had a spectacular career. But in her goodbye letter to employees in 2018, she admitted that, throughout her tenure at PepsiCo, there were moments she’d wished she’d been able to spend more time with her children and family. “Think hard about time,” she wrote in her parting words to staffers.
The conversation got me thinking: How would I allocate my time differently if I could? I would like to think that I can be intentional about my time even as I journey through what is likely the busiest period of my life, both personally and professionally. But I’m also sure that some realizations can only be made in hindsight. Some level of regret is inevitable, right?
What will I regret? Not having chaperoned more of my kids’ field trips? Not having pushed myself harder at work? Not making more time to do volunteer work, or to read more books, or to floss my teeth?
A few years back, when she was still the CEO of PepsiCo, Nooyi told Fortune that balancing career with family “hurt like hell.” Maybe, when you’re the head of a Fortune 500 company that’s an unavoidable reality. But I certainly hope that’s not how I feel in the future, when I look back at this time in my life. And I wish more people who have been in Nooyi’s position spoke out about the tradeoffs, the difficulties, and the regrets, so that we might all learn from them.
I’m looking forward to reading Nooyi’s book when it comes out. But for now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my hair.
Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe.
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