Book Review: My Life in Full by Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi is not only a U.S. citizen, but also has Indian citizenship, having grown up in India. She has served as CEO of PepsiCo and Pepsi and is also a mother and wife. She has had to balance these opposites throughout her life, navigating different cultures and juggling competing commitments. How do you manage to prioritise your family while running one of the biggest companies in the world?

Here, we learn how Nooyi has managed an impressive workload. But as she looks back on her successful career, she also sees the need for reform, not only for women in business, but also for working parents in the United States.

You may be wondering if you should read the book. This book review will tell you what important lessons you can learn from this book so you can decide if it is worth your time.

At the end of this book review, I’ll also tell you the best way to get rich by reading and writing

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

Lesson 1: Nooyi experienced some culture shock at first, but she quickly adjusted to her new life in the United States.

Okay, let us jump ahead a year. Nooyi was all alone in her dorm room at Yale. She had just arrived with only a suitcase full of saris, a bag full of books and a few other belongings. She arrived early at the Yale School of Management to get her bearings and found the building deserted. For the first time in her life, she experienced real fear and isolation.

America had not lived up to her expectations so far. For starters, there was hardly any noise. No one seemed to be there to greet us. What about all the horny cabs, the hustle and bustle she was used to?

American pop culture was something Nooyi was exposed to early on, but the reality was different. Still, she learned that such difficulties are normal for new immigrants. For many people, the journey to the American dream begins with feelings of fear and isolation.

It did not take long for Nooyi to make friends on campus, and with their support, she was able to better navigate Yale. At first, she was shocked by the casual nature of her fellow American students. They sat with their feet up on desks and ate sandwiches during class. Even the professors were addressed by their first names.

On the other hand, the relaxed atmosphere in the classroom also had its advantages. Over time, Nooyi came to appreciate the open dialog and the fact that students had the freedom to question and disagree with the teacher’s opinion.

Nooyi tried to adapt to American culture outside the classroom by trying things like baseball (which she loved) and pizza (which she hated).

However, she was not perfect and made mistakes. She had an interview for an internship she’d rather not think about…

She realized that she had to dress for the occasion, but she did not know what that meant. She also had a limited amount of money at her disposal. While shopping, she decided on a navy ensemble consisting of a polyester jacket that was several sizes too big and pants that were several inches too short. She opted for her usual pair of orange suede loafers instead of a pair of heels.

She told herself that it would be fine. Absolutely no one would notice. The interviewee could just slide her feet under the table if they felt uncomfortable.

On the day of the interview, however, she saw her classmates and realized her mistake. Both the men and women looked impeccable in their tailored suits and elegant skirts and blazers. They all heaved a shocked sigh when they saw her outfit.

Aside from Nooyi’s shame, the interview seemed to go well. She then made an appointment with Yale’s career services director, Jane. Nooyi burst into tears as she explained the situation to her.

“Tell me, what would you pack for an interview in India?” That was a question Jane had.

The answer, Nooyi said, was a sari.

Put on the sari,” Jane suggested. In other words, just be yourself.

Nooyi was offered the internship even though she had no sense of style. At the next interview, she wore her most precious sari. And again, she passed with flying colors.

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Lesson 2: Nooyi worked long hours and relied on her family to make ends meet while she built her corporate career.

After graduating from Yale, Nooyi did everything she could to advance her career. She worked as a consultant in Chicago for BCG and loved her job, but she had to work long hours.

Her demanding work schedule, frequent travel and lack of rest often exhausted her. Although she could get by on as little as five hours of sleep a night when necessary, even under these conditions she occasionally felt exhausted.

She was driving from Wisconsin to Chicago late at night when she was pulled over for speeding. Nooyi was unable to pay the ticket at the local police station with her American Express card. She soon noticed a bed in the cell that looked quite inviting. Could not she spend the night there? She was so exhausted that she considered spending the night in jail instead of making the drive back to Chicago.

This was just one of many low points she had experienced over the years as she tried to balance her career and her family. By her early 30s, she was a successful Motorola executive and by then had two young daughters.

Raj, her husband, was understanding but busy with his consulting business. Neither of them thought of giving up their respective positions. There was an immediate need for reliable childcare support.

This is the point in her speech where Nooyi says she considers herself incredibly lucky. Her mother moved here from India to help her daughter and son-in-law raise their young granddaughters, and she did so for many years.

Nooyi’s mother eventually left her, but luckily she had a group of aunts and uncles who were willing to take turns caring for her for months at a time.

Nooyi considers herself very lucky to have such loving and supportive relatives. However, this is not a reality for the millions of working parents. As a mother, she is perplexed as to why providing accessible, low-cost child care is not a higher priority in the United States.

After all, even with the help of her family, Nooyi had a hard time keeping it all in the air. She worked tirelessly at her job, which required her to travel frequently and work long hours. She knew her children needed her, and that made her feel guilty and remorseful.

Late at night, Nooyi worked in bed with her baby on her outstretched legs and her eight-year-old daughter sleeping beside them.

Nooyi began to have doubts as she struggled through work and then had difficulty sleeping in the same position. Is it time for her to quit her job? What would happen to her family’s financial stability if she decided to quit? How would she return to work many years from now?

Although she felt torn, Nooyi finally decided that leaving was not an option. She was excelling at her job, which she enjoyed, and was also making great progress professionally.

In 1994, she received a call from Wayne Calloway, the CEO of PepsiCo. He told me that I needed to add you to my leadership team.

When Nooyi received the offer, she immediately accepted. She could not wait to get started.

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Lesson 3: After taking on the role of senior vice president at PepsiCo, Nooyi maintained her balance between work and family life.

Nooyi was overjoyed to join such an exciting, forward-thinking and positive company from day one. The group was as optimistic as she was, which was good news for her.

She’d also be assisting famous people. PepsiCo also owned other brands at the time, such as Lay’s French fries and fast-food franchises like KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

Nooyi felt most comfortable in a job where she could connect with others. Incredible as it may sound, her daughter’s classmates all assumed she was employed by KFC.

Nooyi wasn’t just the boss of KFC when she was senior vice president at PepsiCo. Her responsibilities included both corporate and company-wide strategic planning and development for the restaurant chain.

There was no formal agreement on additional compensation for the second role. Nooyi was surprised when she accompanied the new CEO of global restaurants on a road trip to check out Taco Bells and other fast food places. They sat down to try to figure out why PepsiCo’s restaurant division was failing and what could be done about it.

By and large, Nooyi felt comfortable in her new role and enjoyed the challenges she faced. But the journey wasn’t without bumps. She often felt drained by the intensity of certain projects and was frustrated by other top executives’ criticism of her department.

The stress of balancing work and family obligations remained, of course. Working at PepsiCo was similar to her previous jobs in that it required a lot of travel and long hours. Youngest daughter Nooyi once wrote, “I’ll love you again if you’ll please come home.” There are seven requests for a favor.

Another memorable experience that sums up the juggling act for Nooyi is this. Years later, she recently learned that she’d been promoted to president of PepsiCo. She couldn’t wait to share the news with her family.

When she got home that evening, she saw her mother waiting for her in the kitchen. “I’ve incredible news,” Nooyi explained. The news, her mother said, can wait. Obviously, milk is needed.

Nooyi went to the store to get the milk, then returned home. I’m the new president of PepsiCo,” she proudly announced to her mother. How about I get the milk for you?”

Her mother said, “Listen,” and she did. “If you leave PepsiCo for one day, you’re a wife, a mother and a daughter. “Park the throne in the driveway.

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Lesson 4: Nooyi became increasingly aware of the challenges women face in the workplace as she advanced in her own career.

Nooyi has pondered this discussion for years. Did she make the right decision when she disobeyed her mother and took the crown to the storage shed? In a way, yes. Regardless of her professional success, Nooyi recognizes the value and irreplaceability of her role in her family.

And yet… what if Nooyi were a man, a family man with a wife and children? What do you think her mother would have done if she told her about her promotion? Most likely, she wouldn’t.

As a rule, men are more likely to take the time to recognize and appreciate their own professional successes. For women, different standards apply to a greater extent. In response to women’s successes outside the home, there’s either a) an assumption that it was easy, or b) an accusation that the woman in question is neglecting her domestic duties.

And then there’s the issue of salary. In the United States, women earn on average 80 percent of what men earn in financial terms.

The gender pay gap was less severe in the upper echelons of PepsiCo, where women earned 95 percent of men’s base salaries. The standard HR response to Nooyi’s inquiries on the subject was, “Don’t worry, it’s only a small difference.”

“If it’s a small difference,” Nooyi retorted, “then why shouldn’t a woman be paid 105% of a man’s salary?” She couldn’t understand why the HR department didn’t care about equal pay.

Nooyi, however, doesn’t feel discriminated against because of her gender. She continued to work hard and move up the ladder at PepsiCo. Her husband was there for her, and her family flew in to help her with the kids.

As an added bonus, Nooyi had a wonderful assistant named Barbara who adored Nooyi’s children and cared for them as if they were her own. She was so fully assimilated into the household that she’d virtually the same rights as everyone else. Even the CEO of PepsiCo, Steve Reinemund, lent a hand. Once when Nooyi was out of town, he picked up her child from school. It’s not often that a CEO shows such enthusiasm.

They say it takes a community to raise a child. Thanks to the support of her community, Nooyi was able to devote herself fully to her work.

In the summer of 2006, she learned of her appointment as CEO of PepsiCo. She felt both excitement and fear at the prospect. She began to cry as her thoughts turned to the future.

It was now her job to steer this huge company, steeped in tradition, in a new direction. There was no way she was going to get a break for very long, whatever happened.

About The Author

From 2006 to 2019, Indra K. Nooyi was the chief executive of PepsiCo. She is one of the world’s most sought-after advisors to entrepreneurs, CEOs, and governments because of her foresight in strategic planning, understanding of consumer behavior, and ability to lead a large, diverse workforce across multiple time zones and continents.

She was the brains behind PepsiCo’s Performance with Purpose initiative, which aims to improve consumer health, reduce the company’s carbon footprint and increase the agency of PepsiCo employees and the communities the company serves. She has received 15 honorary degrees as well as the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honor, and the Outstanding American by Choice Award from the United States Department of State.

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