Packaging leaders not only guide their own teams, they help direct the industry at large. One way of doing that is to be active, visible and vocal in the community.
When Denise Lefebvre spoke at Packaging Digest’s Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit last year, she was frank about the consumer and packaging trends PepsiCo is tracking and why, including emerging packaging challenges in e-commerce and modular machines for right-sized production. She might not have all the answers today, but she knows what questions to ask.
As the vp, Global Beverage Packaging & Processing at PepsiCo, Lefebvre has more than 20 years of hands-on experience, deciphering and then fulfilling the unmet needs of customers. This Rochester Institute of Technology packaging science grad has more than a few notches in her innovation belt during her career, which started in 1991 at Colgate-Palmolive, five years at Beech-Nut, with about 10 years at Cadbury and continues today at the global beverage and food giant. With an MBA from the University of Albany, Lefebvre also excels at the business aspects of packaging, steering projects from concept through commercialization. Some recent successes have been the conversion of Tropicana juice from a high-density polyethylene container to ePET, development of the new Gatorade bottle and creation of the Starbucks Iced Coffee line.
As part of our continuing coverage of the Leading Ladies of Packaging, we asked Lefebvre to share challenges and triumphs from her productive career, as well as advice for other aspiring packaging leaders.
What was a defining moment in your career and what did you learn from it?
Lefebvre: As a female young engineer, I was uncomfortable articulating my opinion as I was intimidated and deferential to senior engineers. I remember being placed into a challenging situation in my second role, where I had to be the expert and was forced to explain the technical issues. It was a positive experience and I began my influence and leadership journey at that time.
What has been your toughest challenge, why that and how have you overcome it?
Lefebvre: I’ve had many tough technical challenges, but my hardest challenge was actually a “people” challenge. The challenge was being comfortable in delegating work and entrusting that it would be completed on time and with the right quality. I learned quickly that delegating and enabling others raises and strengthens the organization. This is one of the key critical components for success of the team and yourself.
What has been your most rewarding achievement and why?
Lefebvre: Knowing and seeing:
• that you have made a difference to your company—in both top and bottom line growth.
• the packaging team members get recognized and promoted, both internally and externally.
What advice do you have for other people (female or male) who aspire to be a captain of packaging?
Lefebvre: There are several, but I’ll focus upon two:
One is to learn from everyone you work with—as they all have something to teach you.
Show and explain the possibilities of Packaging—how it can make a difference to your company’s objective and how to use it as a lever to drive growth and productivity.