2021 Star Women in Grocery winner Theresa Ijeoma Opurum (Q&A)
Canadian Grocer staff
Theresa Ijeoma Opurum
PepsiCo Foods Canada
How did you get into the grocery/CPG business?
I would like to call it a perfect coincidence. I’ve always been fascinated by ad campaigns for brands and their ability to tell powerful stories that create organic and memorable connections with consumers. After five years of working as an engineer, I went on to pursue an MBA in Marketing and Strategy at Chicago Booth to understand how successful brands are built. After completing this program, I was fortunate to come across an opportunity on the go-to-market team at PepsiCo, which required someone who understood the power behind brands and could use storytelling to drive digital transformation throughout the organization. It was a perfect match for me given my background and I have loved every minute of it.
What are your career highlights/greatest achievements so far?
One key highlight would be identifying an opportunity for PepsiCo to become more agile in the way we interacted with our customers, which helped increase our service levels, while leveraging technology to automate some of our business processes. As I continue to drive PepsiCo’s technology agenda, I also rolled out the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) initiative, which decreased the amount of time spent on recurring tasks while also decreasing error rates. Another key highlight would be winning two PepsiCo global awards earlier this year. The first was the Chairman’s Winning with Purpose Award for teaching a STEM camp to 55 kids in Grades 2-12 and the second was The Harvey C. Russell Award for creating strategic and tactical plans to advance PepsiCo’s racial equality journey through MOSAIC, our black employee resource group.
What do you like most about your job?
I’ve always considered myself to be creative—I’m intrigued by why things work the way they do and how I can make them better regardless of existing conventions. What I love most about my job is the creativity needed to resolve customer issues and the fact that I get to leverage technology to design customer experiences that are impactful, consistent and considerate.
What is your proudest moment?
There are so many to choose from, but the one dearest to my heart happened while I was teaching the virtual STEM camp sponsored by PepsiCo Canada in 2020. I was instructing the kids on how to build a radio—challenging to begin with and made even more difficult by the virtual environment—when I noticed one participant in particular who was struggling, but wouldn’t speak up. I could recognize the importance of this moment, especially because the intent behind the camp was to inspire and empower kids to pursue STEM. At the end of the session, I stayed on the call and guided him through the steps until he was able to get his radio to work. The look of self-belief and joy returning to his face is something I will never forget.
What is your best quality?
I’m a community builder at heart. I believe my best quality is being able to inspire trust and action, allowing different people to come together in a safe space to grow.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
The best advice I’ve received is “The key to success is giving—especially something you can never take back.” For me, that gift is the gift of time. I spend time mentoring young people in the community and young leaders in our business. The return has been such an incredibly fulfilling life and I wouldn’t trade that for anything else.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I’m honoured to be receiving this award and would like to thank everyone who has supported me throughout my career, especially the women who have opened doors for me so I could shine my light.
Click here for the full list of 2021 Star Women in Grocery award winners.