“My first exposure to the Management Development Programme was as a young graduate entering the corporate world,” says Mandy Unterslak, awardee of the Top Achievers/Director’s Award for this programme in 2021. “A number of managers in the business were participating in it and spoke highly of it. Their stories kindled my aspirations and when I heard that PepsiCo would be sponsoring a group of participants for 2021, I raised my hand and asked to be included in the cohort. PepsiCo has a strong focus on the professional and personal development of employees and I’m thankful to the organisation and my manager for their support.”
As she enrolled, she excitedly anticipated the next step of her professional development. “Embarking on this journey, I was hoping to broaden my theoretical knowledge of the various facets of business, as a foundation for more strategic thinking and decision making. I also looked forward to building my peer network to include colleagues within PepsiCo with whom I may not have had the opportunity to interact outside of the programme.”
When she started the programme, her objectives were clear. “I set out with two main development goals in mind. First off, I wanted to develop my leadership presence; I wanted to find a style that works for me and become more confident to step into a position of power. Secondly, I wanted to expand my business acumen in order to extend my impact within the organisation; I wanted to gain a stronger understanding of how the different aspects of business fit together.”
On multiple levels, the programme taught Mandy a diverse set of new skills. She explains what her most valuable takeaways were: “One of my key learnings from the programme was an increased awareness of the interdependencies and contextual factors that exist in any business situation. I’ve become more mindful of ‘zooming out’ to consider the bigger picture and then ‘zooming into’ the detail so that I can better understand the macro- and micro-environment and the wider impact that decisions can have. I particularly enjoyed the BDAL group project and it resulted in some of my greatest learnings – how to work productively with different personalities, incorporate diverse perspectives and leverage strengths within a group to achieve a common goal.”
The programme also covered a topic that was pertinent to her in her existing role. “As an HR professional, I found the theories we covered in the Marketing and Customer Service Management module to be highly relevant. Customer-centricity and the way we position solutions can have a huge impact on the extent to which we add value within an organisation.”
As a leader, Mandy experienced a conducive mindset shift. “Being a leader is not about how many direct reports you have, but about the extent to which you can be a positive influence and force for good. A key shift for me has been in my mindset – to focus more on the impact I want to achieve, rather than the actions I want to tick off. Part of this has been to use certain techniques from the programme to avoid making assumptions that might create a gap between my intention and my impact. Another shift for me has been to actively look for the positive and maintain a growth mindset. One of our faculty members, Fredelene Elie, said something that stuck with me: ‘Don’t waste a good crisis – learn from it!’”
Even though Mandy had a fairly good sense of what to expect from other leaders she knew who had completed their Management Development Programme journey before her, going in with an open mind allowed her the space and opportunity to take as much learning from it as possible. “Participating in the programme led me to reflect on my own ways of working. I had to step-change how I operated in order to balance my work and family commitments with my personal development goals. Something else I learned was to take command of where I place my time and attention for the benefit of the organisation as well as my own growth and wellbeing. This is something especially relevant in the technologically-enabled times in which we live, as there can sometimes be a blurring of boundaries. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of it as part of my own journey – particularly the balance of academic rigour with a practical business application lens. I also strive to think more like an economist now, seeing challenges as opportunities and considering the trade-offs when making decisions.”
Tailored for all managers from any industry, the Management Development Programme is valuable for those who are responsible for managing various business units and are ready to dive deep into management development. This course empowers managers to reinforce their managerial skill set and business acumen while facilitating integration across various business units. For further information about upcoming courses, click here.