When I first moved to Canada, about 12,000 km away from home, I could only dream of securing a position at a Fortune 500 company for my first co-op term. Fast forward three years, with constant perseverance and great support from the Beedie community, I could not have asked for a better opportunity as an Operations Management major than to work for PepsiCo Beverages at their Delta manufacturing facility.
A peek into my daily life at work
To give you some context around my role as Operations Management Co-op, I was working in their Quality Control team, which is one of the four key departments in the operations side of a plant. The quality control team is in charge of ensuring that all products being manufactured are compliant with Food Safety regulations and of the highest quality possible.
As a QC co-op, my daily life at work could be categorized into three segments: mandatory tasks, ad-hoc support and projects. My daily mandatory tasks included generating yield reports on Excel, compiling and verifying the documentation of quality control checks, reviewing the specifications of our products manufactured and communicating with the frontline employees to understand their operational problems.
That said, any single day at work is never the same in a manufacturing plant, which I found to be very exciting and a great learning opportunity. There are always different issues that need attention such as machine troubleshooting, low yields, plant audits etc. which is why there are always ad-hoc requests to investigate or take corrective measures on different issues.
During my term, I had a team of great colleagues and a very understanding supervisor who assigned me to a project that closely aligned with my desired career trajectory – a data analytics project to optimize syrup loss on one of our production lines. I had the opportunity to deliver the project from start to finish, including everything from collecting and analyzing data to rolling out the implementation.
How to make the most of your internship
1. Be proactive and always ask “why?”
I know that sounds cliché, but especially for giant organizations like PepsiCo, you cannot be expected to be trained on nitty-gritty details in such a short time. However, there are things that you have to understand in order to truly have an impact at work.
To do that, you must go out of your way and learn things by yourself. One tactic I learned during my term is to consistently ask the question “why?” on every action you are taking and every action that you observe others taking. It opens up an entire spectrum of learnings that you can apply to your projects.
2. Try to find your niche and work towards becoming a subject matter expert.
I know that 1) a four-month tenure is a short time to really become an expert at one thing and 2) you should be exploring more during your co-op. However, you can explore and become an expert at the same time. If you maximize your work hours, you can have room to work on different things while also focusing on one specific niche.
In my case, I devoted my time to learning more about one of our filler machines so that I can have a better impact on my project. It also increases your chances of retention within the company upon graduation.
3. Excel is the major key to excel (pun intended).
It is very easy to get overwhelmed by all the sophisticated technological inventions around us these days like AI and Blockchain. However, I cannot stress the importance of being an Excel wiz, especially as a business student in a more technical role.
I had to use Excel on a daily basis and I saw all my colleagues do the same. It is a great tool to gather insights and showcase your findings and there is so much that you can do with it. As a result, I made a goal to learn Excel VBA before I start my next co-op term.
I believe that the work I did at PepsiCo as Operations Management Co-op is highly transferable to any other industry such as management consulting, project management or engineering. It involved the right mix of communicating with different stakeholders, crunching numbers to gather insights and taking corrective actions based off of the insights gathered.
I would highly recommend students of any concentration to apply for this position as it is an experience of a lifetime. There is so much that I am taking away from this experience and I believe it has helped me grow myself both professionally and personally.