PepsiCo marketing executive Zach Harris speaks at Career Lecture Series


“After I read Jaden’s description and Harris’s bio, I went to the event because, even though I am not interested in business, there’s value in hearing about someone who works at such a large company like PepsiCo,” Amanda Katiraei (12) said. On Monday night, Jaden Kirshner (12) hosted a Career Lecture Series event on Zoom with PepsiCo marketing executive Zach Harris. 

Monday’s lecture, the second of a three-part series this year, informed viewers about a career in marketing, Kirshner said. “The goal of the Career Lecture Series is to introduce students to unique people and unique professions,” he said. Kirshner invited Harris, a friend and business partner of Kirshner’s dad, because he had heard Harris speak to students in the past, he said.

According to a podcast with Harris for A List Daily, Harris currently leads PepsiCo’s strategy, communications, innovation, and commercial agenda. Over the 16 years that Harris has worked at PepsiCo, he has worked in several positions at the company, ranging from sales to brand management. “There’s a lot more to marketing than creating ads,” Kirshner said. “Harris’ role is to create promotional strategies to make sure that the product reaches as many people as possible.”

Kirshner invited Harris, a friend and business partner to Kirshner’s dad, because he had heard Harris speak to students in the past. Harris provided students with valuable insights as someone who started working at PepsiCo from a college internship, especially since many high schoolers are thinking about summer internships, college, and careers in business, Kirshner said.

Harris began the event by showing a video of PepsiCo brand advertisements to show the students what type of work he has done. For example, Harris spoke on his experience partnering with the NFL. He then opened the lecture up to discussion, alternating between answering Kirshner’s and attendee’s questions.

The goal of the event was to have an informal and open discussion during which students could ask about working at PepsiCo and having a business profession, Harris said. 

Harris was engaging and candid when answering questions, Aidan Resnick (12) said. He shared practical advice about making and utilizing relations with other companies and clients, he said. “I learned that something as simple as just making connections with the people around you can just help create opportunities later.”

Over the years at PepsiCo, Harris has adapted his advertising strategies to keep up with changing cultural trends. Stephanie Lee (9) learned about the different methods used to appeal to a range of audiences, she said. “Promotions on social media are used to attract teenagers, while television advertisements are used to market towards adults,” Lee said. 

Harris not only spoke about obstacles that his team has had to overcome, but also the great things they have accomplished as a company valued at $22 billion. Through hearing about these obstacles, Arman Azmi (10) realized that failure is part of success, he said. 

In recent years, PepsiCo has assumed a role in politics and social justice. Katiraei was surprised because she did not associate the company with politics, she said. “Harris thought taking on political roles wasn’t totally their responsibility, but there is an advantage in showing their supporters that the company supports LGBTQ and other movements.”

 As someone who started working at PepsiCo through a college internship, Harris provided students with valuable insights, especially since many high schoolers are thinking about summer internships, college, and careers in business, Kirshner said.

Students did not need to have prior knowledge of marketing to be engaged with the lecture, Katiraei said. “The qualities needed in marketing, such as making connections with people and being adaptable to the culture, are needed everywhere,” she said. “So, I will take those skills that [Harris] told us, with me in the future.”

Even as someone who is not particularly interested in marketing, the event was still a great opportunity to learn and hear from someone who was successful, Resnick said. “It’s still great to hear from people who have worked really hard, who have become the best of the best, and to learn from them,” he said. 

Kirshner hopes people realize how many different professions there are in the business sector, especially because students usually equate business with finance, he said. “Harris tried a lot of finance jobs and found that they weren’t really for him because he wanted to do a more creative job that does not just involve money,” Kirshner said.