Our Fairygodboss this week uses her planning skills to kill it both in the office, where she's an HR director, and at home, where she's a devoted mom. Lauren O’Brien has spent her entire career learning how to get out of her comfort zone, and the results speak for themselves. The best part? She's deeply committed to helping young female leaders — both in HR and elsewhere — achieve the same success.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Lauren O’Brien
New York, NY
FGB: Tell us about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
LO: My career so far has been a combination of great opportunities and great people. The thing that stands out the most are the great people that I have been able to work with. Whether it was in my internships during college, my first job or any of the roles I’ve had with PepsiCo, I have been able to learn something from everyone I worked with. I’ve had great co-workers and leaders who supported me, but also enabled me to do more and work outside of my comfort zone. In addition to the people around me, the culture of PepsiCo enables me to expand my experiences and learn something new all the time. The job titles alone have not defined the work that I was able to do.
FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
In a few of the roles I’ve had with PepsiCo, I have been able to dive deep into Labor Relations. Traditionally, this is a male-dominated field and most of the union leaders are male. Initially, this was intimidating for me as a young female. I remember my first few interactions with the unions where I would write down what I wanted to say ahead of time; I was pretty nervous
. However, I had a few great mentors who quickly helped me realize that my knowledge and capability gave me the upper hand in these settings. As long as I had confidence in myself, it didn’t need to be as intimidating as I was making it in my own head. Many years have now passed and I have been able to negotiate a number of tough contracts with difficult unions, but most importantly I have helped other new HR leaders become confident in the labor field. That is what I’m most proud of; being able to help shape this important agenda by building capability and confidence in other new female leaders.
FGB: What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
Being a working mom is a constant challenge. I am a planner; I would be lost without my calendar
and waiting until the last minute makes me anxious. Before I had kids, it was much easier to control how my days went. Once I had kids, that changed. My biggest learning is that I need to be more flexible but also plan for the unexpected. If I expect everything to go as planned every day, I will surely be disappointed and frustrated. But generally, my days end up being 75 percent as planned and 25 percent adjusting to the curve balls that come my way. Every day looks a little different and some days are harder than others – but overall, we are making things work. My kids are still pretty young, but I love that I am showing them that their mom and
dad can be great parents and also be successful
at work. My family and my career are both important to me, so I am committed to continuing to overcome this challenge each day.
FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
Remember that you have a long career ahead of you. From when you enter the workforce to when you retire
, you have ~40 years of experiences to gain. Don’t be in too much of a rush that you lose out of valuable experiences. But at the same time, be driven to excel and exceed others expectations. Your career is going to ebb and flow — sometimes you will move fast and other times you will move slow. The important thing is to continue learning. Don’t wait for someone’s permission to solve a problem; be proactive and demonstrate your leadership capability. Don’t let your job title define how big of a positive influence you can make
FGB: Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? Why?
LO: My mom. She has always been such a great role model for me, both personally and professionally. My parents divorced when I was 10, and as a single mom she went back to school for her master’s degree while working full time. If she can do that, there is nothing that I can’t overcome. If I get only 10 percent of her perseverance, determination and commitment, then there will be nothing that I can’t do!
FGB: What is your karaoke song?
LO: “Sweet Caroline.”
FGB: What is your favorite movie?
LO: “Empire Records.”
FGB: What is your shopping vice?
LO: Do I have to pick just one?! Shoes are always a go to.
What would you buy if you won the lottery?
LO: If I won the lottery, I would buy a beach house.