The Leading Independent
Resource for Top-tier MBA
Home » Blog » Real Humans - Alumni » Real Humans of PepsiCo: Darrin Rahn, HBS MBA ’19, Strategy Director

Real Humans of PepsiCo: Darrin Rahn, HBS MBA ’19, Strategy Director

Image for Real Humans of PepsiCo: Darrin Rahn, HBS MBA ’19, Strategy Director

In today’s Real Humans: Alumni feature, we meet Darrin Rahn, HBS MBA ’19 & PepsiCo Strategy Director, whose career involves revolutionizing the future of food. To begin his journey toward his aspirations, Rahn wanted to expand his leadership abilities, gain a deeper understanding of global and emerging markets, and expand his professional network. He would find all he needed to accomplish those goals at Harvard Business School. Keep reading to learn how the MBA at HBS gave Rahn the skills necessary to tackle industry challenges like health and wellness, food sustainability, and consumer transparency.

Darrin Rahn, HBS MBA ’19, Strategy Director at PepsiCo

Age: 34
Hometown: Mt. Carroll, Illinois
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Born and raised on a Midwest family farm, I studied agricultural economics and marketing as a 1st-generation college student at Iowa State University. Iowa State University, Class of 2012, Double Major: Agricultural Economics & Marketing. Growing up in agriculture, I was always fascinated with grocery stores and the diversity of food and beverage products down every aisle. Following this lifelong passion, I pursued a meaningful career in consumer food to transform how the world eats and drinks every day.
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): Harvard Business School, Class of 2019
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Before my MBA, I had five years of work experience at Target and General Mills, in retail and consumer goods in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Business Analyst, Senior Business Analyst at Target Corporation (2.5yrs) – Retail; Marketing Associate, Senior Marketing Associate at General Mills (2.5yrs) – Consumer Goods; Left to pursue an HBS MBA in Fall 2017 (Graduated Spring 2019)
Post-MBA Work Experience: After HBS, I have spent the last five years at PepsiCo in New York City, with diverse roles across several functions – including marketing, strategy, sustainability, and general management. Global Strategy MBA Intern – Summer 2018, between 1st/2nd Year at HBS, returned full-time; Associate Brand Manager (1.5yrs); Brand Manager (1.5yrs); Senior Brand Manager (1yr); Strategy Director (6months, current role). Celebrating my 5-year HBS reunion this summer (May 2024)

Why did you choose to attend business school?
I was ready to take my career to the next level. I attended business school to expand my management and strategy leadership, grow a deeper understanding of global and emerging markets, and expand my professional network. My long-term career aspirations were to use my background across production agriculture, food manufacturing, retail merchandising, and brand management to revolutionize the future of food. I wanted to tackle complex industry challenges like health and wellness, food sustainability, consumer transparency, and affordable global access to transform the industry for the next generation of consumers.

Why HBS? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
The people at HBS make it the unique experience it is. From the sections, to the clubs, the classes, the professors, the speakers—it all comes back to the people. It is two years of intense learning and empathy building at every turn. We were always challenged to think more intensely, to reflect, to solidify the next chapters in our lives. It was a truly transformative experience! And after graduation, HBS provides lifelong value in its alumni network and access to top career opportunities it makes possible.

What about your HBS MBA experience prepared you for your current career at PepsiCo?
The world-class academics and case method approach at HBS have become a true differentiator for me – discussing real-world industry problems every day and thinking like a CEO to make applied business decisions for two years changes how you approach business strategy and management. HBS was a perfect fit, allowing me to learn not only from the brilliant faculty, but also from the globally diverse perspectives in the classroom, as well as through extracurriculars and travel immersions.

What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned with PepsiCo in Global Strategy, which gave me the opportunity to test drive the company before I ultimately committed to them long-term. I had a great internship, working on challenging projects, meeting senior executives, immersed in the company culture, and bonding with our intern class. As a result of my remarkable summer experience, I decided to return full-time after graduation and have been at PepsiCo the last five years.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I wanted to work at a leading Food and Beverage company with global headquarters in New York City. I narrowed in on PepsiCo, first for the opportunity to work on its one-of-a-kind brand portfolio with powerful megabrands like Gatorade, Doritos, Pepsi, Quaker, Starbucks, Cheetos (& the list goes on)! The company promised the opportunity to craft a long-term career runway with growth-minded talent development, supported by brilliant collaborative leaders, in a company culture committed to breakthrough innovation and disruption for the future. As a dynamic and diverse food company – I love that I truly learn something new every day and drive global impact across the farm-to-table value chain.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Leverage the extensive knowledge and wealth of resources within the career services office. The coaching, mentoring, and development opportunities are best-in-class, and I’m blessed to still call on their insights and input today as an alum.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
I heard this advice countless times from mentors when considering an MBA. B-school allows you to learn from the brightest and most talented minds in the business world, so prioritize your valuable time building authentic relationships and diving into what you love. I served in extracurricular leadership roles in the Food & Agriculture Club, Marketing Club, Retail & Luxury Goods Club, HBS Admissions Representative, and the LGBT Student Association – focusing on areas that were real passions with like-minded people.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.