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Real Humans of PepsiCo: Beeta Shahnazari, UCI Merage MBA ’22, Associate Finance Manager

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In this installment of Real Humans: Alumni, PepsiCo Associate Finance Manager, Beeta Shahnazari, shares her journey to the leading CPG firm with the help of an MBA from the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business. The small class sizes and personal attention she found at UCI Merage allowed Shahnazari to step out of her comfort zone and learn more effective leadership and teamwork skills. Read on to see how her experience at UCI Merage prepared her for success at PepsiCo.

Beeta Shahnazari, UCI Merage MBA ’22, Associate Finance Manager at PepsiCo

Age: 30
Hometown: Huntington Beach, California
Undergraduate Institution and Major: UC Irvine – Business Economics 
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): UC Irvine, The Paul Merage School of Business, 2022
Pre-MBA Work Experience (title, company, years, industry): Trade compliance coordinator, MyDyer, 3 years, apparel; Digital marketing associate, Polycoat Products, 2 years, chemicals manufacturing
Post-MBA Work Experience (title, company, years, industry): Associate Finance Manager, PepsiCo, 1.5 years, CPG

Why did you choose to attend business school?
I had decided early on during my undergraduate studies that I eventually wanted to go back to school for my MBA, but at the time I actually decided to start applying, I had begun to feel somewhat stagnant in my career and at my current company. I was unsure what opportunities for growth I had as there was no clear career trajectory. At the same time, I was working in a function that didn’t feel like a great fit for me, and I wanted to consider a potential career pivot, so I felt like going back to school would help me narrow down what I really wanted to be doing in my career. 

Why Merage? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I had spent some time early in the application process researching different programs, attending various open houses, and networking with current students, and Merage stood out for a number of reasons. The individuals I connected with at Merage – whether it was current students, alumni, or faculty – immediately made me feel a sense of belonging through their warmth and willingness to help navigate the application and decision process. As I learned more about the program, I learned about the intimate class sizes, which allowed for more personalized attention from professors and our career team alike. This was especially valuable to me as someone who was looking to switch functions as well as industries. Finally, the location in sunny Southern California could not be beat!

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career at PepsiCo?
My involvement in different areas of the program, including our student association and ambassador program, helped tremendously as I became more comfortable as a leader within my career. Further, the nature of our program involved participation in a “study group” throughout our core classes, which was extremely helpful for learning to work as a team, with individuals from differing professional backgrounds and cultures, in an efficient and productive manner. 

What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned in Strategic Finance with PepsiCo during the program, my first role working formally in corporate finance. The experience was such a positive one for me that I not only decided that finance was the right function for me, but also decided to return to PepsiCo full-time after graduation. 

Why did you choose PepsiCo after your MBA? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
The entire internship journey, from networking to onboarding and final presentations, helped influence my decision to return full-time. I loved the people I met, the work I was doing, and the overall company mission. It was very evident throughout the internship experience that PepsiCo is a company that really values its employees and helps nurture their professional development. 

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Spend as much time networking and talking to people at your companies and functions of interest as possible! I learned so much about what I wanted out of a role by hearing from the individuals actually working in those roles. MBA programs also offer a wide variety of resources to help prep students on the job search and interview process, so be sure to take advantage of those resources as well.

–One thing you would change or do differently as part of the job search?
 I probably would have been more proactive in sharing best practices with my classmates. Although we were all interviewing and preparing for roles in different industries and job functions, there was a lot of overlap in interviews and overall recruiting processes, so best practices would have been easily transferable. 

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
I was quite surprised at how quickly the whole thing moved! Compared to some of my classmates who went through multiple rounds of interviews with various different employees, I was lucky to move through the recruitment process fairly quickly. 

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone! The MBA experience is unique to everyone, but it really is what you make of it. 

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.