Sat Oct 22 21:39:57 SAST 2016

A lion's heart

By unknown | Jul 28, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

Only two months into her new job as chief executive of Simba, Lauren Siebrits is already making some interesting, yet subtle changes at the company.

Siebrits assumed her new position in June after serving five years in the company working in different roles, including her last as commercial director.

"This is very different. What strikes me most about my new role is the amount of time I spend nourishing, encouraging and motivating people," she says.

The company has a staff of about 1700 people and produces Doritos, Baked Simba, Sunbites and Lays, among others. It is part of the PepsiCo group.

"While it's important for me to be visible and let people know I am accessible, it's difficult for me to connect with each individual. Some people are intimidated," says Siebrits when asked about her role as motivator.

She opts rather to implement open-dialogue sessions with managers, who collect information from workers and pass it on to her.

"We've implemented a programme called Speak Up where people internally and externally can complain about anything at all, and we give people permission to develop a healthier work-life balance," she said.

Siebrits is a single mother with two children, aged four and eight. While she has made some sacrifices to ensure that her career prospers, she still manages to stay connected to them.

Three years ago her boss approached her about a change in her career path while she was working as the company's marketing director.

She says: "I had the choice of working in a marketing role in the PepsiCo in New York or going into general management. I knew I'd get bored writing strategy all day.

"I wanted to be at the coal face, so I entered into the commercial director programme at PepsiCo. I learned more about sales, finance and operation. It was carefully planned to broaden my scope," she says.

Siebrits wants to transform the company's range of products, but at gradual pace considering the current decline in consumer spending.

"We're slowly introducing more healthy products to our portfolios, and making the existing ones healthier. South Africa has one of the highest levels of obesity in the world and we need to be more responsible and offer healthier options," she said.


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