Have you ever leapt at the mention of a job opportunity and thought, ‘I’d love to do that!’ but had something hold you back? Perhaps you didn’t have the necessary degree or thought others were more qualified.
Dr Wamwari Waichungo knows firsthand these feelings of uncertainty are common when interviewing for a new role. In 2000 she applied for her first role at Coca‑Cola. Holding a doctorate in food science yet considering a position as a strategy director in marketing, she had doubts she was the right woman for the job.
Fast forward 20 years and Wamwari is now the vice president, global and scientific regulatory affairs at The Coca‑Cola Company. During her time with Coca‑Cola she’s been working towards a world without waste while also pursuing her personal passion to help women develop into leadership through the power of mentoring.
Seizing every opportunity
Wamwari’s journey at Coca‑Cola has taken her all around the world and with every new position and location she has grown as a person and leader. Looking back, Wamwari credits her success to an open mind and commitment to personal growth.
“There’s no formula to a career. Certainly it’s great to have a plan, but my journey is evidence of the benefits of keeping an open mind. When I’ve been offered other positions in new countries, I take a moment to consider whether the opportunity will grow my breadth and depth. If it does, then I will probably say yes!”
“Looking back this has really helped me in my leadership positions because I’ve developed a really thorough understanding of the business, different cultures and how to work with people from all over the world,” said Wamwari.
Along the way Wamwari has enjoyed more formal opportunities to increase her skillset as well. To this day, she continues to participate in internal programs to develop the leaders of tomorrow in Coca‑Cola.
“Coca‑Cola invests in its people, and I’m particularly proud to see various programs dedicated to developing the next generation of women leaders. We have the Women in Leadership program that all middle and senior managers experience. There’s also the Women’s Leadership Council that looks at how we can boost participation at the most senior levels,” said Wamwari.
“This is particularly important because when you have more women in leadership, you inspire the next generation to achieve this too,” added Wamwari.
Empowering women to lead around the world
While she’s had many exciting moments with Coca‑Cola, Wamwari considers her involvement with our global 5by20 initiative a career highlight.
“The 5by20 program is a commitment to empower five million women by 2020 in developing countries. It’s about empowering female entrepreneurs by giving them job skills and helping them establish their own business. Being a proud African woman, it’s amazing to see how this programme has helped so many as it started in Africa,” Wamwari said.
Since its inception in 2010, The 5by20 program has empowered more than 3.2 million women across 92 countries. Having visited program participants all around the world, Wawamri proudly reports the program is on track for 2020.
For Wamwari, seeing the impact of The 5by20 Program firsthand is one of the most rewarding parts of working at Coca‑Cola. In fact, it was during one visit in West Africa she had an encounter that she will remember for life.
“I met an owner of a small corner store and noticed she has a picture of children on her Coca‑Cola fridge. I asked her, ‘why do you have this picture here?’ and she replied, ‘these are my children and Coca‑Cola’s support for my business means they can go to school and receive and education. That’s why their picture is on the Coke fridge’. That was an incredibly proud moment for me and another example of why I love working at Coca‑Cola,” Wamwari said.
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