Life & work
From Istanbul to Kraków. Hakan on his life and career at PepsiCo
How long have you been living in Poland? When did you come and why Poland?
I relocated to Poland at the end of August 2021, so it has been seven months. When it comes to why, Poland is one of the hot spots right now for PepsiCo, with our new Global Business Services Center and new manufacturing plant initiatives. I had been in Poland three times before, mostly on business trips, so I knew what to expect, more or less. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to take part in this new journey, and decided to relocate to Poland.
What was your first impression of the country?
I first visited Warsaw in 2016. I was there for a couple of days, but I really enjoyed the vibe of the city and everyone I met was very helpful and friendly. English is also widely spoken, so I didn’t have any trouble communicating with people. I even still remember the conversation that I had with an Uber driver, it was very fun and interesting.
Did the company help you with relocation? What helped you most in the process of adjusting to work in this new environment?
Yes, my company helped me with paperwork (work permits etc.), the trip to Kraków, and also provided me with temporary accommodation for a month, so I could search for a permanent place to stay without worrying. And I believe it helped me the most because I could just continue to do my job and try to settle in the city from day one.
Could you tell us a little bit about your work experience? What has your career path looked like so far?
I started my career back in 2013 in Turkey, in the telecommunications sector. I was responsible for project management for almost 3 years, which allowed me to learn the Agile philosophy, enhance my communication skills, manage different stakeholders and be involved in IT and Finance planning activities. After this experience, I craved more business exposure and came across a Finance Analyst role at PepsiCo, so in 2016 my journey with the company started. I have held various roles under Supply Chain Finance organization, from Productivity Analyst to Capex Analyst, then Finance Business Partnering and finally, Team Lead in the Global Procurement Finance department. I have worked in the Sector as well as in a Business Unit. Honestly, I never imagined myself working this long for the same company, but I found a lot of growth and learning opportunities here, which made me look at my career from a different angle. That is why I have stayed here longer than I anticipated.
How would you describe the work environment in your company?
The FMCG sector is a really fast-paced, agile, and customer-focused area. Experiences may differ depending on the department, but in Finance I closely follow relevant macroeconomic trends and news, I try to understand the implications and adjust our plans with stakeholders accordingly. I have worked in different finance teams in my company but in general, people are always friendly and ready to help and support their colleagues, especially new joiners. It may sound a bit cliché but it is true. We also feel like we are in school, where we learn something new every day.
Our culture really speaks to the employees and after a couple of months here everyone gets embraced by it. We also have a purpose-driven culture and PepsiCo Planet Positive agenda which is “a fundamental transformation of what we do and how we do it, to create growth and shared value with sustainability and human capital at the centre” as our CEO, Ramon Laguarta, described it. All employees have a chance to get involved in these projects and work with different teams, to reach our mid- and long-term environmental goals, which I believe is really valuable and something that the whole world needs.
Do you enjoy working in Poland? If so, what do you like about it?
Compared to Istanbul, where I lived for years, working in Kraków is obviously much different. First of all, anyone can feel the ‘young’ vibe of the city, which is filled with university students and graduates. Kraków is also known as one of the main hubs for global service centres in Poland, so graduates have many opportunities to choose from, and it brings great competitiveness.
What I also enjoy about living here is that Poland lies in the centre of Europe, making it really easy to travel to other countries. The country itself has lots of pleasant placesfor weekend trips, but I haven’t had a chance to visit them all yet. When it comes to Kraków, there are wonderful restaurants with different cuisines and many cosy cafes, where people can enjoy their spare time, even in chilly weather!
What major differences can you observe between the Polish and the Turkish way of working? What is similar?
I try to avoid generalization, especially when talking about two different cultures, but the main thing would be the attitude towards work-life balance. I can see that it is more valued and regulated here than in Turkey and employee well-being is more prioritized, which is really nice.. Turkey has a more volatile macroeconomics environment, and it makes a big difference even in day-to-day business operations whereas Poland is more stable and foreseeable, meaning more tranquil. On the other hand, the ways of working at PepsiCo, are generally similar across different offices because we share the same processes and procedures, no matter where we work.
Do you like living in Kraków? Is it different from your hometown?
My first reaction was pure awe at all the authenticity, since in Istanbul, modern architecture took over most of the city, and it has become difficult to sense the history. Here it is quite the opposite. Apart from that, after living in Istanbul, I understood that I really needed to be in a less crowded city, to take a break from the hustle and bustle. Kraków is also quite compact – easy to navigate even with public transportation or on foot.. Last but not least, since we have a lot of foreigners working here, I’ve had a chance to meet people from all over the world.
What advice would you give to your friends who consider working in Poland?
I would definitely recommend Poland to my friends. I am trying my best to learn Polish but many locals speak English very well so you can easily communicate with them. Also, Kraków is a very multinational and cosmopolitan city, where you can learn about and experience different cultures. Additionally, the old capital city of Poland is more affordable compared to some other European countries, so it is a very reasonable choice for new expats.