Tippie MBA Opens a 'New World'
Mark Twain once said, "It is better to give than receive—especially advice.” For Rogelio Rebolledo, MBA71, taking his friends’ advice to pursue an MBA at Iowa helped propel him to a long and successful international career with PepsiCo.
“My friends were mostly enrolled in the College of Engineering, but they had taken some courses in the College of Business and had been impressed by the quality of the professors and instructors,” Rebolledo says. “They encouraged me to enroll.”
In 1968, with a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the National University of Mexico in hand, Rebolledo was working for DuPont, the leading chemical products corporation in the world. Part of his experience there included exposure to the commercial side of business, which, he says, “triggered in me the desire to pursue an MBA rather than a master’s degree in industrial engineering.”
After doing some research on his own, he learned he could combine his interest in quantitative course work and marketing under the Iowa MBA program.
“For a foreign student who was anxiously looking for an opportunity to study in a good American university, admission to Iowa’s MBA program was the best thing that could have ever happened,” he says.
Rebolledo combined course work in management sciences and industrial engineering with cost accounting, business policy, business economics, and corporate strategy. There was “an avalanche of concepts that I took from Iowa that proved to be extremely useful during my career,” says Rebolledo, former president and CEO of the Frito Lay International Division, who retired from PepsiCo in 2003 after a 28-year career.
One of the more powerful concepts, he says, was the idea that for a product to succeed, consumer needs had to be thoroughly researched and understood.
“It was at Iowa that I first learned the importance of consumer segmentation,” he says. “I learned that a good marketing plan had to address the needs of specific consumer segments and do so on a continuous basis because needs and expectations change over time.”
“When I left Iowa, I understood that in real-life business situations, one should develop several solutions to address one problem or opportunity. If one didn’t work, we had better have other options ready for implementation,” he says.
And he did. From 1976 to 1992, during his years with Sabritas, PepsiCo’s salty snack company in Mexico, Rebolledo was instrumental in growing sales (from $48 million to $875 million) and profits (from $2 million to more than $150 million).
In 1993, he led the expansion of Frito Lay into Latin America beyond Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, and by 2000 had leading market share in 17 countries. His responsibilities were again expanded in 1996 to include PepsiCo’s Sabritas’ salty snack businesses in Australia and Asia, with operations in China, Korea, India, Indonesia, and Thailand.
Throughout his career, Rebolledo has shared the results of his experience as an international business builder with students around the world. Mark Twain would be proud.