Kate Vacovec, a Finance Manager with Pizza Hut’s international team, was offered the opportunity to go global earlier this year, and jumped at the opportunity. The long flight to Thailand was just the latest chapter in Kate’s journey with Pizza Hut, which started when she was a summer intern in 2012. Seeing as there’s a 12-hour difference between Thailand and Dallas, and neither of us felt like committing to an early morning call, we caught up with Kate via email to hear more about how she’s grown her career with Pizza Hut.
What initially attracted you to an internship at Pizza Hut?
There were two things that really attracted me to the internship at Pizza Hut. The first thing was the opportunity to work in Strategy. I was really excited about this because a strategy role gives you exposure to all different types of problems a company faces and it is very cross-functional. The second thing was the opportunity to work for an international company and focus on its growth abroad. I was an international studies major, so I didn’t really want to work within the domestic side of a large corporation. All in all, the Pizza Hut internship really stood out to me because most internships don’t offer these two opportunities (strategy + international focus) to undergrads, so I felt very lucky.
What made you decide to accept a full time offer after the internship?
Definitely my work experience and the people. I found my summer experience to be really fulfilling from a professional standpoint because I was given real problems and real responsibilities. I felt like I was making a big impact! But at the end of the day it was the people that really won me over. I developed amazing formal (and informal) mentor relationships with many people at Pizza Hut. They taught me new things every day, and were really invested in my personal growth. I couldn’t ask for more from my first job out of undergrad!
What has your career been like since you were hired?
My career has been a whirlwind! Once I joined the team in my full-time role, I immediately started working on key strategic communication projects (i.e. Investor Relations presentations, Board of Director decks, General Manager Meetings). The best part about these projects was that in helping to communicate our strategy to key stakeholders, I was quickly onboarding and beginning to understand our holistic strategy as it related to each of our functions. In addition, I was tasked with some awesome and challenging strategic projects. This is the “sexy” part of the strategy role. You basically work for the Leadership Team as an internal consultant, and you help to answer some of the key questions or challenges of the business. For example, I assessed the unit growth potential of every Pizza Hut market and then helped to set the 2020 development growth targets which underpinned our global development strategy. I also helped to develop our international pricing and promotion framework to improve our value perception across the globe. Projects like these make my job so fun!
How did the opportunity to go to Thailand come about? What are you doing there?
Ever since I studied abroad in college, I made it my goal to work abroad one day. Once I joined Pizza Hut, I frequently expressed my desire to work in one of our international business units. After this became a real possibility, the question then became what I wanted to do abroad because I couldn’t really continue my strategy role in a market (most business units don’t have a team dedicated to strategy). Therefore, I decided that I would try to balance out my strategy experience with more technical financial & capital planning experience. Right now I am doing just that in Bangkok. For every new Pizza Hut restaurant, I help run the financial feasibility assessment and recommend how we can improve the economics of the store (i.e. reduce rent, reduce our initial investment, drive sales, improve P&L assumptions). In addition, I will also be helping to set the Annual Operating Plan for next year and continue to benchmark our sales performance, G&A spend, and P&L against that plan.
Why would you recommend Pizza Hut to any potential interns?
I feel like we have all heard the internship horror stories – the girl who spent her whole summer getting coffee, or the guy who just shadowed someone his entire internship. The reason why I would highly recommend an internship with Pizza Hut is because since day one you will be treated as regular employee. One of the key guiding principles for Yum! is “believe in all people”, and this is really ingrained in the culture. My bosses believed in me, and gave me work that they would normally be doing, despite the fact that I was 22 years old and had never had any real work experience other than a few internships. It’s definitely not for everyone – you will have to tackle a steep learning curve, be able to take the initiative and feel comfortable working on projects that you have no idea how to complete initially – but the reward will be SO much greater than any other type of work experience.