Chelsea and Laura: Friends at First Pizza

Chelsea Hamlyn and Laura Bingham are living the dream: as former Pizza Hut interns, they met and became fast friends, and later came on board as full time members of the Human Resources team. We sat down with these very funny ladies to learn more about their summer internships, the beginning of their friendship, and what it’s like to transition from a summer of fun to being real adults (mostly).

What attracted you to Pizza Hut?

Chelsea: During the first week of grad school at the University of Minnesota, we had two people come in from Yum!; and to be honest, I didn’t know much about Yum!. It wasn’t until they started talking about the different Yum! brands that I got very excited. Despite being a big corporation, Yum! felt like was a small company that wanted to take care of the community and their employees, and I got excited about that. They talked about a trip they took to give back to World Hunger Relief. At that point, I had just returned from Haiti. It was easy for me to connect with a company that offered a way to give back at work, and not just in my personal life.

Laura: At the University of Illinois, we also had a bunch of companies come during the fall to recruit. Like Chelsea’s program, each company would host an info session and do their pitch. All the companies sounded very similar. When Yum! visited, I remember being blown away and thinking wow, these are people that I could spend a lot of time with. I knew that it wasn’t enough to just look for the challenging work (which, by the way, was there too). You have to consider who you’re going to be spending time with, and if your potential new coworkers are people who you can actually work with. When Yum! talks about their strong culture, in my experience, it’s not just lip service.

What is the balance between work and play as an intern?

Laura: When I was an intern, the projects we were assigned were a critical business need, not just busy work. Projects were things that the team can’t get to themselves because so much is going on here, or something they want a fresh perspective on. You’d have a couple projects assigned to you with key deliverables and milestones along the way. At the same time, there were a lot of activities unique to the internship. We’d have lunch ‘n learns with the senior leadership team, I think one time we went to a baseball game, things like that. We worked really cross-functionally- for example, at the time, our current CEO David Gibbs was on the finance team so we went offsite with his team for some bonding over a wine a cheese tasting. It was great.


Chelsea: That’s true, there were a lot of different events set up for us just to get to know people outside of HR. The ability to get to know different leaders across different functions helped us collect the story of what’s happening at Pizza Hut from a business standpoint. The balance between work and play was great—Laura and I lived in Uptown, Dallas. We worked very hard—I would say we worked incredibly hard because we knew that we wanted to be at Pizza Hut full time. At the same time, the intern program provided us with all these different events that allowed us to see the city and different parts of Dallas.

How did you guys meet and become friends?

Laura: Prior to the start of the summer, there was an intern coordinator who put all the HR interns in touch over the phone. By this time I think they had told us where we’d be living—there were two of us in Dallas and two of us in Louisville. So we met on the phone and then met during orientation in Louisville and connected instantly. Chelsea’s super down-to-earth and funny and just ridiculous, and I was kind of ridiculous as well. We bonded over that, quickly. We lived together and I don’t think we ate one meal in the apartment.

Chelsea: We’re different, and even today we laugh about how different we are. I’m much more structured. I’m much cleaner than Laura (laughs). In a good way, she’s not clean. Also, she’s not a planner. I’m definitely a planner who’s outgoing, chatty, and social. Laura’s social and she’s chatty once you get to know her, but she’s very unstructured. She’s not on time. But we work SO well together. Even though my internship was on the US side of the business, I still got that holistic view of Pizza Hut because Laura was on the international side. It helped to remind us that our piece of Pizza Hut was just a small part of a big company with all these different brands and initiatives going on at the same time.

Laura: It was great to also have someone to vent when it was a stressful day or talk about what was going on at work.  I think we went to the grocery store once in three months and bought deli meat. That was it. We either got pizza or went to this place that had the BEST buffalo chicken sandwiches and ate out all the time.

Chelsea:  I don’t think we cooked the entire summer, which was impressive and disgusting all at the same time. We both weren’t from Texas—she’s from Tennessee and I’m from Michigan. We didn’t know anyone, so we went out often and we had brunch every weekend.

At the end of the summer, what made you want to accept a full time offer?

Laura: Sometimes through these things you get an offer, and sometimes you don’t. It just so happened that our year, all four of us HR interns got full-time offers. I remember thinking, I want to accept this right now, is it weird to just say yes? I think you’re not supposed to that, I think you’re supposed to think about it and go back and recruit. But, honestly, I told the recruiter at the time that I was going to check out other opportunities, when really I did no such thing. I knew instantly I wanted to be with Pizza Hut, but tried to play it cool for a few months.

Chelsea: Throughout the entire summer I don’t think there was ever any doubt that if I got the full-time offer I would accept it. The company culture very much fits my personality– Pizza Hut’s mentality is work hard/play hard, and just be yourself. I don’t want to be someone from 6pm on and then have to come to work the next day and be someone completely different. So I felt like Pizza Hut was a place where I could be myself, have normal conversations, and make friends. I knew therefore that if I got the offer I would take it.

Since you started full time, what has life been like?

Laura: It is a bit different, because you don’t have just three months to complete a project. You’ve also got multiple things going on—you have some big long-term projects and milestones that are critical, but then especially for an HR generalist you have a lot of day to day stuff that comes up as well. And no, you don’t keep getting to have lunch ‘n learns with the leadership team.

Chelsea: Now I’m on the flip side of the internship program and I’m the one doing the recruiting and bringing people in. Having been an intern, it’s clear to me that there actually is a career path here, and it’s not just lip service. There are actual people—me being one of those examples—who have grown with Pizza Hut. Career growth does look a bit different—you don’t have to start at step one to make it to step five. You can start at step one and make it to four and then back to two. As long as you’re open and put your trust in the company, you’ll go far.

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