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Partner Spotlight

How 2U Is Helping Nestlé Purina Increase the Diversity of Its Tech Talent Pool

Written by Bannon Puckett on Dec 7, 2021

Related content: Strategic Partnerships

As the world's largest food and beverage company, Nestlé has long been a household name. From baby food to pet food and chocolate to coffee, its portfolio offers products and services for all stages of life.

You may not think “technology” when you hear “Nestlé Purina,” but the two go hand in hand. In fact, Nestlé boasts the largest IT operations landscape in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry—working with leading technologies to engage with millions of consumers and customers worldwide.

In 2020, Nestlé Purina partnered with 2U as a way of tapping into new pools of tech talent and amplifying its recruiting efforts through Nestlé’s Project Opportunity initiative. Since then, 2U has been supporting the company through a variety of efforts, ranging from hosting informational webinars targeted to military veterans and women in 2U-powered boot camps to connecting students to job opportunities at Nestlé Purina through our Career Engagement Network.

The company’s senior manager of diversity, equity & inclusion, Dawn Higgins, describes Project Opportunity as “a career acceleration initiative catering to hidden talent pools—such as military veterans, students, and early careerists—that’s intended to shape the future workforce through skill-building and increased access to career opportunities.” Here, Higgins elaborates on how Nestlé Purina is paving pathways for underserved communities, how Project Opportunity is helping the company redefine what diversity means, and what its recruiters look for in technical talent.

What are some of Nestlé Purina’s greatest needs and hiring goals in tech? And how do you see your partnership with 2U benefiting the company in those areas?

We’re searching for tech professionals with relevant skill sets in areas like machine learning, automation, data analysis, cloud-based engineering, and project management. Additionally, we want to hire motivated and talented tech candidates from a variety of backgrounds. Diversifying our teams lets us benefit from new ideas and strengths that help us move forward as an organization. When companies like 2U offer students training in these high-demand skill areas, it broadens our candidate pool and gives more people a chance at an exciting and fulfilling career.

We love that our partnership with 2U introduces us to new talent with valuable skills. Any boot camp student from a 2U-powered program who can get experience in one of these areas has a lot to offer Nestlé IT. IOT (Internet of Things) is really something special for us right now as we look to advance in solutions to support our biggest customers like Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc., as well as support our Just Right brand, which works to personalize your pet food.

What compelled Nestlé to launch Project Opportunity? 

Nestlé’s mission is to create shared value. As a force for good, we unlock the power of food to enhance the quality of life for all people and pets, today and for generations to come. We believe that communities cannot thrive if they fail to offer a bright future for younger generations. That is why we are determined to help people develop their skills so that they can find fulfilling jobs or create their own businesses. Project Opportunity is aligned with our global ambition to help 10 million people around the world have access to economic opportunities. What benefits communities, benefits us.

How is Project Opportunity responding to global crises like COVID-19 and helping to bridge critical skills gaps in today’s economy? 

Building new talent pools is imperative. The manufacturing skills gap continues to widen and the workforce landscape is dramatically different since the pandemic began. Rethinking workforce development is critical to all industries, and the topic of upskilling and reskilling is top of mind. Through Project Opportunity, we address the need to build new talent pools by offering upskilling through our Management Development Program, traineeships, internships, co-ops, and apprenticeships, and by creating career readiness for early careerists and the unemployed. 

Why is Project Opportunity attractive and important for students in the tech space, and for adult learners who are looking to upskill/reframe their careers?

Project Opportunity connects with, inspires, and prepares emerging and experienced talent to thrive as the future creators, farmers, and entrepreneurs of America. This initiative offers insights, tools, and opportunities to help career-seekers get equipped for meaningful jobs. It helps people gain the skills required to join a rapidly changing and increasingly digitized world of work. Students and adults can benefit greatly from the career-readiness tips and workshops, job fairs, and even the inspiring stories of our employees.

What is Nestlé Purina’s commitment to diversity and inclusion when it comes to hiring? How is 2U’s boot camp candidate pool helping the company meet goals in that area?

Globally, Nestlé Purina’s efforts are centered in four focus areas within diversity and inclusion: gender balance, people with disabilities, the LGBT+ community, and race and ethnicity. We have advanced racial and ethnic inclusion for a long time. Today, more than 85% of management committee positions in the countries we operate are held by local employees who are truly representative of the communities we serve. By tapping into 2U’s boot camp candidate pool, we’re able to meet new talent and hire people with a variety of backgrounds. Our recruiters say that initiative is something that stands out for those who have attended the boot camps: A candidate’s initiative to seek out key, focused learning in a specific area could help impact their career interests and develop themselves in a new area or better leverage existing skill sets. We know that many boot camp participants also work full time while enrolled, and that speaks volumes to their dedication and focus.  

There’s a lot of talk in tech hiring about hard skills versus soft skills. How might you see students from 2U-powered boot camps differ from other candidates in their manifestation of these skill sets? 

We’ve seen these students be very actively engaged at the events in which we’ve partnered with 2U. It’s encouraging to see such active engagement, and it also makes them stand out from the crowd. 

As far as what we look for in candidates, having the hard skills required to succeed in a role is important—but outside of that, soft skills round out a candidate to give us the full package we’re seeking. Many team leaders look for candidates with great communication skills across all levels. For candidates to be successful at Nestlé IT, they need to have strong learning agility, a growth mindset, and a willingness to stray from the status quo.

What advice would you offer boot camp students who are interested in working at Nestlé Purina?

Be sure to tailor your resume to the role you’re applying for, highlighting relevant work or project experience, and using relevant keywords. To prepare for interviews, read blogs about our behavioral interview process in order to familiarize yourself with Nestlé Purina’s “STAR” format. Highlight your unique role in the projects you’ve accomplished, and prep before each interview by thinking about past experiences.

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