Investing in Leadership Talent: Using an MBA to Break the Career Ceiling


On starting as a Supply Planner at PepsiCo in September 2020, Thiago Narisawa made a bold and ambitious statement. He wanted to do an MBA as part of his leadership development at PepsiCo and needed their support to help fund his ambitions. No small ask of any organisation, but especially significant when Thiago is one of over 4,500 employees in the UK, each with their own individual training needs. So, how did they reach a decision and was it the right one?

Accelerating career success

With 15 years’ experience in supply chain planning, Thiago recognised that to accelerate the leap into senior management, he needed to showcase his potential and demonstrate an aptitude for leadership. Combining his ambition to study with a full-time career meant taking the decision to pursue an Executive MBA at the University of Bath.

Thiago explained: “I had made it clear from joining PepsiCo that one of my goals was to develop myself further through an MBA. I knew that the breadth of business knowledge and leadership development the programme offered would enable me to grow in my position and take on more responsibility within the organisation.”

“PepsiCo needed to see a clear business case for their investment and to understand what benefits this would bring to their business. They also needed to understand my aspirations and commitment to the company’s future.”

“I considered many factors when choosing a university for my MBA but felt that the programme at Bath offered a wide range of modules that were not only interesting for me but that would also have impact for PepsiCo.”

Thiago Narisawa

“I think the outcomes of the course and everything I have been able to apply since starting has been visible. PepsiCo can see the benefits and understand that they made the right choice.” – Thiago Narisawa, Supply Planner at PepsiCo

Building the business case

PepsiCo have an established partnership with the Bath MBA across a wide range of leadership development projects, from internships to corporate mentoring.  When approached by Thiago, the team at Bath recognised the potential he had as an Executive MBA candidate and supported his application through their corporate partnerships programme.

Becky Gallagher, Head of MBA Admissions and Recruitment, at the University of Bath, explained: “As soon as I met Thiago, I knew that our Executive MBA would have a huge impact on his career and life. He had taken a very reflective approach to his career and had clearly identified his skillset and the tools he now needed to break through the career ceiling.”

“He knew what he wanted from an Executive MBA but he also had an awareness of the huge impacts his learning could have on his colleagues and organisation. As a team, we knew that Thiago would bring something very special to our programme and we wanted to support him in joining us.”

“Our MBA corporate partnerships encourage organisations to consider their long-term strategy for growth and how they can nurture and develop talent from within. We work with organisations to help identify future leaders and deliver world-class, practice-based learning that aligns with both their operational and strategic needs. We could see that Thiago presented huge potential for PepsiCo, so we wanted to do all we could to help bring his ambitions to fruition.”

Explaining the impact the partnership programme had in developing a successful business case to PepsiCo, Thiago continued: “The support I received from the MBA Team at Bath was phenomenal. They were able to put a meeting together with my line manager and the HR team to discuss the Executive MBA programme in detail. About how it would impact, not only on me, but my sector and role, and how it would touch different people and parts of the organisation. This was the evidence PepsiCo needed to invest in me.”

Thiago Narisawa

“Investing in employees’ progression and development brings loyalty and partnership that can benefit your team and the wider business. This experience has been massively positive for him and us.”  – Sophia Wilson, Supply Chain Planning Manager at PepsiCo

Investing in progression

Sophia Wilson, Supply Chain Planning Manager at PepsiCo explained the strategic thinking behind their investment: “This was a significant outlay for the business, even for one the size of PepsiCo. We have a budget for employee development but it doesn’t often stretch to a full MBA so the decision to invest in Thiago wasn’t without obstacles. Thiago presented a solid business case but he also demonstrated drive and ambition.”

Thiago started the two-year, part-time Executive MBA programme at Bath in 2021 with the support and financial backing of PepsiCo. He is due to graduate later this academic year. “It’s been a long journey for me, and quite an emotional one, but it’s been a fantastic experience,” he says.

As well as working with senior executives from across the spectrum of public and private sector organisations, Thiago has learned about current business issues, corporate strategies and complex management situations, hearing from experts in their field and working on real projects. This approach has allowed Thiago to bring a breadth of knowledge and understanding back into his organisation, putting theory into practice and delivering real solutions to the business.

A collaboration that delivers outcomes

Sophia recognises the significant impact the programme has had on Thiago, commenting: “I have already seen the change in Thiago since starting his MBA at Bath. His critical thinking skills have developed and he’s coming to us with new ideas and working on different projects. Thiago has really embraced a new leadership role, providing extra training to team members and sharing what he has learned at Bath.”

“Thiago has grown in confidence and is reaching out to different stakeholders across the business. This experience has been massively positive for him and us.” 

If you’re an organisation interested in exploring the impacts of an MBA leadership development programme, or an individual who would like to discuss your ambitions for an MBA, contact Becky Gallagher, Head of Admissions & Recruitment, at or arrange to visit us on campus. We’re here to help.


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