Former NFL Executive Dawn Hudson Says To Lead, ‘Trust Your Gut’

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One of the nation’s most successful women executives sat down with longtime Sports Illustrated Associate Editor Don Yaeger on our Corporate Competitor Podcast to discuss how sports shaped her professional trajectory.

Dawn Hudson was born to compete in male-dominated spaces. One of three daughters of a sports enthusiast father, Hudson was drafted early on in life to become “the hypothetical son my father never had.” Her role came with trips to watch Frank Robinson and the Boston Red Sox, learning to ski at the age of four and developing a love of sports that provided the framework for a lifetime of accomplishment.

She went to Dartmouth College three years after the school began admitting women. She majored in economics and played varsity squash and tennis, developing many of the tools — “trusting my gut, playing to my strengths and re-examining the status quo by taking an outsider’s perspective” — that would eventually land her the top job as President of PepsiCo North America (PCNA).

At Pepsi, her signal accomplishments included integrating the relevant PCNA and Frito-Lay North America units with the Quaker, Tropicana and Gatorade brands to create a greater competitive advantage in the foodservice and vending channels, and sponsoring PepsiCo’s Women of Color program.

In 2014, “against the advice of some friends,” she became the NFL’s Chief Marketing Officer. Her arrival came just as the league found itself in the middle of significant controversy over a high-profile video of a player committing domestic violence. “So many people said to me, ‘You’re not going to join the NFL, are you?’ My response was, of course, I’m going to join!” Hudson said. “One of my core beliefs in business is when things are tough you have the biggest opportunity to make an impact.” Hudson used her influence to help lead a national conversation on domestic violence that helped transform the NFL into a voice of progress.

Hudson retired from the NFL in 2018 and is currently working on a book while serving as a keynote speaker.

You Will Learn

3:00   Dawn’s advice to women who work in a male-dominated environment.

14:00  How to take ownership of failure.

17:30  How to use your gut instinct.

30:00  How the golf course fueled Dawn’s career.

40:00  How to calmly handle controversy surrounding your team.

Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive.

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