One of Coke’s senior female executives recently shared a few lessons learned during her 25-year career with female business students at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

Katie Bayne, SVP of global sparkling brands, passed along these five pieces of advice to Robinson College of Business students at the launch of its new women’s leadership initiative, Women Lead. Take a look:

1.  Be Honest With Yourself 

Bayne learned this lesson during her first year at Coke, as a 22-year-old assistant brand manager. After turning in a report, her boss told her something that has stuck with her ever since.

“She looked at me and said, ‘I know you have all the ability to do this job, but I wonder if you have the ambition,’” Bayne recalled. “It rocked me to my core… and made me think about what kind of brand and legacy I was creating. It taught me that in order to be a highly valued team member, I needed to work as hard as I could in every part of my life instead of just completing the play. Today, I constantly ask myself if I’m giving the job 100 percent and delivering the best I can every day.”

2. Understand Social Norms, But Don’t Let Them Limit You 

When Bayne started at Coke in 1989, she wore heels and a monochromatic business suit every day. Growing up, she’d seen her father heading to work each morning in a coat and tie and carrying himself a certain way. “What I realized was that as I came into the workforce, I became like him... I was role playing,” she said. “I became so much more impactful when I realized I needed to bring myself – not my father – to work.”

She had a second revelation years later after having her first child while living and working in Australia. “It took being up all night with a baby in my arms to come to work as a better manager and leader… and my team responded,” she explained. “I became more vulnerable, more open and more understanding."

3.  Accept Your Failures and Learn From Them

During a stretch assignment earlier in her career, Bayne and her colleagues were challenged with using Coke’s vast distribution network to deliver more value to the consumer. One of their ideas explored the concept of “Vendo-tainment” by using Coke machines to play music, commercials and other multimedia content. A pilot on a college campus flopped.

“It was a bad idea,” Bayne said, laughing. “But it taught us to keep things simple and understand the value proposition to the consumer because they know best.” The learnings led to the launch of the MyCokeRewards loyalty program, which now has more than 22 million registered users in the U.S. “We found that people were willing to enter codes to redeem for prizes and experiences,” she said, “but that they didn’t want vending machines that bothered them.”

4.  Create Balance for Your Life

After having kids, Bayne said she leaned on her fellow Coca-Cola moms for everything from moral support to childcare referrals. “If you want balance in your life, you have to create it,” she said, adding that giving 110 percent to everything in your life is mathematically impossible. “There’s only one of you, and you can only give 100 percent of yourself to something at a time. I give 100 percent of myself at work, and I give 100 percent to my family and friends. And I ask my teammates to do the same, because they are better business people and far better marketers by getting out of their offices and into their lives.”

Bayne advised the students to seek balance and rejuvenation in their personal lives, too, but focusing on mentorships and relationships outside the office. “You need to invest in yourself and what’s important to you,” she said.

5.  Get to Know People

“You can fill your schedule every day with meetings that run from the minute you arrive to the time you leave, or you can book lunches and schedule time in between meetings to get to build trust with the people you work with,” Bayne said. In addition to her team, Bayne makes a point to engage Coca-Cola bottlers and consumers. “Getting to know people allows you to take risks that can drive the business and do things you didn’t think were possible,” she added.

The 'Changing Face of Coca-Cola'

Bayne said she has “both benefited from and participated in” Coke’s commitment to empowering women leaders, led by Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent. In 2007, Kent spotted a mismatch: Women represented only 23 percent of senior management roles at the company, yet accounted for 70 percent of the world’s household purchases.

As part of the Global Women’s Initiative, Kent created the Women’s Leadership Council. The council’s 15 senior female executives – including Bayne – help shape the company’s strategy for recruiting, developing and advancing women leaders. Women currently make up more than 30 percent of Coke’s senior management roles globally, and Bayne says work has just begun. 

“The face of Coca-Cola has dramatically changed,” she concluded, “and I’m proud of it.” 

Watch Bayne's full presentation here: