Due to pep hiring for several roles on the General Mills team in Minneapolis, we decided to sit down with one of our employees who went through our relocation program and landed on that team. I thought she could shed a little light on the city life, the work, and what it was like starting in Cincinnati and being moved on a 2 year contract to a location of pep’s choosing! Having interviewed Clare Gandenberger myself before she got hired (and subsequently telling everyone we needed to grab her asap!), I was very eager to sit down and chat with her one-on-one to see how everything has progressed over the last year and half!

Tell me a little about your background and how you ended up in Minneapolis? “I was born and raised in Cincinnati, but moved to Louisville Kentucky for college. A year after graduating, I accepted a traveling internship with the U.S. Army and that sparked my interest in eventually moving to a brand-new city. When I interviewed with pep, I was actually more interested in the Satellite Trainee position than the typical AC positions in Cincinnati because I was looking for an opportunity to move. I accepted an offer from pep, and trained in Cincinnati for a year, before relocating to Minneapolis to support the General Mills account. My official Minneapolis start date was actually my one-year anniversary with pep!”

If we were to uncover your nerdiest self, what would we discover? “I am pretty active and I love exploring outside and trying new things. But, if I am home in my apartment, I’m usually either embroidering or working on thousand-piece jigsaw puzzles. So, basically, I’m like an 80-year-old at heart (laughs).

What is your life philosophy? “It’s a cliché, but it kind of boils down to the belief that everything worth doing is a risk. I think back on the most rewarding experiences of my life, and all of them were experiences that caused some worry and anxiety. But, taking those risks have paid off in ways that I didn’t even imagine. Some examples would be: studying abroad, learning to rock climb, traveling to Thailand alone and moving to Minneapolis where I didn’t know anybody. Obviously, all very stressful situations, but each one of those experiences has been incredibly rewarding and they have taught me so much about myself and what I value in life. I feel like you have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to really figure out who you are. Very cliché, but very true.”

What have been your biggest obstacles in life and how did you master them? “This is a challenging question because I am so privileged. I think the biggest challenge has been trying to maintain forward momentum at a time in my life when I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do professionally. During my early 20’s I was living in Louisville, I was happy there and had a ton of friends. But, at the same time I didn’t really have a career, nor did I really know what I wanted to do at that point. So, I was trying to find opportunities that would help me grow and expand professionally, while still buying some time to figure out what I was really passionate about and what I was good at. It was a really difficult period because I just felt really stuck, but all roads kind of led me to where I am now and it worked out.”

What do you do when you aren’t working? “I love to rock climb and usually try to squeeze in 3 or 4 climbs a week. I also can’t get enough of the lakes around the city, and the entire state! I am about a 5-minute bike ride away from Lake of the Isles, so after work I’ll bike with my hammock and a book to the lake and read until it gets dark. I also just really love to cook and try new recipes to expand my culinary skills. Do you ever go out on the lake? “I would love to rent a kayak or a canoe and get out on the lake, but I just haven’t done it yet because it’s either been too cold or it’s shifted and it got really hot really quickly. So hopefully this summer I’ll be able to take advantage of that!”

If you could create your own future by taking magic pills and making it 10 years from now, what top 3 things would you want for yourself and what top 3 things would you want for this world? “This was a really hard question, I felt like I had a midlife crisis thinking about it (laughs). For myself, it’s always important to me to feel challenged and whether that’s through challenging career projects, learning a new hobby, traveling, or even just being around people who are creative, diverse, and who challenge me to get outside my own bubble. I also want to carve out time to be more involved in my community, be that through volunteering, or even getting involved in local government. I just want to be very involved in whatever community I end up putting roots in. Another dream is rescuing a dog one day. I’m just too busy right now with work, traveling, and moving around every few years. I hope that in 10 years I’m stable enough to give my future dog the life it deserves.

Then for the world, obviously, women’s issues are extremely important to me. In 10 years, I want to exist in a more inclusive and just society not just for women, but for people of all backgrounds. I think we’re on the cusp of becoming an inclusive society, but I wish I could do more to speed that up. I’m also very interested in how technology continues to develop. I’m sure if I woke up 10 years from now we would have all kinds of technology that makes our lives more convenient. I would like to see more technology being invested in more developing populations, to tangibly benefit people’s health and safety. I don’t need my amazon order to deliver in less than an hour. I need people to have access to malaria pills and vaccines. I hope that we can find ways to make technology more accessible to people across the world. Finally, I hope that we greatly increase our investment and education and the arts.”

What was your first impression of pep? “When I was first applying I was just really interested in how young the company seemed. It just felt like a place that I would fit in. Once I was hired and started working, I loved how everyone worked together as a team. During my first few weeks, everyone was so helpful. As I began to take on more work people would constantly ask if they could help me. If was feeling overworked someone always noticed and offered to take a task off my plate. Even though we all have our own individual projects, everyone is looking out for everyone else. It is such a team environment.”

What surprised you most about Minneapolis? What’s your favorite thing about it now as a city and about working at General Mills? “Everyone told me that Minneapolis was a really active city, but I don’t think I was prepared for just how active. Driving home I notice people out walking their dogs, riding their bikes, rollerblading, etc. In the winter, you even see cross country skiers. That’s the most surprising thing, is that in the winter it doesn’t stop, there are still people outside all the time which is amazing!

My favorite thing about the city is that there is always something fun going on! There are the lakes, incredible art museums, music, festivals, community events, and so much more. I feel like my weekends are always jammed packed. It is an amazing city to be in as a young professional, I am so happy I got moved here! My favorite thing about working at General Mills is just being onsite with the client. Even though our scope here is narrow in that we only handle coupon execution, we still have this very interesting window into the rest of the business. For example, I’m revising a coupon now because there is a product that we can’t make fast enough. You just don’t get that kind of background when you aren’t onsite with the client. It has been so interesting to learn how a business of this size runs.”

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career thus far. “I think it would have to be right before I moved to Minneapolis. My supervisor, Allison Arnold, and I were called in to help on a large program. The two of us, in just over a month, got that promotion back on track. It wasn’t just the event itself, we had all kinds of bags, t-shirts and premium items to deliver also. I think all in all it was over 10 promotions that were tied to that event. On top of all of that, the event overlapped with the client’s fiscal year end which added a whole layer of complexity. Just working with Allison was amazing, but so was being able to tackle something so giant in such a short amount of time and still come through for the client. That was the first month I really felt like wow what I do is so impactful and so important to the client. Being able to keep everything moving even in the most hectic of circumstances, it was such a challenge, but it was definitely the time that I probably learned the most at pep.”

What do you find most challenging and the most rewarding about the work you do? “Most challenging has been how detail-oriented you have to be to excel at coupon work. I had always considered myself detail oriented, until I was placed on this team. I had no idea how granular coupons could be! I used to love billing, file closure and audit and that seems so big picture in comparison to the work I do now. So, just having to be so microscopic in your attention to detail is very challenging.

What’s most rewarding is being able to come through for the client. I work on shopper marketing coupons, which are the same execution as the national brand coupons I run, except they are on a fraction of the timeline. There is nothing more satisfying than feeling really compressed, but being able to deliver for a team counting on the offer. Again, I think that relates to my life philosophy, the most stressful situations are often the most satisfying and rewarding once you’re able to come through to the other side.”

What has been your biggest learning about yourself, pep and your team throughout this unique Satellite Trainee process? “Starting with learnings about myself, I don’t think I ever gave myself credit for how resilient I can be. When I’m frustrated, my emotions just come out of my eyeballs. I’m a crier, so I've always kind of considered myself weak and little emotional (laughs). Within the first two months of being in Minneapolis I got in a car accident, my grandmother passed away, and my apartment was robbed. Looking back, that was a rough period, but I got through it!  I’ve realized that I can handle a lot of stuff that life throws at me by just letting it roll off my back, and I’ve learned to give myself a little credit.

 With pep, I didn’t fully realize how flexible we can be for our clients. I thought I knew what moving to a coupon-heavy team would entail, and guessed it would be really similar to coupon work for other clients, but it is very different. I had no appreciation for how well we’re able to craft these custom solutions to really fit our client’s needs. That comes with some challenges around IT, client policies, org structures, etc. But, I think in the end, our clients recognize and value our flexibility.

As for two teams, I’ve learned to appreciate them both in different ways. My old team in Cincinnati has been absolutely incredible; they feel like my family. When my apartment got broken into they took up a collection to try and help me out, which was extremely sweet and thoughtful! You just don’t get coworkers like that at every company! The Cincinnati team has helped me stay connected, despite relocating and moving to a different client. My new team here in Minneapolis has been so welcoming and very eager to learn. They are very interested in asking questions like “How are things done in Cincinnati?” or “How did you tackle this on your old team?”. I feel like that kind of cross pollination has been extremely beneficial. I think pep is one of those rare places where your colleagues do become your friends and, in some cases, your family.”  




Alexandra Bowden
Talent Acquisition Supervisor