This alumnus thought he'd be a doctor, but he wound up quenching his professional thirst at Coke.

Patrick YadaugaAt first, Patrick Yadauga was headed straight for a career in the sciences.

“I saw myself as the next Jacques Cousteau [the famed undersea explorer],” Yadauga said. “I was basically pre-med, taking a lot of science classes.”

And like so many MSU Denver students, he was working full time to pay his way. “I didn’t want any debt when I graduated, so I was working a couple of jobs.”

One of those jobs was for a contract packer of soft drinks. And you might say that was how he began to learn his future business from the ground up – literally – picking up soft drinks and lifting them off the ground to wherever they needed to go. It was work that would prove fateful.

After graduation, Yadauga had several options. He’d been accepted to a few medical schools, but realized he wasn’t going to have the money to attend any of them. That fact, and his recent marriage, propelled him headlong into the working world.

In 1979, he started in quality control for one of the most renowned businesses ever: The Coca-Cola Company. Over the years, he steadily worked his way into the upper echelons of management and today serves as senior vice president-supply chain.

In his current role, Yadauga oversees upwards of 30,000 employees and gets to travel the globe, estimating he’s worked in more than 75 countries. He supervises the company’s expansion and helps less-developed parts of the world enjoy their share of free enterprise.

Pat Paya, a senior vice president in strategy at Coca Cola who’s known Yadauga for 20 years, called him

“a strong thought leader with great ideas. It’s hard these days to find someone who’s good at both strategy and tactics, but Patrick is, and that makes him special.”

Yadauga credits his education at MSU Denver for part of his success and recalls one science professor’s valuable lesson in thinking.

“He gave us a test and said there were two ways to get a 100 on it – we could get all the questions wrong or all right. But he had put in a trick question and I still remember it: it was about cell division and you had to know that sex cell division occurred through meiosis and not mitosis.”

Yadauga says that’s the moment he understood that school was about learning how to think and not just content.

“That test made you think, it made you assess risk. And today, in my job, I use that just about every day. If you’re an executive in a big organization making billion-dollar investments, you have to understand risk and all your options.”

His advice to today’s students: “Be flexible. I went to school for science, but ended up in business. The key while you’re in college is to learn how to learn. Be willing to understand and then adapt to life’s situations.”