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How I Got Here: Jon Hixson

How I Got Here: Jon Hixson

Published 04-25-24

Submitted by Yum! Brands

Jon Hixson, title and Yum! logo

In the #HowIGotHere series, you’ll read about the career paths of some of the world-renowned leaders at Yum! Brands. Learn more about Jon Hixson, Chief Sustainability Officer & Vice President of Government Affairs Yum! Brands in this installment.


  • Trego Community High School  
    WaKeeney, Kansas, United States (1985– 1989)
  • Kansas State University  
    Manhattan, Kansas, United States Bachelor of Science, Milling Science and Management (1989 – 1993)
  • George Washington University  
    Washington, D.C., United States Master of Business Administration, International Finance (1997 – 1999)

If we were to interview your teachers, what would they say about you?

Jon was a curious and talented student with a great sense of humor.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a commodity trader. I grew up working on a farm that grew a tiny fraction of the global wheat production, so I was always interested in how the world produces and values food.


First Job

My first job was for ConAgra Flour Milling in Denver, Colorado. I took the job because I thought I would get to enjoy the mountains and ski often, but I never skied when I worked for ConAgra.

  • ConAgra Flour Milling, Denver, Colorado, United States
    1993-1994: Operations Manager
  • United States House of Representatives and United States Senate, Washington, D.C., United States
    1994-1997: Staff Assistant, House Committee on Agriculture
    1997-2000: Legislative Assistant, U.S. Senator Nancy Kassebaum
    2000-2003: Chief of Staff, Congressman Jerry Moran
  • Aircraft Owners and Operators of America, Washington, D.C., United States
    2003-2005: Vice President of Government Affairs
  • Cargill, Inc., Washington, D.C., United States
    2005-2011: Director of Government Affairs
  • Cargill, Inc., Singapore
    2011-2014: Director of Government Affairs, Asia Pacific
  • Cargill, Inc., Washington, D.C., United States
    2014-2017: Vice President of Corporate Affairs
  • Yum! Brands, Washington, D.C., United States
    2017-present: Chief Sustainability Officer and Vice President of Government Affairs

Do you believe in work/life balance?

The longer I’ve worked, the more I try to focus on work/life balance. My oldest child has gone off to college, and my wife and I both lost parents over the last three years, so it’s events like these that remind me that moments with family are a priority. Life is a one-way journey. Enjoy the moment, and keep it all in balance.

What moments, or who, in your life influenced the way you work?

My dad

This retired, Kansas farmer is the person who has shaped my life the most. I was always impressed by his work ethic, strategic thinking and independence as he worked his entire life as his own boss. I’ve always admired his community engagement. In retirement, he’s reinvented himself by writing history, volunteering at a museum and barbershop singing.

Working on Capitol Hill

One of my first major risks was leaving a corporate job to go work on Capitol Hill. This transition enabled professional growth and the chance to work across food, agriculture, finance, tax and transportation policy areas.

Living and working in Asia

In 2011, we moved our family to Asia for an opportunity to work as the director of government affairs for Cargill in the Asia-Pacific region. It was an amazing opportunity to pivot my career into sustainability and learn about the diverse cultures across Asia. It was very eye-opening working on the ground with smallholders in coconut, coffee, poultry and palm oil supply chains.

What do people think you do versus what you actually do?

Sustainability is an interesting word, and people tend to view it in their own personal way. Some think we focus just on improving packaging and reducing waste in our restaurants. It is that, but it’s also about listening to the concerns of our stakeholders. Most issues concern the environment or people in our business or supply chain. We try to listen to those views and seek solutions that realistically fit our franchisees and overall business model. We also spend a lot of time measuring and reporting our sustainability progress.

For government affairs, I educate policy makers about the details of Yum!'s business. Most government officials are spread thin and truly need to hear views on both sides of every issue concerning our industry. The reality of my job is listening to concerns, analyzing legislation and talking with officials about both the good and bad of how policies will affect our business, franchisees and employees.

What is the best piece of advice that you've been given?

Recognize patterns and thrive in ambiguity.

What makes you happy?

Spending time outdoors and staying active!

How do you do it?

It can be simple things like walks, hikes and taking a break to get some fresh air. I also have a 30-year-old Jeep that I take out with the top off from Easter to Thanksgiving. A topless 1980s Jeep is soul food on a warm day, although it does require a good set of tools!

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Yum! Brands

Yum! Brands

Yum! Brands, Inc., based in Louisville, Kentucky, has over 54,000 restaurants in more than 155 countries and territories, operating the Company’s brands – KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell – global leaders of the chicken, pizza and Mexican-style food categories. The Company’s family of brands also includes The Habit Burger Grill, a fast-casual restaurant concept specializing in made-to-order chargrilled burgers, sandwiches and more. Yum! Brands was named to the 2021 Dow Jones Sustainability Index North America and was ranked on Newsweek’s list of 2021 America’s Most Responsible Companies. In 2022, Yum! Brands was named to 3BL Media’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens.

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