John Sculley Speaks Up for High Technology Solutions to 21st Century Economic Problems

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John Sculley Shares with Audiences Worldwide His Journey from Young Turk to Eminence Grise . . . and What He Has Learned Along the Way

As a boy, John Sculley loved to tinker with electronics; when he was five, he asked Santa for a dry-cell battery, a buzzer, and hookup wire. At ten, he was dismantling radios and converting them into intercoms. As a teen, he invented a color cathode-ray tube that, if someone hadn’t beaten him to the patent, would have been the prototype for the Triniton color TV tube.

It should be no surprise, then, that Sculley is a recognized expert and popular speaker about high-tech tools for tackling such challenges as corporate revitalization and the high cost of health care. What may be surprising is the path that led him here.

The son of a Wall Street lawyer father and an artistic mother, John Sculley was born in New York City and grew up in Bermuda and on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. As college approached, he was more interested in architecture and industrial design than in marketing or technology. He earned an undergraduate degree from Brown University and enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Architecture. But a summer internship at a New York industrial design firm convinced Sculley that marketers, not designers, were calling the shots. So he switched to Wharton, Penn’s prestigious graduate school of business.

After earning his MBA in 1963, and taking advantage of his interest in math and statistical modeling, Sculley worked in market research for a New York advertising agency. Four years later, as big corporations began moving their marketing operations in-house, he joined the Pepsi-Cola Company as a trainee.

Sculley describes his first few months at Pepsi as a whirlwind of different jobs in different cities as he learned the rules of corporate culture and the ropes of the soft drink industry. By 1970, at age 30, he was Pepsi’s youngest vice president of marketing, managing a staff of 75. In 1977, after heading the company’s International Foods division and then serving as senior vice president for US sales and marketing, he was named the youngest ever President of Pepsi-Cola.