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John Sculley: From Truck Driver To CEO In 10 Years


John Sculley, a former CEO of Apple Computer Inc. and Pepsi-Cola, began working for Pepsi as an entry level truck driver and soon began climbing the corporate ladder.

Humble Beginnings

Sculley was hired at Pepsi as a trainee. He completed a 6-month training program and started working at a bottling plant in Pittsburgh.

He told Business Insider, “I was sent on to Phoenix, Arizona, where I drove trucks and I put up Pepsi signage in various neighborhoods in 120-degree heat, and I was then sent on to Las Vegas for a month of training, and then I finally ended up in Milwaukee.”

Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Sculley held various positions as he progressed from a delivery truck driver; most notably, he was Vice President of Pepsi from 1970 to 1977. He was then named the youngest-ever CEO of Pepsi in 1977. From there he was recruited by Steve Jobs to begin working for Apple. Sculley became the CEO of Apple in 1983 and held the position until 1993.

Advice For Advancement

He did not stumble upon his success by accident; he made deliberate decisions in hopes for advancement. He states he was:

  • Insatiably curious
  • Always looking to solve problems and figure out better ways to do things
  • Persistent
  • Creative
  • Up For Anything

Sculley also attributed his success to his work ethic, persistence, and inquiring mind. He does not mention needing an academic background or experience managing large corporations. His keys to success are as simple as cultivating ideas and not being afraid of sharing them.

In a recently released podcast called “Success! How I Did It”, Sculley states, “I was able to learn [a business] with hands-on learning. I’m a huge believer in hands-on learning.”

Hands On Workers

Like many truck drivers across the nation, Sculley was not afraid to get his hands dirty. He was eager to ask important questions like, “Why is it done this way?'”. He was confident to voice his ideas regarding business practices that he thought could be improved.

Hands on workers, like truck drivers, see the holes in production and transportation that those in corporate offices might not. Although not every truck driver will move from an entry level position to CEO, the skills necessary are not as complicated as some might think.

Sculley reminds us all, “It all starts with a passion to do something really well, to solve a problem in a way that’s never been solved before…”


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