Life on the corporate fast track is nothing new to Virgil M. Scott. He's ridden it, more or less, since he was a teen-ager.
"When I was in college I managed the parking lot operations of Six Flags Over Georgia," Mr. Scott says. "I started that job when I was 16 and I worked my way up. Before I left, I was lead supervisor and managed 125 employees."
Mr. Scott liked what he did. And before he graduated from Clarke College, the Atlanta native had decided to shelve his broadcast management degree and go into business. It is a decision he has never regretted.
Mr. Scott, who just turned 30, is now a Baltimore-area vice president for Pepsi Cola. He oversees 450 employees and is responsible for fountain, vending and service operations in the region.
"My guys are the guys who sell vending machines to businesses. We convince businesses to put in our machines. We call on franchisees in fast food, the military, school systems and major sports venues," Mr. Scott explains.
It is the kind of job Mr. Scott envisioned for himself when he graduated from Clarke in 1983.
He says he was No. 9 in his class and faced with the pleasant task of choosing from among 17 job offers when he graduated from college.
The job he chose coming out of school was in operations with American Hospital Supply, which he describes as the world's largest hospital supply firm. The $4 billion company sold 104,000 different products when Mr. Scott was aboard.
Mr. Scott enjoyed a rapid rise with the company, earning several promotions in three years before the firm merged with another company in 1986.
"Career advancement slowed down after that," Mr. Scott says. "That's when I said to myself that I had to start rethinking my plans. And when I started that process, that's when Pepsi called."
Pepsi had been calling for years, Mr. Scott adds, but the offers always were to work with the firm's Frito-Lay division. And Mr. Scott wanted to sell soda -- an opportunity Pepsi finally offered with its latest call.
"Frito Lay is more of a distribution job," Mr. Scott says. "Pepsi is more sales oriented."
Going to Pepsi put Mr. Scott back on the fast track. Since joining Pepsi, he has worked in acquisitions, marketing, business development, as assistant to a vice president, and vice president.
"Pepsi is an exciting place to work," Mr. Scott says. "We give young managers an opportunity to do a helluva a lot before they reach the age of 35."
In his job, Mr. Scott, like others at Pepsi, is concerned mostly with one thing: beating Coke.
"Last year, Coke picked up Burger King, Hardees and Wendy's," Mr. Scott says. "We're not going to take that lying down. The battlefield in this business is definitely going to be on the fountain side [as opposed to cans and bottles]."
Mr. Scott says that Pepsi's business in the region has been mostly unaffected by the on-going recession, although there have been some slower-than-expected sales at fast-food outlets.
Mr. Scott, who is married to local jazz performer Leslie Tanner, says he loves the Baltimore area. He lives in Ellicott City, but still harbors dreams of returning to his home town -- although he insists he never will work for Coca-Cola, which is headquartered in Atlanta.
He says he wants to go into business for himself someday and have the financial freedom to retire at the ripe age of 42.
"I want working at 42 to be an option," Mr. Scott says, "not a necessity."