Why Philip Molyneux Never Left Sony

PHILIP C. MOLYNEUX is president and chief operating officer of Sony Electronics, Inc., San Diego. 

I WAS born in Luton, England, one of four children. We moved around the country, then settled near Wolverhampton, where my father worked as a mechanical engineer for Norton Villiers Triumph, procuring parts for motorcycles.

That’s when my lifelong love of building and racing motorcycles began. I loved competitive racing, where speed and risk went hand in hand. I bought my first motorbike at 16, and soon progressed into the club racing scene around England. I moved up to more powerful bikes and broke my fair share of bones. Although I loved racing, I knew it was never going to be my career. The visits to the hospital were becoming too frequent.

I left high school and became a mechanical engineering apprentice at a British Defense Ministry research facility. I completed the apprenticeship in 1983 with a keen view that engineering was not what I wanted to do in life.

I was accepted for a program sponsored by Hewlett-Packard at the Polytechnic of Central London, now known as the University of Westminster. I graduated in two years qualified in computer technology and marketing.

At Hewlett-Packard I provided technical support to military installations around the city of Southampton. I drove up and down the coast troubleshooting computers and networks — a great experience for a 22-year-old.

Credit...Sony Electronics

In 1987, I was ready for a new challenge. I saw an ad for a position with the computer and components division of Sony Electronics outside London, in Staines. Building this new business from scratch was an exciting start-up opportunity. With just a handful of employees, we did everything from sales to imports. Our first product was Sony’s compact disc drive, which was then the size of a shoe box and came with no content applications or driver software.

Over the next decade and after several new product developments, we expanded Sony’s component business to include many other computer peripherals, semiconductors, and eventually component solutions for mobile telephones. The business expanded across Europe, giving me the opportunity to work in many different countries. Travel became my middle name.

My wife, Debbie, and I moved with our two sons, who were then toddlers, to Budapest, as I took up the reins as managing director of Sony Central and Southeast Europe. My eldest son, Max, came to visit regularly from London. Our time in Hungary was both exciting and challenging. Being responsible for 21 countries across Eastern Europe was a fascinating experience, and my adaptability came in handy as I tackled the uniqueness of each culture.

In 2010, the Sony Corporation’s then chief executive, Sir Howard Stringer — a great mentor — asked me if I wanted to move to San Diego to lead the company’s United States electronics business. That sounded pretty good after the long winters in Hungary, and it was also a great opportunity. I was able to apply the brand-building experience I gained in Europe to a much bigger market.

I am often asked why I never left Sony after 27 years. It’s primarily because I was always afforded the freedom to innovate, create and build — never having to look far for my next challenge.

As head of Sony’s largest region, I direct the marketing, sales and development of electronics products from cameras, personal computers and televisions to professional broadcast cameras and security and medical solutions.

I no longer crave the speed of the racecourse, although I still regularly ride my Triumph Speed Triple. Aside from my family, my focus now is on bringing the next cool gadget to American consumers.

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