Where did Tech Leaders Go to College?

Loans, Student Loans

Were today’s Tech Titans always computer nerds? Where did they go to college and what did they study?

Earlier this week, Code.org, a non-profit dedicated to expanding computer programming education, launched a short video featuring heavyweight tech leaders advocating the merits of coding and CS. Such initiatives (and others) are part of a wider movement that has grown over the last few years to improve the participation in and performance of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”).  The STEM agenda isn’t too controversial – most agree that the US has a shortage of skilled labor and inadequate education in these subjects, and efforts are being made to increase STEM participation.

That said, NerdWallet compiled a list of tech leaders (founders, co-founders, CEOs, and the like) and analyzed where they attended college and what they studied while in school (if they didn’t drop out, that is).

Our findings and observations:

1. Did today’s tech leaders study computer science and engineering in college? Mostly yes!

About half of the tech leaders in our list studied computer science and engineering while in college.  Jeff Bezos of Amazon managed to throw in Electrical Engineering on top of majoring in Computer Science.  Founders of Dropbox and Quora, Drew Houston and Adam D’Angelo, completed computer science degrees from MIT and Cal Tech, respectively, arguably the world’s most competitive CS/Engineering universities.

2. The alma maters of tech leaders consist largely of prestigious universities like Harvard and Stanford

Over 60% matriculated or graduated from the Ivy League, Stanford, MIT or Cal-Tech.

3. That said, dropping out of college for these tech leaders is not uncommon

~30% of those in our list dropped out of college.  Notable dropouts include: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Steve Jobs (Apple), Jack Dorsey (Twitter/Square).  In fact, the founder of Tumblr, one of the world’s largest blogging platforms and highest traffic sites, dropped out of high school!

The list:

Name Company College (Undergrad) Major
Jeff Bezos Amazon Princeton University Computer Science, Electrical Engineering
Nathan Blecharczyk AirBnB Harvard University Computer Science
Sergey Brin Google University of Maryland Computer Science, Mathematics
Brian Chesky AirBnB Rhode Island School of Design Industrial Design
Dennis Crowley Foursquare Syracuse University Public Communications
Adam D’Angelo Quora (also Facebook’s first CTO) California Institute of Technology Computer Science
Jack Dorsey Twitter, Square NYU Dropped out
Larry Ellison Oracle University of Illinois/University of Chicago Dropped out
Bill Gates Microsoft Harvard University Dropped out
Reid Hoffman LinkedIn Stanford University Symbolic Systems
Drew Houston Dropbox MIT Computer Science
Tony Hsieh Zappos Harvard University Computer Science
Steve Jobs Apple Reed College Dropped out
David Karp Tumblr n/a Never attended
Marissa Mayer Yahoo (Google’s first female engineer) Stanford University Symbolic Systems
Elon Musk PayPal (X.com), Tesla Motors, SpaceX University of Pennslyvania Physics, Business
Larry Page Google University of Michigan Computer Engineering
Ben Silbermann Pinterest Yale University Political Science
Kevin Systrom Instagram Stanford University Management Science & Engineering
Peter Thiel PayPal Stanford University Philosophy
Mark Zuckerberg Facebook Harvard University Dropped out -Computer Science, Psychology