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!
|Jeff Bezos||Amazon||Princeton University||Computer Science, Electrical Engineering|
|Nathan Blecharczyk||AirBnB||Harvard University||Computer Science|
|Sergey Brin||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||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||University of Michigan||Computer Engineering|
|Ben Silbermann||Yale University||Political Science|
|Kevin Systrom||Stanford University||Management Science & Engineering|
|Peter Thiel||PayPal||Stanford University||Philosophy|
|Mark Zuckerberg||Harvard University||Dropped out -Computer Science, Psychology|