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Forget the Ivy League: Most Silicon Valley CEOs went Public

An article in today’s San Jose Mercury News (registration required) reports on a survey of CEOs in high tech industries in Silicon Valley. Two-hirds went to state colleges and regional schools, not the nation’s most elite schools.

Here’s a snippet from the article:

Two-thirds of the CEOs of the valley’s 150 largest public companies who earned their undergraduate degrees in the United States attended taxpayer-funded public universities, state colleges and regional schools, according to a Mercury News survey. About one out of six studied overseas. And two college dropouts – Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs – reinvented the Horatio Alger story for the computer age.”Silicon Valley is really about as close to a pure talent meritocracy as you can find anywhere in the world,” said Thomas J. Friel, who retired this year as chairman of Heidrick & Struggles, a leading executive search firm with offices in Menlo Park. “It’s a brutal meritocracy.”

Such findings might relieve stressed-out high school seniors in the midst of college-application season. Angst is running especially high as they race to beat the University of California’s application deadline at midnight Friday.

The lesson: parents and students who insist that the only ticket to the top is an Ivy League degree are largely mistaken. While a degree from an elite institution can give you a leg up right out of college, success in life is more a function of what you accomplish, not your pedigree.

All the worry and stress about getting into an elite college is misplaced. We do not have an aristocracy in this country, and the elite is completely permeable to those with the drive, diligence, and talent to rise to the top. Just because you don’t have the grades or scores to get into an Ivy League college today, does not doom you to mediocrity.

Muster you talents, your self-discipline, and your creativity, and anything is possible. No matter where you go to college.

Mark Montgomery
Montgomery Educational Consulting

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