5 Liberal Arts Graduates Who Went On To Become CEOs of Tech Companies, Leaving Their Engineering Colleagues Behind

The traditional view continues to be that graduates of liberal arts are at a disadvantage when it comes to pursuing a career in tech. Indeed salary figures do still support this opinion with humanities graduates making on average around $20,000 less than graduates of engineering or computer science based degrees.

Liberal arts graduates should not, however, be put off pursuing a career in tech. More large tech companies have gone on record praising the value of arts graduates, and have shown through their business practices, that to be effective in the marketplace, it is often better to recruit people with a more diverse range of skills and abilities, rather than simply focusing on engineers.

So if you are concerned, that your history or philosophy major was a waste of time and money; take a look at these 5 CEOs who bucked this trend proving that you might have a future in tech after all.

1)    Carly Fiorina – Former CEO Hewlett-Packard – 1999 – 2005

Graduating in Medieval History and Philosophy from Stanford in 1976; Carly went on to become the first woman to lead a Fortune ranked Top-20 company, and later went on to oversee the company`s merger with manufacturing giant Compaq. She said that while her degree did not specifically help her with tech issues, she stated that it did “prepare me for life, and taught me the value of critical thinking.”

2)    Sam Palmisano – Former CEO IBM – 2002 – 2012

A graduate of History from John Palmer University in 1973; John went on to head one of the worlds largest and most well know computer companies in the world. After graduating, he started his career as a salesman before rising through the ranks at IBM, and eventually almost 30 years later became CEO and COO.

Since his departure from IBM, he has been drafted in by President Obama to head up a government cybersecurity division, which is in charge of defending the US from cyber-attacks.

 3)    Peter Thiel – Paypal Founder

Peter Thiel studied Philosophy at Stanford and has gone on to have a superb career in tech. As one of the three co-founders of Paypal in 1999, Thiel and his colleagues later sold the company to E-bay for an astounding $1.5 billion. He then went on to become the first outside investor in Facebook, and founded another tech security company in 2004, called Palantir, which was in part funded by the CIA.

 4)    Susan Wojcicki – CEO Youtube – 2014 – Present

Described by Time magazine as the “the most powerful woman on the internet”, and included in the Top-100 most influential people of 2015, is YouTube CEO and Harvard History graduate Susan Wojcicki.

Susan started out her career at Intel before moving to Google in 1999, where she quickly ascended the company ladder, and can proudly boast the development of AdSense as one of her many outstanding achievements in the tech industry.

5)    Daniel Hesse – CEO Sprint Nextel – 2007 – 2014

A student of Government and Liberal Studies at the University of Notre Dame; Daniel Hesse started his career at AT&T before eventually becoming CEO of telecommunications giant Sprint Nextel. Further reiterating the notion that arts graduates can play a significant role in tech companies, Daniel led the company out of dire financial problems by focusing the company’s efforts on the improvement of customer service, which would eventually prove pivotal in turning the company’s fortunes around.

Daniel now works on the board of directors for E-Commerce company, Akamai, which may well be fitting, as “Akamai” is the Hawaiian word for “Intelligent”.

Key Words –

Liberal arts

Tech Companies

Computer Science





President Obama

Carly Fiorini

Susan Wojcicki


Sprint Nextel

Daniel Hesse












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