The Silicon Valley Business School Elite

silicon-valleyIf you want a job working for one of the top 25 tech firms in Silicon Valley, which business school should you go to?

That’s a good question and one that is being more frequently asked by prospective business school students. At all the top schools, tech firms are grabbing a larger share of MBA graduates, competing head-to-head with the likes of more traditional and mainstream recruiters in consulting and investment banking.

A recent analysis done by UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business sheds some light on the question. Using LinkedIn data, the school examined the educational backgrounds of the senior leadership of the top 25 tech firms in Silicon Valley, a list done annually by the San Jose Mercury News. The names are familiar to everyone: Apple, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Google, Cisco, Oracle, eBay, Facebook, Adobe, Yahoo!, Intuit, Electronic Arts, and Netflix, among others.


The search narrowed down the alumni of business schools who held C-suite and senior-level titles at each of these top firms, including chief executives, chief financial officers, chief operating officer, vice presidents and directors. Who came out on top? Surprisingly, perhaps, it was not Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. In fact, Stanford was behind such out-of-California rivals such as Wharton, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and Harvard Business School. Of the top ten business schools, eight are either on the East Coast or in the Midwest.

If anything, the analysis also shows the inherent silliness of some of the recent rhetoric that MBAs are not wanted in the Valley. Truth is, many of them already hold senior leadership jobs at the top companies. For every Mark Zuckerberg in the valley without an MBA, there is a Tim Cook, an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business who succeeded Steve Jobs at Apple (in fact, Fuqua makes the top ten).

The winner was Berkeley’s Haas School, which performed the analysis. The school has 303 alums in leadership positions at the top 25 tech firms. Dean Richard Lyons explains that the two most important factors contributing to the school’s showing is the fact that it also has undergraduate and part-time MBA programs that give the Haas wider appeal. More obviously, he also attributes the strong showing to the school’s close proximity to the valley and the fact that Haas has routinely sent more of its graduates into technology than many other business schools. “Our physical location is a huge factor,” he notes. “Our alumni are deeply imbedded in the hiring networks of these firms.”


Stanford’s business school is somewhat disadvantaged in this analysis because it does not have either an undergraduate or part-time MBA program and because many of its graduates go the startup or venture capital route which is uncovered by the study. In fact, 18% of the Class of 2013 at Stanford launched their own companies–a percentage far beyond any other business school in the world.

It is less disadvantaged by the size of its graduating classes, which are typically just under 400, because a much larger percentage of Stanford MBAs typically enter the technology field and more of them stay in the Bay Area. Last year, for example, 32% of Stanford’s graduating MBAs went into tech and 59% stayed on the West Coast.

At Harvard, only 18% of its grads landed jobs in technology while just 16% took positions in the Bay Area. For HBS, those were record numbers. Because the analysis tracks executives in leadership positions, it’s obviously more likely to include alums who have been out of business school for several years when HBS numbers were much lower. Back in 2006, for instance, just 10% of Harvard’s class packed up and moved into the Bay Area and only 7% joined technology firms.


Still, while the larger graduating classes at Wharton, Harvard and Kellogg clearly play some role in the results, it’s also somewhat surprising that UC-Berkeley’s showing is so dominant. Haas, after all, only graduates about 240 full-time MBAs a year versus the 900+ at Harvard Business School. So it’s both undergraduates and part-time MBAs and the school’s Bay Area location that help move Haas into first place.

Of course, this is a completely Silicon Valley perspective of the tech business. It does not include such major recruiters of MBA talent as Microsoft, Amazon, Dell, or IBM. But it’s especially interesting given the boom in technology that is fueling tremendous economic growth in the Bay Area and making it a career destination for talent all over the world.

Despite those limitations, the analysis provides a compelling glimpse of elite B-school alums in key Silicon Valley jobs. Here are the top ten business schools with the most alums in leadership jobs at the top 25 Silicon Valley companies:




Business SchoolNumber Of Alumni In Leadership Positions
  1. UC-Berkeley (Haas School of Business)303
  2. University of Pennsylvania (Wharton School)259
  3. Northwestern University (Kellogg School of Management)228
  4. Harvard Business School210
  5. Stanford Graduate School of Business177
  6. University of Chicago (Booth School of Business)117
  7. MIT (Sloan School of Management)103
  8. Columbia Business School74
  9, Duke University (Fuqua School of Business)73
10. Dartmouth College (Tuck School of Business)23

Source: LinkedIn data analysis done by UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business



  • JohnAByrne

    Just to clarify, this is an unpublished analysis that I obtained. Otherwise, I would have included a link.

  • TCasg2014

    Looks who defensive now, John (“you just obviously don’t like the result”).

    Can’t take a little constructive criticism?

    If you read my post carefully you would have seen I mentioned that this is a fine data set by itself… my problem is the sensationalism you use to market it. You build zero trust with your user base when you make crazy claims and then use shotty data to back them up.

    Think about, John; you are posting to a website dedicated to MBAs, who spend most of their time finding insights in data… if you are going to do a less than stellar job, be prepared for some less than stellar feedback.

    Next time, take a few minutes to digest your data and think about all the great ways you could present it and invest some time crafting a story / title that reflect what you are hoping to say. Otherwise, you are no better than a tabloid.

  • 2cents

    You’re right – it should say corp dev.

  • Interesting article. Rather than argue the finer points of how these rankings are determined, many readers may want to know what this means for selecting the right business school.

    For MBA applicants that have a strong interest in working in the tech industry, they shouldn’t put too much emphasis on rankings shown here. What matters when it comes to getting a post-MBA job in tech is which schools do top tech companies do their on-campus recruiting. Obviously being at a West Coast school has its advantages due to proximity and alumni presence which gets lost in these rankings.

  • truth teller

    LOL. You think working in strategy is real work in tech companies? Oh let me guess. Do you come from the top three consulting firms? Seriously!

  • 2cents

    Short and sweet irony in that comment, tim. Assuming you’re not joking and just dimwitted/fishing for controversy, there’s no negative comment above (maybe you can read something into a Haas v GSB thing). the former two are still growing significantly through acquisition while HR at the latter two is a critical function for more sustained models (important at both really). Then again you may be dumb enough not to value HR and human capital.

  • tim

    what a cunty comment

  • Guest

    I guess you didn’t read the article. John is simply reporting the results of Haas’s data points. He didn’t conduct the analysis, simply reporting their findings. Your feedback is directed at the wrong person but then again you didn’t read the article, so I take it you’re the type of person who speaks first and thinks last.

  • bwanamia

    Divide by class size and multiply by distance from the Bay Area (further away means smaller percentage of class vying for Silicon Valley jobs). Just try it.

  • ThatGuy

    Yes, link to the study, please!

  • 2cents

    Of course Haas puts out a study that is set up to leave out GSB…. I would love to not only see this weighted but also by company and possibly function. There s a big difference between working for strategy at Google and Facebook v HR at HP and Cisco.

  • W

    If this article is reporting on a study done by someone else, why isn’t there a link to the original source?

  • First, I’m not saying to do away with the raw number. So I’m not asking for an adjustment; I’m asking for additional info. I think having the raw numbers that you have provided is helpful and valuable

    But no one can do the percentage without the denominator, which isn’t there. Maybe its not available or would take a ton of work to acquire. You may not have access to the total number of alumni from these schools in Linked In. After all you were just reporting the results of the Haas survey.

    Frankly, most of the data for the adjustments that you are suggesting isn’t available, or easily available. How many years do you go back? And how do you account for people changing fields. Or changing class size?

    In any case, thanks for the data you have made available.

  • JohnAByrne

    I suppose the point I’m trying to make is one can argue for any number of adjustments. For example:

    1) Why not adjust for geographic advantage by taking the percentage of graduates of a school who go to work in the Bay Area from each school?

    2) Or why not adjust for the percentage of a school’s class that goes into the tech field?

    3) Or screen out all other alums from the business school except full-time MBAs?

    4) Or adjust for the school’s alumni base?

    5) Or the class size?

    Any one of these adjustments would be legitimate–and pretty much be beside the point. I would much rather see the raw numbers and then every reader can adjust them according by whatever one of the above methods they prefer.

  • Jaskon7

    I say this not to be mean, but if you went to a top-10 MBA program and the furthest you got in your career was simply a director (not nearly as high as it sounds) in one of these companies, your career was a failure, not a success.

    John, I agree you’re simply reporting the results. But I think it’d be far more interesting to only do SVPs or higher. This is clearly cherry-picked data by Haas to get a nice headline, and it worked beautifully for them.

  • John,

    I agree with you. You’re reporting the study and analyzing the results.

    I think it would be useful to see the numbers as a percentage of working alumni, if that figure is available, or as a percentage of alumni from each school in C-positions. I think the absolute numbers and the percentages would be useful because they may tell a slightly different story and smooth some of the disparities caused by class size.

  • CoCo

    The analysis done by Haas, and showed Haas as #1 !! here is my expectation: someone from HAAS marketing team was free and navigating the web, and suddenly found such results, he/she immediately opened the xl sheet and done the sorting and ranking!!! such poor technique shows the schools looking for anything to differentiate itself!!

  • TruthTeller

    What a misleading article.

    You lead off with this statement: “If you want a job working for one of the top 25 tech firms in Silicon Valley, which business school should you go to?”

    This list is not the answer to that question.

    You have to adjust for that program’s size if you’re going to talk about my chances of getting that job and landing in that C-suite. Include some kind of denominator: number of alumni in tech 25 total or number of alumni or number of alumni in Bay Area or something.

    Haas includes its undergraduates and all the part time and executive MBAs in the analysis? If you add all them in, it has a bigger annual output than just about any school on the list. Of course it will be #1. That will also explain why Wharton, with it’s BBAs and executive program in San Francisco in addition to MBAs, would place high. If Haas wants to compare apples to apples (or Googles to Googles), it should compare MBAs only.

    Your story ought to be how well Kellogg does, without an undergraduate business program and with a small class size.

  • reply

    I’m actually more surprised by the comments than the article. John is simply reporting what the results of the study were. The article clearly states what analysis was and was not used. You can’t look at an article about a study that studied diabetes in Americans between the age of 20 and 35 and complain that the reporter should have put in the data for Indonesians above 60 years old. This article is on the study as it exists, not as you wish it was (and it makes that clear)

  • mikeab

    Anyone with a simple knowledge of algebra can easily understand that the results are funny ! There should be according to a ratio like the total number of graduates in C positions in a class/ total number of graduates in the same class * 100% !

    I’m wondering a why John insist on the fairness of the provided analysis. Kuwait is a very small country in middle east and exports oil and has a very small population, Saudi Arabia is a huge country with a higher population. Now if you do a simple math you will easily understand why each person in Kuwait is that rich ! (caz the amount of money that they make / their population ratio is pretty high in compare to any other Arab countries !)

    The same logic applies here. So the analysis needs to be fair.

  • JohnAByrne

    The results are what they are–and certainly legitimate. The parameters of the analysis are clearly stated and they make sense. Have no idea why you think there are holes in this story. There are none. You just obviously don’t like the result.

  • TCasg2014

    1) The data should be adjusted for class size… Stanford is at least 30% smaller than Harvard, so when you take that in to consideration, that changes things pretty drastically

    2) Leadership positions don’t really speak to quality of alums or quality of company — not that this is something easy to tease out, but senior people at Google are likely stronger than senior people at Intuit

    3) Silicon Valley is more than the top 25 tech companies — if you want a truer picture of Silicon Valley, you should really be adding in data on VCs, PE-firms, Angel Investors, and even data on consulting and banking firms with strong Silicon Valley presence. Finally, what really drives Silicon Valley is startups, and none of this data captures anything about top MBA students deciding to start a company

    I am not saying this is a particularly bad set of data – but it is a little annoying to have P&Q continually brand its articles as something very different than what they actually are… it reflects bad on John that the articles have so many holes in them.