The Silicon Valley Business School Elite

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

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 School Number 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 School 210
  5. Stanford Graduate School of Business 177
  6. University of Chicago (Booth School of Business) 117
  7. MIT (Sloan School of Management) 103
  8. Columbia Business School 74
  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



  • 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.

  • JohnAByrne

    Just to clarify, this is an unpublished analysis that I obtained.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

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