Feature image from bgr.com.
In 2014, Wired published an analysis of the top “feeder” schools to the leading tech companies. Using data from LinkedIn profiles, they looked at the alma maters of employees from Microsoft, IBM, Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, and Twitter and discovered an interesting pattern: most of these schools tended to recruit locally (with the exception of IBM, which relied on Indian universities).
Which meant that Stanford and UC Berkeley — both Silicon Valley powerhouses — were both substantial contributors to these six companies. However, Wired found the biggest feeder school to any one company was actually the University of Washington, whose graduates comprised over 2,000 of Microsoft’s employees.
Interestingly enough, not a single one of the Ivy League colleges contributed enough employees to these companies to even be included in the analysis — suggesting that a school’s elite standing alone may not be enough to earn a job in the technology industry.
Business Insider ran a similar set of analyses from 2014 to 2015 that focused on the four tech giants: Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. They compiled a list of the top twenty universities with the most alumni at each of these companies and noticed a similar pattern — most of the schools in the four lists were located near the main campuses of each of these companies, and the large majority of schools across all four lists tended to be public schools.
The Ivy League schools were again noticeably lacking in presence; only three of them appeared across all four top twenty lists, and none of them made the top twenty of either Apple or Amazon. At Facebook, Harvard and Cornell took places twelve and thirteen. At Google, Cornell ranked seventh, Harvard tenth, and Wharton twentieth.
When cross-referenced with the annual college rankings from U.S. News and World Report, it becomes even more salient that many of the top contenders in the college rankings (and not just the Ivies) are missing from both the Wired and Business Insider analyses. Out of the top twenty schools in the U.S. News and World Report rankings, only five schools — Stanford, Harvard, Cornell, UC Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania — appeared in either of the analyses at all.
On the other hand, some of the schools that had a strong presence in both analyses — such as the University of Washington, San Jose State University, and the University of Texas at Austin — tend to be further down on the U.S. News and World Report’s ranking. The University of Washington and UT Austin are tied for rank 52, while San Jose State sits at rank 39.
Google’s Head of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, tells CNN Money that, indicative of a greater shift in the technology industry, Google has found that hiring their employees based on alma mater was the “wrong” strategy.
“When the company was small, we cared a lot about [where you went to college] in part because it was efficient, but also in part because we were wrong,” said Bock, stating that Google has realized that many of the key data points on a resume — like school and GPA — are actually not strong predictors of an applicant’s performance on the job.
Instead of focusing on the empirical data of an applicant’s resume, Bock says that at Google, what matters most in an applicant’s portfolio are less quantifiable attributes such as cognitive skill, humility, and personality.
“We care a lot about what we call ‘Googleyness,’ or cultural fit. But for us, it’s not ‘are you like us?’ — we actually look for people who are different, because that diversity gives us great ideas, and we look for people who are intellectually humble, who are willing to admit when they’re wrong,” said Bock.
And, according to Bock, none of these traits are exclusive to graduates of top universities.
“There’s absolutely great kids at Harvard and Yale and Stanford and MIT. But there’s exceptional kids at the Cal State schools, at the University of New York system, at all these other places, who have grit and determination, and who really fought to get there,” said Bock. “And what we find is that the best people you can get from places like that are just as good, if not better than anyone you can get from any Ivy League school.”
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