Global IT leaders: Their stories
Have you ever wondered who runs the worlds leading IT and tech corporations? Most importantly, have you ever considered how they got there? We at Cybernews Academy wanted to investigate the world's most prolific global IT leaders and how education strengthened their chances of success. We examined common characteristics and competencies observed in these individuals to help identify what makes a great leader. Highlighting prevalent people from various companies to demonstrate how academically diverse the industry is. Let's uncover how these CEOs made their way up the professional ladder and landed at the highest point of one of the most lucrative industries in the world.
First, we must understand what it takes to be a leader. Maybe they were born with it or obtained essential skills that aided their professional development. Global leaders must recover quickly from difficult situations, be aware of global and societal issues, and adopt a practical approach to their professional life. Global leaders are often pragmatic and must deal with complications realistically and reasonably. In this position, a person will inevitably manage many people with unique and complex needs. So acknowledging difference while affording equal opportunities in the workplace is a trait all of its own. These highlighted characteristics are resilience, self-awareness, pragmatism, and inclusivity.
It’s not only these characteristics that make a global IT leader, the competencies they’ve gained from their academic and professional experiences are also key.
We learn and develop various skills at school and university– some include creativity, leadership, empathy, teamwork, problem-solving, and so on. One skill often taught in educational institutions is critical thinking. This skill is essential in leading and navigating a complex multimillion-dollar business. Global IT leaders must acquire international understanding, which is paramount when leading a large corporation. Knowledge of your chosen market and comprehensive industry experience is essential when leading a widespread corporation. You understand the consumers' needs and can implement this into your business model. Teamwork is self-explanatory– if you’re working and managing multiple teams, you must be a team player. Many problems may arise when dealing with different people, so empathy and problem-solving play a crucial role in managing a business. Empathy shows strength, not weakness, and rational investigation allows you to develop creative solutions to otherwise complex issues.
You may be aware of some of the world's most notable IT leaders– household names like Elon Musk and Tim Cook may spring to mind. But where did they come from, and how did they manage to secure the position they're in now? Maybe they attended a highly-ranked university or have a lot of valuable experience. As we at researched these cases, Cybernews Academy found that these stories fell neatly into three categories– graduates from the top 15 universities worldwide, graduates outside of the top 100, and graduates from foreign institutions.
Editors Note: Next to each university, have included its position in this year's QS World University Ranking (WUR)
Graduates of the top 15 universities
You might expect many global leaders to have attended highly-ranked universities. Although this is a common assumption, this isn’t always true. Amazon’s chief executive officer, Andy Jassy, and Broadcom’s CEO, Hock Tan, are among some of the global IT leaders who graduated from a top 15 university. We at Cybernews Academy have provided a detailed background of each global leader to show how they rose to their current position.
Andy Jassy– CEO of Amazon
Andrew Jassy was born in Scarsdale, New York, and graduated with Latin honors (cum laude) from Harvard University (4, QS WUR 2024) with a degree in Government and obtained an MBA from Harvard business school.
Before beginning his MBA, he worked as a project manager for a collectibles company called Danbury Mint (a division of MBI.) He and a colleague from MBI decided to start a new company that eventually closed. In 1997, Jassy joined Amazon as a marketing manager alongside several other Harvard MBA colleagues. Jassy was promoted from senior vice president to chief executive officer of Amazon web services in 2016. In 2021, Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, officially named Andrew Jassy his successor.
In 2023, Amazon’s revenue was reported at US$524.897B
Hock Tan– CEO of Broadcom Inc.
Hock Tan is a Malaysian Chinese business executive born in Penang, Malaysia. In 1971 Tan was offered a scholarship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT (1, QS WUR 2024) to study mechanical engineering. He received his bachelor’s and completed a master’s in the same subject. Tan then completed a Master of Business Administration (MBA) qualification at Harvard Business School.
Tan was the managing director of Hume Industries, the leading cement manufacturer in Malaysia, from 1983-1988. From there, Tan moved on to Integrated Circuit Systems (ICS) Incorporated, a system integrator in the industrial refrigeration sector. Tan worked as the SVP and Chief of this company from 1995-1999. Eventually, he became the Chief Operating Officer at ICS Inc. He later became the President and CEO of this company and continued working in this role for six years. Then Tan transferred to Avago Technologies, where he was set to lead the company for an entire decade. Eventually, he merged Avago and Broadcom Corporation, leading to Broadcom Incorporated. Tan has been President and CEO of Broadcom since 2016 and has been leading the company for the past seven years.
Broadcom’s revenue is currently estimated at $35.042B.
Elon Musk– CEO of Tesla and Space X
Born in South Africa- Elon Musk is one of the most prolific entrepreneurs of the 21st century. Once he secured a Canadian visa, he left South Africa. He moved to the United States in 1988 due to the issue surrounding apartheid in his home country and the hope of securing better economic opportunities in North America. He first attended Queen’s University in Ontario and transferred to the University of Pennsylvania (12, QS WUR 2023) in 1997, completing a bachelor's degree in physics and economics.
Musk founded Space X in 2002 due to dissatisfaction with rocket launchers' expenses. Musk then became one of the major funders of Tesla Motors (renamed Tesla), initially founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. Musk was named CEO of Tesla in 2008 after saving the company from bankruptcy by loaning and donating approximately 80 million USD.
Tesla is worth 810.47 billion USD as of July 27th, 2023.
Space X is worth approximately 150 billion USD as of June 2023
Graduates outside the top 100
Although you may believe Ivy League universities like Penn are the only institutions to generate first-rate CEOs like Elon Musk, this isn’t entirely untrue. Despite their status, many global IT leaders have come from universities that don’t rank highly. Here are a few examples of CEOs who attended universities outside the top 100.
Tim Cook– CEO of Apple
Tim Cook was born in Alabama, US, and graduated from Auburn University (801-850, QS WUR 2024) with a degree in Industrial Engineering. He then enrolled at Duke University and graduated with a master’s in Business Administration.
Once graduated, Tim Cook spent twelve years at IBM as the North American fulfillment director. From there, he worked his way up to CEO after being invited by Steve Jobs, who founded Apple in 1998. Cook joined the company that year as Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations. In 2007 he was then promoted to lead operations and was responsible for leading, managing, and developing the company's operations and systems. Jobs eventually fell ill, and Cook was left in charge in 2009. Unfortunately, Jobs died in 2011, and Cook took over the CEO's chair months after. From this point, stock prices rose, and sales went on strong.
In 2023, Apple’s revenue is reported at US$94.836B.
Enrique Lores– CEO of HP
Born in Madrid, Spain, in 1964, Enrique Lores is a Spanish executive and CEO of HP Inc. He completed a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (476, QS WUR 2024.) From there, he went on to earn an MBA from ESADE Business School in Barcelona.
Lores originally joined HP as an engineering intern in 1989. During his 30 years at HP, Lores has secured senior leadership positions in several facets of the company. He became the vice president of imaging and printing alongside the vice president and general manager of large-format printing. Lores became the senior vice president of customer support and services alongside many other titles. He was made president of the company in 1989, and from there, he was crowned president and CEO of HP in 2019.
In 2023, HP’s estimated revenue is US$12.913B.
Jason Chen– CEO of Acer
Jason Chen, a Taiwanese businessman, has been the CEO of Acer since 2014. He originally studied at National Cheng Kung University (228, QS WUR 2024), where he obtained a bachelor's degree in Transportation Management Science. Chen then traveled to the United States for an MBA from the University of Missouri.
Before joining Acer, Chen was the senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company LTD (TSMC.) TSMC is a Taiwanese multinational semiconductor manufacturing and design company. Chen worked at this company for ten years before starting at Acer. Chen was appointed corporate president and CEO of Acer in January 2014 and has been in this position ever since.
Acer’s annual revenue for 2023 is approximately US$8.17B
Graduates of foreign universities
If you’ve ever wondered whether studying in your home country is valuable, these stories might surprise you. These global leaders graduated from universities in their respective countries and broke into the industry without a high-ranking institution behind them. These global IT leaders have similar stories– they graduated from university and moved to the U.S. in search of a new career. Some went on to complete degrees at North American universities, and others broke into their field by having the skills and characteristics needed to succeed.
Satya Nadella– CEO of Microsoft
Satya Nadella emigrated from India to the US to complete part of his studies overseas. This business mogul graduated from Manipal Academy of Higher Education or MAHE (951-1000 QS WUR 2024) with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. From there, he traveled to the US to pursue a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
Satya Nadella began working at Microsoft in 1992, leading major projects at the company. Nadella was the senior vice president of the Online Services Division and vice president of the Microsoft Business division. In February 2014, it was announced that he would become the third CEO of one of the biggest tech companies in the world.
In 2023, Microsoft’s revenue is reported at US$211.9 billion.
Arvind Krishna– CEO of IBM
In 1985, Arvid Krishna was born into a Telugu-speaking Hindu family in the West Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, India.
He completed a BTech degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (278, QS WUR 2024.) After completing his studies, he decided to move abroad to North America, where he earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In 1990, Krishna secured a place at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center and worked in that department for eighteen years until 2009. Over the years, he held many positions. Krishna became the General Manager of the Information management software department, systems, and technology group. He was promoted to senior vice president of IBM research and IBM’s cloud and cognitive software division. In 2020, Krishna was appointed CEO of the company.
In 2023, IBM’s revenue is estimated at US$15.475B.
Yang Yuanqing– CEO of Lenovo
Chinese-born Yang Yuanqing is a business executive and philanthropist. Yang was born to well-educated parents in the medical field. Yang grew up very poor at that time despite his parents' academic and professional achievements. Yang’s parents encouraged him to pursue a career in medicine. After being advised by a university professor on the lucrative nature of the IT industry, Yang decided to pursue a degree in computer science.
From there, Yang studied BA in computer science at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (51, QS WUR 2024) and graduated in 1986. This same year, Yang pursued a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Science and Technology China (USTC) in 1989. Yang joined Lenovo, formally known as Legend, as a salesman. He was later promoted to head of the company’s personal computer division and eventually succeeded Liu Chuanzhi, the original CEO of the company, in 2001.
The company’s annual revenue is estimated at $61.947B.
How to become a global IT leader
Through Cybernews Academy's detailed analysis of CEOs from well-renowned companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple, we at Cybernews Academy uncovered the real reason these leaders came to be. Success is not contingent on a university degree from a top 15 university. Instead, these leaders knew what career they wanted to pursue and looked at the best way of getting there with the resources they had at their disposal. Global leaders like Tim Cook, Jason Chen, and Enrique Lores attended universities that rank below the top 100 in the QS world university rankings. Global leaders like Yang Yuanqing, Arvind Krishna, and Satya Nadella attended Asian universities that aren’t recognized as high-performing. Only Andy Jassy, Elon Musk, and Hock Tan attended high-ranking colleges in the U.S. So, what does this tell us? There is far more to becoming a global IT leader than just selecting your university based on rankings. Choosing a university based only on rankings is reductive if you are an aspiring global leader.
We at Cybernews Academy suggest finding the right course to aid your academic and professional development. This criterion might include a mixture of practical and theoretical components, opportunities for networking, placements that will help strengthen your professional development, or a course that enables you to achieve your goals. Specific indicators like study price, location, and rankings may be helpful, but you shouldn't decide on a university based on these alone. Overall, your university may not be highly ranked, and you may not come from a prestigious institution– but not all of these global leaders did. So, take inspiration from these stories; perhaps one day, you will find yourself at the top of one of the world's most profitable industries.