Fortune Magazine just released this year’s picks for its 40 under 40 list—that is, 40 executives, younger than age 40, who are “rocking businesses as diverse as air travel, natural gas, and genetic coding.”
Number one on the list: Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, a computer scientist with a master’s degree from Stanford who left a long-time post at Google to take over the troubled company. Her tenure has not been without controversy, but the stock is up 86 percent since she came on board. I had the opportunity to spend several mornings with her before she moved from Google to Yahoo, and can verify that she's a powerhouse. (See "Google's Chic Geek" in Spectrum's April 2012 issue.)
Geeks make up nearly half of Fortune's select group (as defined by their educational backgrounds; you could probably get to a majority by including self-taught programmers and others with less traditional paths who spent some time along the way involved with technology); the rest, for the most part, come from finance, business, or law backgrounds.
Besides Mayer, the members of 2013 40 under 40 list who have or are studying computer science, engineering, or a related technical field include:
• Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, another computer geek who studied the field but left Harvard before graduation.
• Air bnb cofounder Nate Blecharcyzk, who actually finished his Harvard computer science degree.
• Instagram’s Kevin Systrom, who has an engineering degree from Stanford.
• Uber’s Travis Kalanick, who studied computer engineering at UCLA.
• Yelp’s Jeremy Stoppelman, who has a degree in computer engineering from the University of Illinois.
• Will Adams, better known as Black Eyed Peas singer and songwriter will.i.am, who has been a success as a technology consultant and iPhone accessory developer—and is currently studying computer science at MIT.
• BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti, who came out of MIT’s Media Lab.
• Spotify’s Daniel Ek, who studied at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
• Max Levchin, who cofounded Fieldlink, a company that morphed into PayPal, and now is founder of Glow, a company that makes fertility apps. He has his computer science degree from the University of Illinois.
• Lani Hay, CEO of threat-assessment firm Lanmark Technology, who has a degree in mathmatics from the Naval Institute of Technology.
• Niraj Shah, cofounder of online retailer Wayfare, who has a degree in engineering from Cornell.
• Indiegogo’s Eric Schell, who has a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
• Dhiraj Rajaram, founder of data analytics firm Mu Sigma, who has a Bachelor's Degree from the College of Engineering, Guindy, in Chennai, India
Photo: Marissa Mayer. Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.