What these techies were up to when they were 18!

Bill Gates, 62

Microsoft co-founder

In 1973: He was almost done with Lakeside School in Seattle and entered Harvard as a pre-law major, but soon shifted focus. He ran through the university’s most rigorous mathematics and graduate level computer science courses, and soon after called computer makers Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) to develop software for them.

Mark Zuckerberg, 33

Facebook CEO

In 2002: Mark Zuckerberg and his friend Adam D’Angelo created an MP3 player (Synapse) that kept track of every song the user played on a computer, helping the software learn what the user liked. Then he enrolled at Harvard University and quickly became the go-to software developer on campus. This is when he had come up with a programme called CourseMatch, which helped students choose their classes based on the course selections of other users. And then came Facemash. You know what followed!

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Apple co-founder

In 1973: Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College, and gaming giant Atari founder Nolan Bushnell hired him as a technician in 1973. “Steve had one speed: Full speed ahead,” Bushnell has said in an interview. “I’m not sure about this but I actually think Steve was living there, so people used to complain that he didn’t smell that well... I’d come in on the weekend and he’d be there, I’d come in late at night and he’d be there.” The next year, Jobs flew out to Delhi and took a bus to Kainchi in the foothills of the Himalayas to the ashram of Neem Karoli Baba.

Sheryl Sandberg, 48

Facebook COO

In 1987: At North Miami Beach Senior High School, the present chief operating officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, was in the National Honor Society and graduated with a 4.6 GPA. Then she joined Harvard where “both genders seemed equally focused on academics”. “I don’t remember thinking about my future career any differently from the male students,” she has said. 

Jeff Bezos, 53

Amazon founder

In 1982: The Amazon chief had graduated Miami Palmetto Senior High, and the National Merit Scholar and Silver Knight award winner already had his plans in place. He told Miami Herald that he wanted to “build space hotels, amusement parks, yachts and colonies for two or three million people orbiting around the earth”. Did it materialise? In 2000, he founded a space flight company called Blue Origin and has been active in recovering rockets used during moon exploration missions.

Marissa Mayer, 42

Former president and CEO of Yahoo!

In 1993: Though she will be remembered as the Yahoo CEO under whom the company breathed its last before Verizon acquired it (to be fair to her, the challenges of keeping the company afloat were insurmountable), in 1993 she was attending Wausau West High School where she was president of the Spanish Club, treasurer of the Key Club and was also involved in debate and Math Club. In high school, she was allowed 20-minute breaks during the day but according to her classmates, she used it to quickly pick up a snack and then go to the library. She left Yahoo! with more than $200 million worth of stock and options, and a golden parachute of $23 million.

Sundar Pichai, 45

Google CEO

In 1990: The Madurai-born chief executive officer of Google was studying at IIT-Kharagpur between 1989 and 1993. The 1993 BTech topper in metallurgical and materials engineering then won a scholarship to Stanford. As an 18-year-old freshman he was made to carry the luggage of incoming seniors at Kharagpur station as part of his “ragging”. And like every hosteller in India, he survived on watery dal and dosa at the Nehru Hall canteen. 

Tim Berners-Lee, 62

Inventor of World Wide Web

In 1973: A young Berners-Lee joined Oxford University in 1973 as a physics student at Queens College. He joined Walter Bodmer’s Genetics Laboratory for a brief spell of ‘vacation work’, carrying out some computer programming. Well, he went on to invent the World Wide Web as we know it, in 1989. Interested? Read his paper ‘Information Management: A Proposal’.

Michael Dell, 52

Dell Technologies CEO

In 1983: The founder of one of the world’s largest technology infrastructure companies pleased his parents by enrolling as a premed student at the University of Texas in 1983 but his interest was in computers. During his first semester, Dell spent his spare time buying outmoded PCs from local retailers and then upgrading and selling them from his dorm room. He is said to have made $180,000 in his first month of business.

Kevin Systrom, 34

Instagram co-founder

In 2001: The co-founder of Instagram was getting ready for his Stanford stint, where he majored in management science and engineering. But he also had an eye for photography and design, keeping his eyes peeled on mobile phones, which he believed was the future of technology. The man whose first job was at Google went on to invent Instagram with Mike Krieger.


Back to top icon