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Thursday, 09 December 2010 16:58

Boards as Strategic Weapons - Board Members Educational Backgrounds (>$1b)

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What educational backgrounds do board members of fast growth software companies have?


The majority of board members hold a bachelor’s degree only (29.33%) and only 8.9 percent hold PhDs. About one quarter (25.7%) hold both a Bachelor’s and MBA degree while 7.7% hold both a Master’s and MBA degree. Nearly one-quarter (24.26%) hold a Master’s degree.


Despite only eight PhDs, software companies in the $1 billion-plus range seat well-educated board directors. Sixty-nine percent hold at least two degrees while 43% hold double grad degrees. Thirty-seven of the 93 board directors studied hold technical degrees while 56 hold non-technical degrees. Seventeen board directors (18%) at these companies graduated from an Ivy League school.

Only 29 of the 93 board directors did not move beyond the baccalaureate level. Noteworthy is the fact that the highest concentration of bachelor’s-only directors is at VMware. Four of the company’s eight board members only hold a bachelor’s degree.

By contrast, seven companies have Ivy Leaguers on their boards. The highest concentration of Ivy League status board directors is at Symantec. Sixty percent of Symantec’s board members having at least one degree from an Ivy League school.

What Universities did they attend?

Ten graduated from Harvard University, five graduated from Oxford and five graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology and Indian Institute of Management. Indeed, there is a strong international university presence among the board directors, with executives coming from Ivy League schools in the United States, as well as major institutions in India, France, South Africa, Germany, Switzerland, London and Italy. In all, board members in our study came from 93 different universities from around the world.

Four board members at the software companies we studied have military backgrounds.

 (Note: Of the 102 board members researched, degree backgrounds for nine directors could not be found. Most of these board members belong to companies in India, The UK, The Netherlands, and France)

Companies Analyzed:

Wipro (India),

VMware (USA),

TCS (India),

Cognizant (USA),

HCL Technologies (India),

Infosys (India),

The Sage Group (UK),

Gemalto (The Netherlands),

Cap Gemini (France),

Symantec (USA)

*This list of companies originated from the 2008 Software 500 ranking by Software Magazine. They are the fastest growth companies over $1 billion identified in that listing.

Read 1158 times Last modified on Monday, 10 August 2020 16:46
Dora Vell

Dora Vell is the Managing Partner of Vell Executive Search, a boutique executive search firm in Boston focused on recruiting technology executives and board members. Vell has successfully completed numerous board member and C-level executive searches, including CEOs, COOs, CIOs, and Vice Presidents - at both public and private companies.

Prior to founding the firm in 2005, Vell was a Partner at Heidrick & Struggles' Technology practice for seven years.  Before her career in executive search, she worked at IBM for 11 years, managing software engineering organizations of 100 people and software sales organizations with revenues of $150 million. She has also served as an executive assistant to the CEO of IBM Canada for one year.

Vell holds seven worldwide software patents. She has published several Business of Leadership reports on governance and leadership and has been quoted in numerous articles including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Week, Fortune, Agenda Week, MSNBC, Mass High Tech, the OPUS for the World Economic Forum, Boston Business Journal, The Globe & Mail, CIO Magazine, and IEEE. She also has been a featured speaker on leadership at numerous conferences and at Columbia University's MBA program.

Vell is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), the Boston CEO Roundtable. She has served on the boards of Framingham State, Entrepreneur's Organization, Goodwill, Mary Centre for developmentally handicapped adults,, and RBC Capital Partners.

She has received an MBA from the University of Toronto, a Master in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo, and a Bachelor in Computer Science from Carleton. She has also completed the MIT Entrepreneurial Master’s program.

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