Here's Why A Quarter Of The World's Best-Performing CEOs Studied Engineering


Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos

Lucas Jackson/REUTERS

Jeff Bezos: Engineer by training, CEO by trade. And he's not the only one.

The Harvard Business Review came out with its list of the 100 best-performing CEOs on the planet last week.


Amazon head Jeff Bezos topped the list.

As we've mentioned before, the exec has grown his company's value to $140 billion in the 20 years the company has been around, and in that time Amazon has brought in a massive 15,189% on industry-adjusted shareholder returns.

But what's also compelling about Bezos is the degree he earned back in his days at Princeton University: a Bachelor of Science in computer science and electrical engineering.

Many of his peers on the top-100 list have a similar background. A full 24 of the 100 best-performing CEOs have a Bachelors or Masters degree in engineering.


That's nearly the same number of people who earned the more traditional merit badge in business - 29 people on the list have MBAs.

So why would an engineering education be nearly as well represented as an MBA?

"Studying engineering gives someone a practical, pragmatic orientation," Harvard Business School dean Nitin Nohria told HBR.

He should know: Nohria got his undergrad degree in chemical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai.

"Engineering is about what works," he continued, "and it breeds in you an ethos of building things that work - whether it's a machine or a structure or an organization."


That much can be seen in the efficiency that Bezos has bred in Amazon, a place with an extreme emphasis on building the most customer-centric product possible, to the point that politeness and other social niceties are famously cast aside.

But that's not everything that an engineering degree gives would-be leaders.

"Engineering also teaches you to try to do things efficiently and eloquently, with reliable outcomes, and with a margin of safety," said Nohria.

"It makes you think about costs versus performance," he continued. "These are principles that can be deeply important when you think about organizations."

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.