Glory days: How high school shaped nine IT leaders

Jock? Geek? Artist? Underachiever? Do our high school selves predict our career paths?

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Eberhard Haag

  • Senior vice president and general manager, Amadeus IT Group SA
  • Class of 1977, University of Stuttgart

My high school self: I had a lot of friends and was very active in sports. I was also very interested in everything related to math and mathematical technique. I was not so interested in languages or humanistic stuff. I moved very quickly to the mathematics high school, where we had special training in math and physics.

Others would have voted me most likely to...: Keep playing sports and be a party animal.

Eberhard Haag
Eberhard Haag today

How my high school persona helped form the person I am today: It was a fairly straight path. When I got to university, I studied informatics and business economics. It was clear that I needed to study both to see the influence that technology can bring to business.

But I also tried to combine it with having a huge amount of fun. I was the only student to have a key to the computer center, so I was always there to open the door, and I'd help people finish their stuff and look for mistakes they'd made. I was well known on campus, so when there was a party, I was always invited.

Over summer breaks and during vacation, I always tried to take a job somewhere, and I would use some of the money to take a vacation and some for the next season at school. This also helped me understand how companies work, because you're always working on very low budget.

Advice to young people who view themselves as I did: Enjoy the time in high school. It's when you can enjoy a lot of free time and live your dreams.

Sujit Sinha

  • Senior director, IT strategy and architecture, Motorola Inc.
  • Class of 1979, University Breckinridge School (part of Morehead State University), Morehead, Ky.

My high school self: My school was small, with just 500 people, kindergarten through 12th grade. It was part of a university, and our teachers were often Ph.D.s or actual college professors.

Sujit Sinha
Sujit Sinha, then and now

I would probably fall into the nerd/geek category, but I did a lot of sports too, so I guess I was a nerd/jock. I played tennis and was one of the top players in the state.

From another viewpoint, this was during the days of "the preppy," and we were into nonconformity, so you could almost say I was also a rebel. Then we realized we were conforming by being nonconformists, so we called ourselves "free-conformists." It was a fun school.

I also liked physics and math a lot and got some awards in those areas. In one English literature course, I had to do a book report on H.G. Wells, and I wrote it from a technology perspective on whether the technology described would actually work today.

Others would have voted me most likely to...: Become a nuclear physicist and glow in the dark.

How my high school persona helped form the person I am today: I'm now in charge of IT architecture, which is the geekiest part of IT, even though I'm not the most techie IT person. I did mechanical engineering for my undergraduate degree and also got a master's in mechanical engineering.

I'm very interested in how things work. With physics, you can throw something in the air and watch how it lands and describe the equation. But software doesn't follow the laws of Newtonian physics. It can work one day and not the next.

Advice for young people who view themselves as I did: To paraphrase Winston Churchill, it's not the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning. You'll learn there's a lot you can do, and you can make career changes. I've made quite a few. So decide what you want to for now, because things will change over time. You always have to be adaptable.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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