After 17 years, Eric Schmidt stepped down in Jan. 2018 as executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet; he will now be a technical advisor. Shortly after stepping down, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that Schmidt would be joining as a visiting innovation fellow. Schmidt was Google’s CEO from 2001 to 2011; prior to that he had stints as CEO of Novell and chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems.
Schmidt grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia, where his father was a professor of economics at Virginia Tech. He entered Princeton University as an architecture student but changed his major to electrical engineering before graduating in 1976. He then studied computer science (M.S., 1979; Ph.D., 1982) at the University of California, Berkeley.
From 1979 to 1983 Schmidt worked for the Xerox Corporation at its Xerox PARC installation in Palo Alto, California. He became a software manager at Sun Microsystems in 1983, only one year after the founding of the company. In 1985 he was promoted to vice president of Sun’s software products division, and in 1988 he became vice president of the Sun general systems group. In 1991 Sun Microsystems was reorganized, and Schmidt was made president of one of its offshoots, Sun Technology Enterprises. In 1994 he returned to Sun Microsystems as chief technology officer. At Sun he was involved in the development of the Java programming language, and he enthusiastically promoted its use in his capacity as a company executive. In 1997 Schmidt left Sun to become chairman and CEO of Novell, Inc.