“Soft Skills” – This is what most people think students study when they mention Humanities. But, multiple corporate leaders with a humanities degree tend to disagree. Empathy, Communication, Logical Thinking and Observation – these skills certainly are not easy to learn. And they are as important and valuable as a doctor’s skill for surgery, an engineer’s skill for innovation, and a scientist’s skill for splitting atoms. So, we like to call them “Essential Skills”.
Let us give you some food for thought which will prove to you that Humanities can be a real deal.
- More than 66% of Humanities graduates get hired by private sectors.
- 60% of American CEOs have a Humanities background.
- One-third of Fortune 500 CEOs are Humanities graduates
Seems like, a degree in Humanities after 12th doesn’t really doom your career prospects. Right? Despite the countless times you heard from the old family friend that Humanities doesn’t stand a chance in today’s world, trust us when we say that there is a plethora of employment opportunities for graduates in this stream.
Let’s help you by making it more convincing for you so that you can tell the nosey uncle that you know what you’re going to study in college and it’s really none of his business!
Presenting you, the 11 leaders of some of the top companies in the world who studied Humanities and yet, took a far road in the corporate world with dollar bills!
11 Success Stories Of Corporate Leaders With Humanities Degree
With all due respect to those who write headlines to bash a Humanities degree, we support those who are ahead of this arc on this argument. Turns out, Humanities majors can do much better than just flipping burgers. Don’t believe us? Take a look at the list for yourself.
1. Susan Wojcicki | YouTube | History & Literature
“Most powerful women on the internet”, “Most important person in advertising”, “One of Time’s Most Influential People in 2015” – Wojcicki has earned these phrases with a B.A. degree from Harvard except in her final year, she decided to go for Computer Science.
Before becoming the CEO of YouTube in 2014, she was also the first-ever marketing manager of Google, In her words – I wasn’t focused on revenue; I was focused on whether this will make a difference in people’s lives.
2. Steve Jobs | Apple | Creative Humanities
“It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing.” – Although he’s a college dropout (enrolled for Creative Humanities in Reed College), these words of him assert the credibility of Humanities for once and for all.
Steve Jobs is perhaps the only corporate leader with a humanities degree who was able to revolutionize human experience as well as organizational growth to such a large extent. Truly he’s called one of the greatest users of technology in the modern era.
3. Anand Mahindra | Mahindra Group | Film Studies
Anand Mahindra is the chairman and managing director of the Mahindra group, securing a position in the list of top Indian billionaire businessmen. He did his major in Film Studies & Architecture from Harvard University and believes in one mantra of life – reputation through a set of values is as important as success.
Mahindra is responsible for bringing a tremendous change in the growth of this company. Challenging conventional thinking and using innovation to incorporate positivity into the lives of its stakeholders and communities have been the key motives of Mahindra. The result of this change is the huge expansion of this company both domestically and internationally.
4. Oprah Winfrey | Harpo Productions | Communications
CEO, Author, Actress, Talk Show Host, and Billionaire – Oprah Winfrey has slain it all. After studying Communications at Tennessee State University, she built her own media empire and became one of the most successful people of the decade.
Oprah dedicated her life to helping young girls get quality education all around the world and always admits the importance of her education and background. And this surely has been the result of the “Essential Skills” (and not ‘Soft’) she learned from Humanities during her college.
5. Michael Eisner | Walt Disney Company | English Literature and Theatre
Former Disney CEO (1984-2005), Eisner graduated with a B.A. degree from Denison University. Behind Disney being the top production company in family entertainment, this man has worked and contributed a lot.
“Literature is unbelievably helpful, because no matter what business you are in, you are dealing with interpersonal relationships. It gives you an appreciation of what makes people tick.” – Eisner beautifully mixed his creativity with corporate experience and stood out as one of the best leaders in the world.
6. Arundhati Bhattacharya | State Bank of India | English Literature
The first woman to be the chairperson of SBI, Arundhati Bhattacharya did her master’s in English Literature from Jadavpur University. In 2016, she was reckoned as the 25th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine. But her legacy didn’t stop here. After serving SBI for 40 years, she stunned everyone by becoming the CEO of Salesforce International for India in 2020.
All these incredible accomplishments made us convinced that Bhattacharya has the chops for success. She is certainly one powerful corporate leader with a humanities degree whose footsteps you can follow.
7. Howard Schultz | Starbucks | Communications
Instagrammed art and the fancy drinks of Starbucks – we all know about this crazy affair! In the 1980s, Schultz took charge of Starbucks, which was merely a regional coffee shop back then, and within 10 years, he turned it into the biggest coffee chain and an insanely popular social hub!
For this success story, Schultz gives credit to his humanities education and how it has prepared him to come up with so inventive ideas and set an example in the world of coffee enthusiasts. As he put it – “It took years before I found my passion in life, but getting out of Brooklyn and earning a college degree gave me the courage to keep on dreaming.”
8. Andrea Jung | Avon | English Literature
With great admiration for Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield (literature fans can relate here), Jung graduated with a B.A. degree in English from Princeton University. Over the course of time, she became a trailblazer for female CEOs whose story from being a bookworm at college to becoming the leader of a $10 billion global cosmetics company inspired many.
“What I find myself doing (now) was pretty unimaginable for me in 1979, after I finished my much-loved thesis on Katherine Mansfield and my junior papers on Virginia Woolf.” – Despite being a Humanities major, the Avon Queen’s artistry and creativity took her all the way to the designation of a CEO!
9. Richard Plepler | HBO | Political Science & Government
Plepler is the former chairman and present CEO of HBO and WarnerMedia. At the time of his joining in 1992, the channel primarily used to show premium sports events and movie reruns. By the end of the 90s, Plepler was able to draw in million subscribers to HBO featuring popular movies and shows which marked the golden era of television.
On drawing inspiration from his Humanities studies, he acknowledged the heavy influence essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson had on him during his college days – “I believed, with Emerson, that if a man planted himself on his convictions and hopes that, ‘the huge world will come ’round to him.’ I always felt that, and all these years later, still do,”
10. Denise Morrison | Campbell Soup | Psychology
Another formidable corporate leader with humanities degree is Denise Morrison. With a degree in Psychology from Boston College, Morrison abided by the words of her mother – “Ambition is a part of femininity.” In the 80s and 90s, she worked on various roles in sales and marketing for different companies, from Pepsi to Coca-Cola to Nestle. Finally, in 2018, she broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first female CEO of Campbell Soup Company.
Under her leadership, the company realized the true potential of its purpose and goal. Throughout her journey in Campbell, Morrison has an esteemed track record of building iconic brands and growing businesses. As she put it – “I was fortunate to have parents who raised me to believe that I could achieve my goals. I knew I wanted to lead a company from an early age, and worked to develop the experience, skills and relationships that would help me achieve that goal.”
11. Kenneth Chenault | American Express | History
The third Afro-American to be the leader of a Fortune 500 company, Chenault did his graduation in History from Bowdoin College and worked at various law firms in the late 70s and early 80s. He joined American Express in 1981 and kept climbing up the corporate ladder until he became the CEO in 2001.
Hearing Chenault, you can easily identify his wonderful personality – he’s warm, thoughtful, and intelligent. These are traits that comes naturally only to corporate leaders with humanities degree. Even after retiring from American Express, he joined the boards of Airbnb and Facebook. Regarding life, here are his words of advice – “you’ve got to personalize it, and you’ve got to customize it to your own situation.”
There’s nothing to stop you from pursuing a degree you love. As a Humanities major, you have what is probably the most extensive scope of career paths, providing you a springboard into a perfectly successful future. Think again and think big!
Still unsure about your career path? Talk to our expert counsellors and get all your doubts cleared!