Which is more likely – growing up to be Bill Gates or Tiger Woods?

I read an interesting quote on Todd Bishop’s Microsoft Blog yesterday.

"Kids have, genetically, a better chance of growing up and being Bill Gates than growing up and being Tiger Woods." -- Craig Mundie, Microsoft chief research and strategy officer, during a panel discussion today at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit on encouraging more young people to get into computer science.

It’s something to think about isn’t it? While practice and coaching go a long way in sports an awful lot of success in sports has to do with genetics. Success in technology doesn’t take much in the way of physical attributes. One of the best programmers I ever knew lived in an iron lung, never walked and couldn’t ever have participated in sports. Yet he had a finely tuned and trained mind and a successful career in hi-tech. Even with above average physical skills a student’s chances of making it in a career in professional sports are somewhere between slim and none. But a successful career in hi-tech doesn’t require great height, great strength, great running speed or a quick eye to catch a ball.

I’ve heard people say that there are something like 10 times as many “Microsoft millionaires” as there are professional athlete millionaires. I’m not sure if that proportion is right but I do believe that it is a lot easier to become a millionaire working in information technology than through success in professional sports. How many students do you suppose know that?

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