When people describe their success stories, it's pretty common to hear about non-traditional career paths—so it should be no surprise that this was the case with Gabe Newell too.
Recently, Gabe Newell did a Q&A about computer science with a bunch of students interested in computer science on Google Hangout. At one point (13:15 in the video above, to be specific) a student asks him about valuable educational experiences, and Newell describes how he ended up learning to be a software developer while visiting his brother at work. This experience ended up being more valuable to him than stuff he learned at Harvard university, because he directly worked with people who are good at what he wanted to do. Which is not to say he didn't learn other valuable skills at Harvard...
"Not to bang on Harvard, but I learned more in three months with those guys at Microsoft than I did the entire time I was at Harvard," Newell said. "At Harvard I learned how to drink beer while doing a headstand in the snow. Which, y'know, it's a useful skill, but not nearly as useful as how to actually develop software."
Newell ended up dropping out of Harvard, but, as we all know, things ended up working out for him just fine anyway. Goes to show, the commonly-touted path of attending college isn't always the one that makes the most sense for everyone.
The rest of the Q&A is worth watching too, as Newell gives out advice and some opinions on technology—like the idea that kids texting is good, because it means they're writing. Interesting stuff!
Gabe Newell talks to students [Code.org]