Edward Oates, ’68 Math, is a rock ‘n’ roller, SJSU advocate, conservationist, brilliant engineer and co-founder of Oracle. What makes the Silicon Valley game-changer who launched a Fortune 500 company—and still plays with the same rock band after 45 years—tick? Answers from the man himself.
The band I’m with now is the same band I was with in college at San José State. All but one of us became engineers, and all but one of the band members are SJSU graduates. People say, “You guys have been together all these years; most bands break up!” But we figured out pretty early on that we weren’t artists, so we could not have artistic differences.
I’m a big believer in being a roundly educated person who is exposed to lots of things. I took some literature, drama, minored in philosophy. I tell students in the sciences who ask me for advice: “Major in whatever you want to, but don’t forget English and social science and music and the things that make you a whole human being.”
I built my first computer when I was a freshman in high school. When I took the computer programming course at SJSU, it was really easy and fun and I thought: You mean people pay you to do this? Cool! I fit right into the digital revolution. I never really felt like I was going to work.
Schools do a great job at making science boring. If I make the claim that our public schools are doing a poor job teaching math and science, then it’s part of my responsibility to figure out how can we make it better. Part of my connection with the STEM initiative at San José State is about figuring out how to keep kids and teachers engaged with science. It’s not just memorizing elements on the periodic table.
When I graduated in 1968, I couldn’t have predicted the innovation that would come out of Silicon Valley. I couldn’t have predicted the pace of change, either. It’s like increase squared.
In a lot of ways, the biggest challenge of my career was being taken seriously when I was young. One of the reasons we formed Oracle was because we got tired of people being paid more because they were there longer, not because they were doing a better job.
That Oracle became what it became was the biggest surprise of my career. Who’d a thunk it?
During our photo shoot, Oates played T-Bone Walker’s 1947 hit “Call it Stormy Monday (But Tuesday is Just as Bad)” in SJSU’s Black Box Theater. Another well-rounded Spartan, Stan Olszewski, ’12, who majored in forensic science and biology—but minored in photography—took the photos.