Yang was born in Schenectady, New York, on January 13, 1975. His parents were from Taiwan and immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s. They met while they were both in graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. His father graduated with a Ph.D. in physics and worked in the research labs of IBM and General Electric, generating over 69 patents in his career. His mother graduated with a master's degree in statistics and became a systems administrator at a local university. Yang has an older brother, Lawrence, who is a psychology professor.
On January 13, 2000, Bill Gates handed over the CEO position to Steve Ballmer, an old college friend of Gates and employee of the company since 1980, while creating a new position for himself as Chief Software Architect.