Duffield received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and an MBA from Cornell University, and is the benefactor behind Duffield Hall, a nanoscale science (or nanotechnology) and engineering facility at Cornell. While at Cornell, Duffield was a member of Beta Theta Pi.
Duffield established two mainframe application software companies. He was CEO, chairman, and chief product architect at Integral Systems, the first company to offer DB2-based human resource and accounting systems. He also co-founded Information Associates, which specialized in applications for the higher education market. He began his career at IBM as a marketing representative and systems engineer.
Duffield founded PeopleSoft in 1987 and served as the company's CEO and board chairman. PeopleSoft grew to be the world's second-largest application software company before being acquired by Oracle in January 2005.
In March 2005, Duffield and former PeopleSoft vice chair and head of product strategy, Aneel Bhusri, started Workday, Inc., a company that provides financial management and human capital management software delivered in a software as a service (SaaS) model. The company is headquartered in Pleasanton, California, and employed approximately 1,000 people in 2011, with Duffield and Bhusri serving as co-CEOs at Workday. Duffield is also the company's chief customer advocate.
Duffield is also known for his philanthropic activities on behalf of animals. In 1994, Duffield and his wife, Cheryl, established Maddie's Fund, originally named the Duffield Family Foundation. In January 1999, the Board of Directors restructured the foundation, defined its mission, and adopted the current name. The organization is named after Maddie, a Miniature Schnauzer who was the Duffields source of unconditional love and friendship for ten years, and a "lighthouse during the stormy period" of the couple's work careers. Maddie died of cancer in 1997, and Duffield acted on his earlier promise to his pet, "If we ever make some money, I promise we will give it back to you and your kind so others can be as happy as we are today."
The Duffields have endowed Maddie's Fund with more than $300 million, and have spent more than $153 million through fiscal year 2013-2014 to save the lives of dogs and cats. The organization believes that the Duffields have given more of their personal wealth to the animal welfare cause than any other individuals. "And although they don't want to make a big fuss over their unprecedented contribution, they do want to honor their cherished companion and the special bond they shared with her."
In May 2016 the Duffields put their 21.48 acre estate in California on the market as they decided to move back to their home in Tahoe. The asking price for the property was $39 million, with the proceeds of the sale going towards Maddie's Fund.
2013 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award Recipient
David Duffield is married to Cheryl Duffield. Between 2005 and 2016 they lived in Alamo, California but now live near Lake Tahoe.