You probably don’t know them. They lurk in the shadows putting their leaders’ decisions in motion and making sure the day-to-day operations run smoothly. Like Apple’s Tim Cook before he was handed the reigns by Steve Jobs, these unsung heroes of tech serve an important role without the harsh glare of the limelight.
You can call him the VP of Kindle if you want. While Jeff Bezos hops on stages and amazes us with the latest Kindles, it’s Steven Kessel that talks about the nuts and bolts of the Kindle to the world. Previous to his time at Amazon, he worked at Audible. You know, the audio books place. So he knows a little something about books and technology.
Image: Dagens it
While Reed Hastings lead the company to great heights and recent Qwikster-infused lows, Neil was working on the backbone of Netflix, the site. Before his current role as chief product officer, he was the vice president of internet engineering. Every time you update your queue or stream a video, Neil had a hand in that. If the new Qwikster site is any good, it won’t because Reed Hastings made a silly video about its launch, it’ll be because of Neil.
A car needs to do more than look good. The great thing about Tesla isn’t that the cars are Lotus knockoffs are beautiful, it’s that they’re electric. JB Straubel makes sure Tesla’s electric wonders actually work. Electric vehicles are more than a job to JB. His passion has led him to built an electric Porsche 944 that set an EV world speed record. In 2008 MIT named him one of the top 35 innovators in world under 35.
John Lasseter may be the Hawaiian-shirt wearing king of Pixar and Disney, but Dr Ed Catmull is the guy that makes the art you seen on screen happen. He created a little program we like to call Renderman. Yeah, the program the company uses to make all those great Pixar films (even the disappointing Cars 2). Dr Catmull is the perfect intersection of nerd and artist.
In years past Tim Cook would have been perfect for this list. But now, it’s Eddy’s turn. While the rest of the executive team takes the stage at every Apple event, I have yet to see Eddy. Which is unfortunate because he just happens to oversee the biggest music store in the universe, the iTunes Store. No one’s gonna buy an iPhone if they can’t put music on it or download apps. Oh yeah, Eddy oversees the App Store too.
Chris Cox is more than just the guy that helped create the News Feed on Facebook. The engineer has the uncanny ability to strategically look towards the future. He can also spot the talent needed to help make that future happen. While Zuck dons hoodies and chats about features, Chris manages the teams that build those features.
John runs the day-to-day operations of Zynga. Sure it doesn’t sound sexy, but someone has to keep all those FarmVille people in line. Before Zynga, John was COO over at EA. Before that, John oversaw the best thing Microsoft has done in the past 10 years, Xbox Live. OK, the Metro UI is pretty cool. Still the guy has 20 years of experience in the gaming world he’s not wearing a hoodie or a backwards baseball cap. So that’s a win in my book. Too bad Zynga’s executive profile photo is a ridiculous avatar.
Okay, maybe he managed the doomed Windows CE. And the acquisition of WebTV might not have been Microsoft’s greatest hour. But have you seen the size of that company, it’s insane. As chief research and strategy officer, there’s bound to be a few hiccups. Forget the past, this guy should get some credit for Microsoft’s latest Windows 8 strategy and the Kinect. I mean it can’t be easy working with Steve Ballmer yelling all the time.
As a software company you probably want to make sure your actually creating, well, software. According to Adobe, Digby Horner’s team accounts for “roughly 40 per cent of a typical Adobe software product”. That’s an impressive number in any company. In a company that pumps out as many products as Adobe, Digby’s doing a pretty good job.
Daniel Ek of Spotify is one of the co-founders and the voice of Spotify. His partner, fellow co-founder Martin Lorentzon is a bit of a mystery. We do know that Martin purchased one of Ek’s companies for $US1million and when Ek told him about his idea for Spotify, Martin said they should start a company together. But that’s it, that’s all we know. So keep an eye out for this guy, who knows what he’s up to.