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 reins by Steve Jobs, these unsung heroes of tech serve an important role without the harsh glare of the limelight.
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1. Steven Kessel
Amazon - Senior VP, Worldwide Digital Media
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 credit: Dagens it
2. Neil Hunt
Netflix - Chief Product Officer
While Reed Hastings led 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.
3. JB Straubel
Tesla - Chief Technical Officer
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 build 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.
Image credit: GigaOm
4. Dr. Ed Catmull
Pixar and Disney Animation Studios - President
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 see 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.
5. Eddy Cue
Apple - VP, Internet Software and Services
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.
6. Chris Cox
Facebook - VP of Product
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.
7. John Schappert
Zynga - Chief Operating Officer
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. Okay, the Metro UI is pretty cool. Still the guy has 20 years of experience in the gaming world and 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.
8. Craig Mundie
Microsoft - Chief Research and Strategy Officer
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.
9. Digby Horner
Adobe - Senior VP, Engineering Technologies Group
As a software company you probably want to make sure you're actually creating, well, software. According to Adobe, Digby Horner's team accounts for, "roughly 40% 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.
10. Martin Lorentzon
Spotify - Co-Founder
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 $1million 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.
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