All year long, we write about founders, CEOs, and rock-star engineers. But it takes all kinds of people to make the magic that powers the tech we all use. It’s time we tell their stories.We asked our contacts—some of those much-sung power brokers and other insiders—to nominate people whose drive, passion for work, and accomplishments, not their rank or title, made a difference this year. We looked for people at companies small and large throughout the tech sector.
We think most of the people on this list will feel they shouldn’t be on it. Supportive bosses and helpful colleagues, they’ll say, ought to get the recognition instead. But their coworkers nominated them for just that reason—these unsung heroes are the least likely to grab the credit they deserve.
Do you know an unsung hero we should cover in 2013? Go ahead and nominate them through our online form.
Mark Zuckerberg talks a lot about how his social network enables people to have an authentic identity. Sperling helps make that a reality for Facebook's own employees, leading the company's diversity and inclusion efforts.
Thanks to her, 450 employees took part in this year's San Francisco Gay Pride Parade--up 50% from last year--and Facebook's new campus includes unisex bathrooms to help transgender employees feel comfortable. GLAAD, a media-watchdog group, gave the company an award this year for its diversity efforts, making it the first social network ever to get such an honour.
A Linux generalist at the security-products company, Black works on behind-the-scenes infrastructure tools, like an automated ordering system that speeds new equipment to data centres. One colleague, Michael Kjellman, wrote in a LinkedIn endorsement, 'I'll make this brief: When I get stuck on something, I go to BJ ... as does the entire company.'
From that, Black may seem like a whiz kid, but by his own admission, he struggled in academia. It ended up taking him 16 years of on-and-off education, at three different schools, to get his bachelor's. But at San Jose State University, where he earned his degree in 2008, the computer-science department named him 'Outstanding Graduating Senior of the Year.'
The buzz is on Google+, but YouTube is the search giant's real social network. Rajaraman's big push this year has been to roll out a new, consistent look wherever videos play--on iPhones and iPads, Android devices, Xbox and Wii game consoles, and more.
That means YouTube, already ubiquitous on the Web, is now on 400 million devices. Rajaraman deserves a lot of the credit for that feat.
When LinkedIn reported its quarterly earnings, there was one little-noted statistics: As fast as the professional network's audience was growing, the pageviews they consumed grew even faster. That's largely because Roslansky, as head of LinkedIn's content products, has given them far more to do on the site, and far more ways to share what they're doing.
A key move Roslansky made was to get influential business leaders like Virgin chief Richard Branson to write essays for the site, and make it easy for LinkedIn members to follow them for updates. Branson now has more than a million followers on LinkedIn.
When Sandy struck the East Coast, the company waived its fees for reservations in affected areas. Airbnb hosts wanted to help, too, by offering free space.
But the site ran into a glitch: It actually wasn't possible to offer a room for free, for technical reasons. Airbnb payments engineer Ian Logan rewired the site in five hours, and hosts listed 1,100 spaces for free.
One startup CEO we know calls Fischer, who runs the App Store, 'secretly one of the most important people at Apple.'
No kidding: The App Store is the key feature that locks both developers and consumers into Apple's embrace, spurring them to keep buying iPhones and iPads for the apps they can run on them.
Huang, a product strategist at Facebook before she joined Quora last year, moved quickly to revamp a controversial feature which told people which questions you looked at on the site after privacy protests broke out.
She also helped roll out an Android app, broadening Quora's reach.
While Twitter's gotten a hailstorm of criticism over its tiff with Instagram and other developers, it's been quietly scoring healthy (and lucrative) business partnerships with companies that deliver analytics and other services on top of Twitter's data feeds. The person behind those deals is Doug Williams, who scored many of those deals and also created Twitter's Certified Products program, which highlights its best partners.
Also? A source familiar with Wiliams assures us that he has 'great hair.'
Behind every good entrepreneur, there's a great lawyer. And Angus is one of the greats, though you'll rarely hear his name outside of legal circles. When GitHub raised a staggering $100 million in its first round of funding, Angus was on the case. And he has represented Airbnb's founders since its earliest days--when their online-lodging powerhouse actually brokered inflatable-mattress space.
We hear he's been busy working on a huge new financing for Airbnb, though Angus and the company declined to comment on that.
Chegg, itself a quiet success story in Silicon Valley, rents and sells textbooks to college students. Tworetzky runs this fast-growing business as general manager for textbooks and e-textbooks.
This year, he helped roll out a new e-textbook reader, fending off competition from digital-only textbook sellers. (The low-key Tworetzky happens to be married to media entrepreneur Randi Zuckerberg, the former Facebook marketer, and can be spotted supportively watching her perform with her band, Feedbomb.)
At Mozilla, the maker of open-source Web browser Firefox, Thomson's title as engineering manager underplays her importance--which is probably how she'd like it. 'I'm an Australian,' she said in a Mozilla blog post. 'We specialize in self-deprecation.'
But her work on Mozilla's internal Web tools, like the software that analyses crash reports, is a crucial part of how Firefox gets better and better. She also literally cowrote the best-selling book on open-source Web development, 'PHP and MySQL Web Development,' soon to be out in its fifth edition.
When Klout, the influence-measurement company, did a big deal with Microsoft to integrate Klout data into Bing's search results and have the software giant invest in the startup, CEO Joe Fernandez (Klout score: 72) got the splashy Wall Street Journal interview. But business-development chief Thomson (Klout score: 59) made the deal happen.
A colleague says Austin's tagline is, 'Please tell me how I can unblock you.'
Sometimes he takes that literally: More than once, since joining the location-sharing startup a year ago as VP of products, he's plunged the toilet. He's also done colleagues' shopping for them. That whatever-it-takes spirit motivated the team to release a major new version of its app in October.
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