The Top 10 Most Powerful CTOs in Tech

George Paul · June 1, 2020
CTO
Editorial Credit: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock.com

The role of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is more relevant now than ever before given the rise of big tech and need for traditionally analog industries to adopt innovative new technologies to survive. As a company's chief technologist, CTOs aren't just responsible for shaping the development of a company’s technology and procedures, they also have the ability to influence the tech industry as a whole.

We have weighed the impact CTOs have had on their companies as well as their influence in the tech community to create a list of the most powerful corporate technologists. Here are The Org’s ten most powerful CTOs in the tech industry.

The Top 10

Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Azure

Mark Russinovich began his career at Microsoft as a technical fellow and played a central role in constructing Microsoft’s cloud, called Azure. He was named CTO of Microsoft Azure in 2014. Azure is home to large swathes of Microsoft’s infrastructure that powers Office 365, enables app development, and supports enterprise-level infrastructure.

As Microsoft builds its presence in the lucrative cloud computing market, its CTO has a significant impact on the company’s technical direction and future financial underpinnings. Russinovich deserves recognition not just for his efforts to scale Microsoft’s global cloud computing business but also for the many ways he influences the tech community through education, promotion, and community engagement (he has also written several technical and fiction books).

Aristotle Balogh, Airbnb

Aristotle (Ari) Balogh has been the CTO of Airbnb since 2018 and is serving during a crucial time for the company as they prepare to go public. In his role as CTO, Balogh leads development and engineering of Airbnb’s infrastructure, IT, Information Security Teams, payments, Trust, and Community Support teams. He has previously served as the VP of Engineering at Google and as the CTO at Yahoo!, which is now owned by Verizon Media.

Balogh’s work is central to Airbnb’s mission of reenvisioning how consumers travel. He has pushed for the development of an AI-backed, customer first experience that values smooth design, creates connections within communities, and continues to set the standard in the industry. This technology can be used to create an immersive and personalized search experience that encompasses all aspects of an upcoming itinerary.

Rathi Murthy, Verizon Media

As the CTO of Verizon Media, Rathi Murthy is the visionary behind the company’s global media strategy, overseeing media brands such as Yahoo!, TechCrunch, and HuffPost. Murthy is also tasked with leading the company’s efforts to create innovative media applications for emerging technologies, like extended reality, AI, machine-learning, and 5G.

Prior to Verizon, Murthy held senior positions at Gap, American Express, Yahoo!, and eBay where she has had a big role in steering the development of a number of technical interfaces consumers are familiar with.

Murthy is widely recognized as an inspiring female voice in a historically male-dominated industry. She is an advocate for women in the technology space and often speaks at conferences for women about her career path.

Werner Vogels, Amazon

Werner Vogels joined Amazon in 2005 and has had an outsized effect at the disruptive tech giant. As a technologist at Amazon Web Services, Vogel has helped to democratize business creation by providing low-cost, scalable, reliable infrastructure to startups as small as one person. Additionally, Vogel has helped to push for the widespread adoption of cloud services as well as many other technologies that are now used every day, including the platforms that support the ecommerce industry.

Vogels is a frequent guest at industry conferences and writes regularly on his blog, All Things Distributed, in a bid to broaden how the public thinks about technology’s role in society. He also has his own Amazon Prime show, Now Go Build, in which he travels the world talking to innovative startups.

Mike Schroepfer, Facebook

Mike Schroepfer has been at the technical helm of Facebook since 2013. He is an AI expert and is well-qualified to handle the development of AI tools to identify hate speech and fake content on the social media platform. Since 2013, Schroepfer has built the Applied Machine Learning team, which has applied Facebook’s AI tech to new challenges like facial recognition, augmented reality, and language translation.

Schroepfer began his career at a movie effects startup and later worked in computer data centers, founding a company later bought by Sun Microsystems. He previously served as the VP of Engineering at Mozilla while the company battled Internet Explorer for market dominance. He currently serves on the boards, including Ancestry.com and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.

Cathy Polinsky, Stitch Fix

Cathy Polinsky is the CTO of Stitch Fix, the online personal styling service unicorn that is disrupting the clothes buying industry. Polinsky has held her position since 2016 and can be considered a customer-and infrastructure-focused CTO, as she oversees the engineering of Stitch Fix’s shopping experience, managing both all customer-facing software and the internal infrastructure that powers Stitch Fix stylists and warehouse employees.

Outside of her work at Stitch Fix, Polinsky contributes to the wider tech community. She works particularly hard in encouraging more girls and women into the field, sharing her experiences with bloggers and advocating at major conferences.

Cal Henderson, Slack

Cal Henderson, the Co-founder and CTO of Slack, was a key in developing the company’s real-time messaging system, setting the standard for how today’s employees communicate in the workplace. He has remained a central part in the evolution of Slack’s platform as it fights against larger competitors, like Microsoft, that have debuted their own messaging products.

Henderson was an early advocate for the use of web APIs and developed the basis for oAuth and oEmbed, which are now relied upon by other major technology companies. He has long invested his time and energy into building communities and discussions around leading issues in technology. These include the digital community, B3ta, which he co-owns. Henderson also has a bestselling book, Building Scalable Websites.

Parag Agrawal, Twitter

Parag Agrawal began his career at Twitter as a software engineer focused on scaling Twitter ads in 2011 and just six years later he was promoted to lead the company's tech team. At Twitter, Agrawal has applied his background in harnessing AI to scale machine learning to help address abuse on the social media platform.

Given Twitter’s scale and reach, Agrawal is regularly at the forefront for driving the change of a widely influential technology. Currently, he is heading up Twitter’s effort to decentralize social media, called Blue Sky, by leveraging new technologies like blockchain. This makes him a tech exec to watch, both now and in the future, as Twitter shifts its technological fundamentals.

Gerri Martin-Flickinger, Starbucks

Gerri Martin-Flickinger is the kind of CTO who puts the customer experience first and builds the technology around it to deepen customers’ connection to Starbucks’ brand. She has spearheaded the development of the company’s mobile ordering system. Additionally, she has overseen the development of voice ordering and social gifting, and has pushed for greater adoption of cloud technologies. In this way,

Before Starbucks, Martin-Flickinger held senior positions at Adobe, VeriSign, and McAfee. She received a B.S. in Computer Science from Washington State University.

Bharat Mediratta, Dropbox

The decisions Dropbox’s CTO Bharat Mediratta makes have a large ripple effect on its customers as well as the cloud collaboration industry as a whole. Since joining Dropbox in 2019, Mediratta has overseen key additions to the company’s technical infrastructure, ITS, security and intelligence teams. He continues to lead popular Dropbox products such as Ecosystem, Dropbox Paper, and HelloSign, which have digitized how teams coordinate and plan, and how individuals sign paper documents.

Outside of Dropbox, Mediratta is the co-founder and former CTO of AltSchool, now known as Altitude Learning, where he took up the mission of bringing a learner-centric educational model to students via digital platforms.

Our Honorable Mentions

Ryan Graciano, Credit Karma

As the co-founder and CTO of Credit Karma, Ryan Graciano led the development of the credit checking technology that has disrupted the FinTech industry by championing the idea that people should be able to access their credit for free and without registering a credit card. This technology has helped Credit Karma attract 50 million members and a $4 billion valuation since its founding in 2007. More recently, Graciano has overseen the shift of the company’s technical operations from its own private servers to Google Cloud in an attempt to increase developer efficiency.

Graciano earned a BA in Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2004 and worked for a tech firm that was bought by IBM.

Bogdan Dumitru, Bitdefender

Bitdefender has been at the forefront of developing endpoint protection technology and updates and as the company’s CTO Bogdan Dumitru, has spearheaded the company’s strategy. Dumitru joined the company as far back as 2001. As CTO, he oversees a team of 400 and has delivered 10 generations of Bitdefender for Windows, as well as several generations for Mac operating systems. He has spearheaded the development of security products that seamlessly navigate hardware, software, and cloud services. In so doing, he has helped promote the adoption of adaptive security architecture across the enterprise market.

Bitdefender has been particularly important in defending against zero-day attacks, offering security solutions for complex hybrid infrastructures that traditional antivirus software struggles to protect. It has been named as a Visionary in Gartner Magic Quadrant for Endpoint Detection.

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The CTOs on our list prove that a company’s chief technologist has an impact that extends far beyond a company’s internal technical culture, operations, and strategy. By shaping the course of development of key new technologies they can impact the lives of global consumers for generations.

While that is quite a responsibility, these CTOs are up to the task.

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