Outstanding Programmers (10 Phenomenal Careers)

by Dave

What do Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, and Jack Dorsey have in common? Perhaps you’re interested in becoming a programmer? Well, here I spotlight ten programmers and their exceptional careers. Learn about them and be inspired to change the world.

You have certainly heard of some of them, particularly those who left a mark on social media and the programming industry generally. In addition, you will briefly meet several outstanding programmers who focused on academic careers and also left their mark on the industry, including nurturing future innovators.

Social Media Mogul: Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook

Outstanding Programmers  Social Media Mogul: Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg

Known for his contribution not only to the world of computer science but to the world as a whole, Mark Zuckerberg is truly an astounding programmer. Since his childhood, he has been considered a prodigy. He demonstrated his coding talents early, and his parents hired a private tutor to develop Zuckerberg’s skills. It did not take him long to surpass the teacher’s skills.

Zuckerberg later attended Harvard University, launching the social media platform Facebook while still a student in 2004. Upon having unexpected success within the network of the university, it didn’t take long for the project to go public. This forced Zuckerberg to drop out of college but did not undermine the opinion of his professors that he is a prodigy. In fact, Harvard issued him an honorary degree in 2017.

His biggest achievement and publication is unquestionably Facebook. The site that some call its own nation-state attracts more than 2.2 billion people monthly. For this invention, Zuckerberg received numerous awards. His most notable recognition is being the 2010 Person of the Year in Time. Additionally, he is on Forbes’ list of the richest people on the planet based on net worth.

Zuckerberg is also a philanthropist who joined the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative in 2015. It is an effort to promote equality and advance human potential through research, education, and health.

Outstanding Programmer: Read about Mark Zuckerberg.

Classic Computer Programmer: Bill Gates of Microsoft

Outstanding Programmers
Bill Gates

This investor, humanitarian, and business magnate, is probably best known as the founder of Microsoft. Bill Gates was born in 1955 and started his education in the Lakeside School, Seattle. This was where he first used a computer in 1967, and it took him only a year to start programming. Naturally, he did not have any problems enrolling at Harvard University in 1973. However, he left college after two years to establish Microsoft.

Fortunately for the entire world, Microsoft did more than succeed. Gates established it in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with Paul Allen, a fellow programmer and friend. The company had the vision to bring a computer to every household. It seemed impossible when they started, but Gates proved that he is a visionary. The first version of the Microsoft Windows Operating System launched in 1985. Now, the rest is history. Gates officially resigned as chairman of Microsoft in 2014, although he stepped down from his day job six years earlier.

As for publications, he has written two books – Business at the Speed of Thought and The Road Ahead, published in 1999 and 1995, respectively. He also made the Forbes list of 400 Richest US People in 1987 and topped the list for more than 15 years. Gates is also an avid humanitarian. He and his wife, Melinda, established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. Their efforts were recognized by Time as 2006 People of the Year.

Outstanding Programmer: Read about Bill Gates.

Classic Computer Programmer: Steve Wozniak of Apple

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Steve Wozniak

Steve Wozniak is the co-founder of Apple. While you may be familiar with Steve Jobs, Wozniak is often considered the engineer behind the company. He was born in California in 1950 and grew up surrounded by technology. This helped him find his true calling. Even when Wozniak was a child, he would often make calculators, voltmeters, and homemade games.

For his college choice, he enrolled at the University of Colorado. However, he managed to render his own expulsion by prank messaging through the school’s computers. Wozniak later went to UC Berkley. His first attempt was thwarted after his second year when money troubles plagued him. Nonetheless, he did graduate with a B.S. in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering in 1987 from Cal. Later, the University of Colorado awarded him an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree in 1989.

Perhaps the most significant event in his life was meeting Steve Jobs in 1971. They shared a lot of things – a passion for electronics and a hatred for school. They founded Apple in 1976 and soon developed the Apple I Computer, which had huge success. The Apple II that followed attracted even more attention. After that development, the company went public. Both computers were virtually solely created by Wozniak, and they are considered his biggest achievements. Although he officially left company more than 30 years ago, he often represents it at interviews or events.

Naturally, Wozniak received numerous recognitions for his work. His most recognition was the 66thHoover Medal (2014). He is also in the Hall of Fame of National Inventors.

Outstanding Programmer: Read about Steve Wozniak.

Social Media Mogul: Jack Dorsey of Twitter

Outstanding Programmers
Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey is the creator of Twitter, a major Facebook competitor. Born in 1976, he was exposed to computers early in life. He began creating software in his teenage years, including dispatch logistics software that cab enterprises still use today.

In 1995, he enrolled at the University of Missouri-Rolla. Two years later, Dorsey transferred to New York University. Although he was just a semester shy of graduating, he flunked out in 1999. Luckily, Dorsey already planned to establish Twitter.

He soon approached investors in Silicon Valley who expressed interest in his project. However, it took until 2006 to set up the first website. At that point, Dorsey posted the first “tweet.” The progress was slow and many mocked Twitter in its early years. Nonetheless, the medium became one of the most influential ones to date.

Dorsey worked as CEO from 2006 to 2008 and recently returned in 2015. He received the Founder of the Year Award by TechCrunch in 2012. CEOWORLD magazine placed him among the Best CEOs in the World in 2018.

Outstanding Programmer: Read about Jack Dorsey.

Outstanding Programmer & Educator: David Albonesi, Ph.D.

dha7 profile
David Albonesi

David Albonesi is a professor at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Albonesi graduated from the University of Massachusetts with his Ph.D. in Computer and Electrical Engineering.

His academic career started at the University of Rochester, but he moved to his current position in 2004. Albonesi also has admirable professional experience in the industry. For an entire decade, he worked at Prime Computer and IBM as a computer architect, technical manager, and chip designer. Today, he enjoys teaching introductory computing to freshmen as well as advanced topics to graduate students. Additionally, he publishes for peer-reviewed journals frequently.

Albonesi is the creator of the “Computing Technology Inside Your Phone,” an open enrollment online course. The course ran for two times on TedX in 2015 and 2016. As for recognition, the National Science Foundation granted Albonesi a Career Award. As a member of the International Electrical and Electronics Engineers association (IEEE), he serves on the editing board of one of their magazines called IEEE Computer.

Outstanding Programmer: Read about David Albonesi.

Outstanding Programmer & Educator: Brian Kernighan, Ph.D.

Outstanding Programmers Brian Kernighan, Ph.D.
Brian Kernighan

Brian Kernighan is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at Princeton University. Of note, he also acquired both his graduate degrees in electrical engineering at the university. However, he didn’t immediately join Princeton after graduating.

For a time, he worked at Bell Laboratories’ Research Center as the head of the Department of Computing Structures Research. Kernighan was in that post for nearly two decades before returning to teach at Princeton in 2000. Today, he is both a representative of the Undergraduate Department and a professor.

Kernighan’s research is on application-oriented programming languages. He also analyzes software tools and user interfaces. The professor was also a valuable advisor to Addison-Wesley during their series on Professional Computing. In 2002, the National Academy of Engineering elected Kernighan and offered him to join them which he proudly accepted.

Additionally, he is active in the publishing world. In fact, he belonged to the Software – Practice and Experience editorial board for two decades. Moreover, Kernighan is a dedicated author of books related to the programming industry. His latest publications are Millions, Billions, Zillions: Defending Yourself in a World of Too many Numbers (2018) and Understanding the Digital World: What You Need to Know about Computers, the Internet, Privacy, and Security (2017). He has also co-authored other titles such as The Go Programming Language (2015) and The Practice of Programming (1999).

Outstanding Programmer: Read about Brian Kernighan.

Video Game Programmer: Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson
Ken Thompson

Kenneth Lane Thompson, who prefers Ken, was born in 1943 in Louisiana. Thompson attended the University of California, Berkeley to acquire his Electrical Engineering bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He spent the biggest part of his active career in Bell Labs where he created Unix with Dennis Ritchie.

Thompson showcased his incredible creativity time and time again, even designing a game called “Space Travel.” After working on the company’s operating system project from which they eventually withdrew, Thompson and Ritchie created Unix and a suitable B programming language. After retiring from Bell, Thompson enjoyed a relatively short spell at Entrisphere. He is now a Distinguished Engineer at Google.

As for other notable achievements, Thompson co-authored the encoding scheme known today as UTF-8. Today, this is the major character encoding used for more than 50 percent of web pages. Additionally, Thompson participated in creating several programming languages, including co-inventing Go. Nonetheless, his top achievement still remains the creation of Unix OS.

It is this operating system that earned him many awards, as well as admittance to the National Academy of Engineering in 1980. Along with Ritchie, he received the National Medal of Technology in 1998 for advancement in networking, software, and hardware, enabled by C-language and Unix. He also received the Turing Award in 1983.

Outstanding Programmer: Read about Ken Thompson.

Outstanding Programmer & Educator: Stefan Andrei, Ph.D.

Outstanding Programmers Stefan Andrei, Ph.D.
Stefan Andrei

Stefan Andrei is the department chair and a professor of computer science at the College of Arts and Sciences at Lamar University. He obtained a B.S. (1994) and an M.S. (1995) at the University of Iasi in Romania. Andrei later moved to Germany to attend Hamburg University. There, he acquired a Computer Science Ph.D. degree in 2000.

Upon obtaining his doctorate, Andrei returned to Romania to teach as an assistant professor at the University of Iasi. The Singapore-MIT Alliance later appointed him as a Research Fellow, and in 2005, he became a visiting assistant professor with the School of Computing of the National University of Singapore.

He officially joined Lamar University in 2007 as an assistant professor. It took three years for him to become an associate professor and three years more to become Department Chair. As for his research areas, he invests in programming analysis, software verification, and real-time embedded systems.

Andrei often writes for professional publications and is a co-author of many articles. The most recent publication from 2017 is in the journal BRAIN. The piece discusses the design of QUIC Firefox Transport Protocol. In addition to scientific papers, he writes textbooks. So far, he has co-authored eight of them.

As for additional achievements, he served as the co-chair or a committee member on more than 30 international conferences. Andrei is also currently a member of the editorial board of Scientific Journals International.

Outstanding Programmer: Read about Stefan Andrei.

Video Game Programmer: Rebecca Heineman

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Rebecca Heineman

Rebecca Heineman is the Chief Executive and Technical Officer of Olde Sküül, a computer game developer and publisher. She was also a founder of the entity among her other companies, including Contraband Entertainment, Interplay Productions and Logicware. As a programmer, Heineman made her mark early and in several companies.

Heineman got her start with video games as a player. In her teen years, she competed in Space Invaders competitions. She even went on to be the first national champion of a video game. Her expertise in playing video games led to her first job as a contributor to Electronic Games magazine. She also consulted on a book entitled How to Master Video Games. When it was discovered that she could program (she reverse-engineered the code in Atari 2600), she was immediately welcomed into the industry as a programmer. Although she never finished her high school diploma, her talents at the young age of 16 took her to great heights in the video game sector.

Since 1985, Heineman has co-developed and singularly created numerous games. Her programming talents are showcased in titles like The Bard’s Tale series, Dragon Wars, Doom, Tempest 2000, Activision Anthology and the Medal of Honor series. Much of her work in the 1990s was for Mac-compatible products.

In addition to her publications, Heineman is a 2017 inductee in the International Video Game Hall of Fame. She also serves on the Video Game History Museum advisory board. Moreover, she gives back to her personal community as a member of the Board of Directors for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) organization.

Outstanding Programmer: Read about Rebecca Heineman.

MMORPG Programmer & Visionary: Danielle Bunten Berry

Danielle Bunten Berry

Danielle “Dani” Bunten Berry was a pioneer in the movement of video games from single-player to multi-player phenomenons. She famously programmed M.U.L.E and The Seven Cities of Gold. Both games were influential in the development of massively multi-player online roleplaying games (MMORPG).

Before becoming a programmer, Bunten Berry earned her B.S. degree in industrial engineering from the University of Arkansas. Within a few years, she was using the skills she acquired in college toward computer programming. She started by developing text-based computer games as a fun hobby; however, by 1980, she was a co-founder of a major company.

Ozark Software was founded by Bunten Berry in conjunction with her brother and a couple of friends. Under that entity, she programmed and designed M.U.L.E., the company’s first successful launch. The game sold more than 30,000 copies in the early 1980s, helping establish Ozark in the video game arena.

For her work in programming, Buntern Berry received awards. Notably, in 1998, she claimed the Computer Game Developers Association Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also posthumously inducted to the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 2007.

Outstanding Programmer: Read about Danielle Bunten Berry.