TAB Heroes

By The App Business under #TABLife 21 October 2015

Inspiration can be found almost anywhere, and as a multi-disciplinary team, we have eyes looking in all directions for it. We have recently shared some of our team’s top readspodcasts and TED Talks, but over the last couple of weeks we have also started to think about exactly who it is that’s inspiring us.

Below you’ll find a group of inspiring people, as suggested by our team. This list could easily have gone into the hundreds, but for this edition we’ll leave you with these ten TAB heroes, who span a wide range of disciplines and are inspirations for a variety of reasons.

Something for the weekend - enjoy!


Nikola Tesla

“I don't care that they stole my idea... I care that they don't have any of their own.”

Inspiration to Paul Coletti, Test Engineer.

Tesla was constantly innovating and cultivating new ideas - some of which included radar, remote controlled vehicles and Alternating Current. A bona fide genius, a true geek and someone who utterly fostered the inventor’s spirit, Tesla is inspirational not only because of his work, but because of his outlook. When Marconi was inventing the radio, for example, he referenced a lot of Tesla's work. Rather than get defensive and try to shut down Marconi, or claim money from his inventions, Tesla just said, "Marconi is a good fellow. Let him continue. He is using seventeen of my patents."

Unfortunately, he did not receive the same treatment from fellow inventors. Thomas Edison is known to have blocked a lot of Tesla’s work and innovations via control of patents, hoping to monetize the ideas. Nonetheless, his legacy lives on and his influence can still be felt today. In fact, Tesla Motors' name is in homage to Nikola Tesla, and the Tesla Roadster features an AC motor descended directly from Tesla's 1882 design. What I’ve always admired most about Tesla is that he pushed ideas forward regardless of any blockers - or what others may have thought of him for it. He never gave up, always worked hard and we live in a slightly better world as a result.


Robert Cecil Martin

"Truth can only be found in one place: the code."

Inspiration to Guiseppe Basile, iOS Engineer.

Robert Cecil Martin, affectionately known as Uncle Bob, is the author of one of the most important books about software development - Clean Code. He is also a co-author of the Agile Manifesto and has been a prolific software professional since the 1970s. He has been a constant touchpoint for coders in the development world, and whilst he may often be considered as one of the more eccentric of the world’s most famous developers, he truly loves what he does.

He also has a must-watch collection of instructional videos about development. He uses these videos to talk about serious, and sometimes, complex topics in a really funny, off-the-wall way. This collection is almost like a TV series about software craftsmanship, and something I would argue that any developer worth their salt should take time out to watch.


Tim Schafer

"What I learned at LucasArts was, you don't make your bets on ideas: ideas are cheap. You make your bets on people."

Inspiration to Zac Borrelli, Test Engineer.

Being a game designer in this day and age is a difficult job to hold onto, let alone command the attention of an entire industry. However, Tim Schafer has managed to become one of the most prolific designers in the world, amassing a cult status along the way. The gaming industry can be quite cut-throat and unforgiving, which means that leaving an established company like LucasArts to set up your own studio is a pretty risky thing to do. Of course that didn’t stop Schafer. He founded Double Fine Productions and created classic games such as Psychonauts.

Perhaps the biggest testament to the man, from my point of view at least, is that while the above game tanked commercially and nearly bankrupted his company, it is now widely regarded as a classic. The reason for this, and Schafer’s status as an icon, comes down to his deep, personal desire to tell a story that people remember fondly through emotion and personality. This trait is becoming more and more rare in the gaming industry, which to me currently seems obsessed with just showcasing the latest graphics or the biggest explosions.


Sheryl Sandberg

"In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders."

Inspiration to Francesca Hurdley, Business Development Assistant.

Sheryl Sandberg is someone who needs little introduction. She has successfully built and managed Google’s online sales and operations programme, served as an economist for the World Bank and as Chief of Staff at the US Treasury Department. Most recently, she authored the bestselling book, Lean In and is the current COO of Facebook. Sandberg speaks to modern day business women about feminism in a grounded and sensible way, grounding everything she speaks about in her own direct experiences.

It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO, starting your own company or just starting out in the business world - Sandberg has something to teach you. She often talks about how the little changes can make big differences, not the grand sweeping statements that lose meaning over time. Her views are generally spot on, and personally, I put this down to the fact that she acknowledges the shades of grey in life and doesn’t shy away from it.


Carl Sagan

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."

Inspiration to Peter Reed, Test Engineer.

Carl Sagan has a job list a long as your arm, including astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist/biologist as well as being an author, presenter and general science communicator. He is probably best known for his contributions to the scientific research of extraterrestrial life. Sagan was a member of the team that assembled the first physical messages that were sent into space on the spacecraft Voyager, the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager Golden Record. These are universal messages from Earth with symbolic instructions on how to view/play them that could potentially be understood by any extraterrestrial intelligence that might find them.

To me, he was possibly the greatest communicator of science to the masses. One of his more simple, yet inspirational, ideas was to turn Voyager around as it left the solar system and take a picture of Earth. What resulted is now known as the 'Pale Blue Dot' and has served as a point of inspiration to the human spirit of exploration and adventure. In short, he inspired the people who are now inspiring the people.


Neil deGrasse Tyson

"If you start wielding a hammer, then all your problems look like nails. And maybe they’re not. Maybe it's more subtle than that. And so your toolkit has to be able to morph into what is necessary for what it is that you confront at that moment."

Inspiration to Shaun Cullen, Marketing Assistant.

In many ways Neil deGrasse Tyson is the science world’s natural successor to Carl Sagan. The current head of the Hayden Planetarium is the world’s best known astrophysicist and probably second only to Stephen Hawking in the celebrity scientist standings. A naturally gifted communicator, I am in awe of Tyson’s enviable ability to take incredibly complicated ideas and explain them simply, almost like a story. Einstein (one of Tyson’s personal heroes) once said ‘If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.’ A sentiment we share at TAB.

His ability to express things in an understandable manner, along with his close personal connections with Carl Sagan, made him the perfect choice to host the new Cosmos (a modern reboot of Sagan’s show of the same name) in 2014. This further propelled his celebrity status and his attempts to continue to popularise science. Since 2009, he has hosted a weekly podcast called Star Talk on topics such as space, science and pop culture which has seen guests from Buzz Aldrin to George Takei.


Marissa Mayer

"Geeks are people who love something so much that all the details matter."

Inspiration to Ken Boucher, iOS Engineer.

To my mind, Marissa Mayer is one of the most powerful and influential business leaders in the world today. Her career began as the first female engineer at Google before she rose to the board and became a long-time executive and key spokesperson for them. Three years ago she moved to Yahoo! and is the current President and CEO. She has made great strides in an effort to save the profitability of the internet giant, including revamping the culture through many policy changes.

Mayer is the type of leader who can motivate a global workforce and incite change from employees. She accomplishes this through actively listening to people she works with - something all leaders should do - and actioning on their words if necessary. This has brought about a drop in revenue, but a rise in profits for Yahoo! since she has taken over. While she has seen her fair share of criticism for her management policies, the stock prices of Yahoo! have risen by 147% in the three years since she was appointed CEO - which tells its own story.


Sir Ken Robinson

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original."

Inspiration to Christina Ohanian, QA Manager.

Educationalist Sir Ken Robinson is an authority and thought leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources in education and in business. Not only an amazing thinker, he is also an incredibly passionate speaker - his prowess in this arena is evidenced by the fact that his 2006 and 2010 TED Talk videos have had more than 25 million views, and it’s approximated that they have been viewed by more than 250 million people. In fact, his 2014 TED Talk entitled Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity is the most watched TED Talk of all time, with more than 35 million views . Of course, it made it onto our list of TAB favourite TED Talks. If ever there was a man who could maintain a captivating hold over an audience, it is Ken Robinson.

I find his approach to education to be a breath of fresh air, encouraging creativity to be taken as seriously as literacy. He argues that our current education system is not preparing children adequately for the world in which we actually live in, and extends his thinking to the world of business - which he claims will also benefit from more creativity. His work has been widely praised across the board, and for anyone who’s feeling boxed-in by conformity, Ken Robinson is particularly inspiring.


Ada Lovelace

"That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal; as time will show."

Inspiration to Jon Hocking, Senior Engineer.

Despite not being as much of a household name as others on this list, Ada Lovelace has had a direct effect on whatever device it is that you are reading this on. She conceived and wrote what is considered the world’s first computer algorithm. As a young woman she was particularly interested in mathematics and logic, which led her to an ongoing working relationship and friendship with Charles Babbage, also known as the father of computers.

It was in this working relationship that she annotated Babbage’s work on his Analytical Engine - an early general-purpose computer. Perhaps most importantly, and something I have always found inspiring, is that Ada developed a vision about where computers could go. She thought far beyond Babbage, who believed the machine was limited to mathematics or mere number-crunching and believed computers would have much more capabilities. Her notes are instrumental to the early history of computers - and were written more than half a century before women even had the right to vote. December 10th of this year will mark what would have been Ada’s 200th birthday.


Ed Catmull

"Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new."

Inspiration to Brett Thornton, Senior Strategist.

Ed Catmull is a computer scientist, and the current president of both Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Inspired at a young age by Disney (Peter Pan and Pinocchio in particular), Catmull had his heart set on becoming a feature animator. However, when applying to university, he decided that his talents were best suited to the career path of a computer scientist. Whilst some may consider this a detour, I have always admired his bold choice - one which led to an incredible contribution to the world of computer graphics.

Ed Catmull was a key developer on the RenderMan rendering system, used in films such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo. This software led to his receiving an Academy Scientific and Technical Award - the first in a long line of awards. If you haven’t read Creativity Inc. (find it on our reading list), you should put it near the top of your list.


Feeling inspired? Tweet us @TheAppBusiness to let us know who inspires you.