The 11 players of the ideal tech team

Raymond Meester
15 min readFeb 9, 2021


In soccer, sometimes the best players of the world are joined in one fictional team. The world 2020 team by FIFIA for example put Neuer as goalkeeper, van Dijk in defense and Ronaldo and Lewandowski in offense.

Becoming a member of the IT team?

In football we all know the players strengths and we admire them for their skills. Working in IT, I especially admire people who made great tech accomplishments. You can easily make a list like “the best engineers in the world” or something similar. But lists are boring and doesn’t reflect their true class.

What if we could join the greatest players in a world tech team?

Everyone in this team will be unique an make a different impact on the world. I think it’s important to explain why they became so influental. Of course, they are very intelligent and hardworking (but so do you). What set them apart?

So, what set them apart?

In the field everyone has a certain role. For this line up I first wanted to divide them in tech leaders and engineers. But at the end its impossible to categorize them that way. They are mostly both engineer and leader. They have a vision, but also want to implement this vision.

They are visionaries, leaders, researchers and engineers at the same time.

And they made multiple accomplishments with lasting impact on society.

Bill Gates for example, is best known as CEO of Microsoft, but he is a far better engineer than most programmers. On the other hand Linus Torvalds is better known as engineer and creator of Linux, but without making thoughtful decisions and shown leadership, Linux is not what it is today.

That’s why I came up with a different angle point to get to every position on the field. I based them on these three questions:

  • Why is x such a versatile person?
  • Why is x an excellent engineer?
  • Why is x a visionary leader?

The players

Alan Turing

Why is Alan such a versatile person?
Alan Turing is the only engineer which work was mentioned during my philosophy study (Turing test) as well as studying informatics (Turing machine). This fact alone, already shows how remarkable and versatile he was.

Alan lived during difficult time of the World War II, a time where his homosexuality wasn’t accepted. In 1952, he was convicted because of his sexuality. He committed suicide two years later. It took until 2014 before an official governmental apology and pardon.

This retroactively pardon is now known as the Turing law. Based on so much that caries his name, we can sense how important he was.

Why is Alan an excellent engineer?

Alan made great contributions as mathematician, computer scientist, cryptoanalist and philosopher. During the second world war he specified the machine to decrypting the German Enigma signals. He was not only pioneering on the first computers, but also made great advances in cryptography at the same time.

Why is Alan a visionary leader?

This has two aspects. One, that he took action during his time and secondly that he thought about the implications of those actions. During World War II he stepped up as pioneer to tackle difficult problems. For example on the difficult problem of German naval Enigma. Alan started it “because no one else was doing anything about it and I could have it to myself”.

He specified and lead the team and made huge contributions to the first computer systems. But he also envisioned artificial intelligence, cryptography, thought experiments or the universal Turing machine. The latter was later seen as the first ‘stored program’.

Ken Thompson

Why is Ken such a versatile person?

In the 60s Ken started working for Bell Labs. Since then he has always been on the forefront of information technology until his retirement in 2000. He designed Unix and programming languages like B and C, he worked on the creation of regular expressions, computer text editors and the definition of the UTF-8 encoding.

Remarkable is that most of his work is still widely in use today. Unix as operating system, C as a programming language (the second most used programming language in the world), UTF-8 is the dominant character encoding for the World Wide Web (90% of the internet) and regular expressions are everywhere (for good and worse…).

Why is Ken an excellent engineer?
Not only did Ken Thompson design Unix, but he also implemented it. Together with Dennis Ritchie, they received in 1983 the Turing Award “for their development of generic operating systems theory and specifically for the implementation of the UNIX operating system”. Like Unix everything he designed and engineered, like regular expression, Unix programs and regular expressions, are all highly generic and modular.

Why is Ken a visionary leader?

Ken formed a strong team with Dennis Ritchie making them unstoppable within Bell Labs.This eventually lead to an enormous industry where a lot of us make our money today.

Bill Gates

Why is Bill such a versatile person?

The traits of his character are unique. At first hand he appears to be humble and shy. Then at a second look he is the exact opposite. Wiping his opponents from the field. Besides this trait he is very intelligent and intellectual person. He regularly retreats in his cabin to read and come up with new ideas, then he processes this all and makes it happen.

Why is Bill such an excellent engineer?

Bill Gates is well regarded as engineer from an early age. At young age he created a planning program for his school. In the 70s he was a great programmer for the time writing his own BASIC interpreter. At the end he shifted his skills to entrepreneurship and business. For example MS-DOS (which he bought) wasn’t considered as elegant and modular as Unix.

Why is Bill a visionary leader?

Bill Gates is always working on another (higher) level than the average person. Connecting the dots, whether they are technical, legal or business. Outsmarting competition for example by selling the Microsoft OS and software to independent hardware vendors or building a strategy for eradicating Polio.

Linus Torvalds

Why is Linus such a versatile person?

On the mailing lists Linus became known for his rants. Telling people in clear words if he didn’t agree. Then in 2018 he apologizes for being a jerk and takes time off to learn more on empathy. Linus thus has unique and strong opinions, but can also be insightful and adjust to the zeitgeist. This made him not always loved, but very successful in developing the Linux operating system.

Why is Linus an excellent engineer?

Torvalds has been recognized as one of the “people of the Century” by Time magazine, and has been awarded as “pioneer” by the IEEE. Operating system kernel is not just one program, but a collection of software that manages computer hardware and provides services for programs.

Developing a kernel for an operating system is not an easy task. The first kernels of Linux that were based on the ideas of Unix were released in 1991. He wrote it in C from scratch with all necessary parts like multi-tasking, file systems and so on. By doing this he’s clearly on the top 0,1% of programmers.

A lot of colleagues regard his code as highly rational and good structured. The best way how passionate he is about the quality of coding you can read through the Linux mailing list. Besides Linux, he’s also known for his work on the version control software GIT, used by most programmers today.

Why is Linus a visionary leader?

There are many good engineers, but they seldom have such a big impact on the world as Linus did. This is not only because he thought about his code, but also by making it open source from the start and managing it as an online project. This all together ignited an ecosystem that host most of the websites in the world, business software, the cloud, supercomputers and mobile phones.

Anders Heijlsberg

Why is Anders such a versatile person?

It’s hard to create a programming language. It’s even harder to create a programming language that works. And it’s the hardest to create a programming language that is widely used. Anders Heijlsberg did it all, not one time, but several times.

Remarkable is that he creates languages that are suited in their time. In the 80 he created Turbo Pascal and later his predesessor Delphi for Borland. Around 2000 he was a lead designer of C#, the main language for Microsoft’s .Net framework. In 2012 he announced Typescript, a superset of Javascript, that’s becoming more and more popular today.

Why is Anders an excellent engineer?

Anders started programming during high school with ALGOL. He stated:

“For the first two weeks the teachers would teach us and then we would teach the teachers, because you had to discover it all for yourself by trial and error.”

From trial and error he quickly moved to writing compilers at the age of 22/23. What made a difference is that he reduced the time of the developer cycle by making it instantaneous and dynamic from hours to seconds with Turbo Pascal.

Every time, with C# and Typescript, he made the right language constructs to let developers produce the code faster and with higher quality. I programmed myself in all four languages and every language is very well-designed and easy to program.

Why is Anders a visionary leader?

From a very early age Anders realized that designing a language with a well engineered compiler is key. Also he realized that there needs to be an organization that puts is weight behind it. In the 80s he made deals with Borland with made Turbo Pascal and Delphi popular.

“At the time, products like that were typically selling for $500. We lowered the price to just $49.95. At that price, there really is no point in pirating it.”

In the 21st century he found an even more powerful ally. As an authority on language design he helped Microsoft and Microsoft helps him to make these languages popular by a general public. At Microsoft all his work on C# and Typescript is free and open source.

Tim Berners-Lee

Why is Tim such a versatile person?

Both parents of Tim were working as computer scientists in London. They worked on the first commercially built computer, the Ferranti Mark 1. He surely inhireted their skills, which made it possible to work as an independent IT specialist for the prestigious CERN. His versatility was that he combined hardware, network, software and information technologies which led to the design of the World Wide Web.

Why is Tim an excellent engineer?

The design could have been purely theoretical, but pioneering on technologies like WWW, HTML, CSS and browsers were highly practical. Together this work lead to the first website ever created. The design is remarkable, because it’s highly modular and scalable. It’s scalable, because it’s build on top of the internet and the websites are modular because they are divided in the structure of the page (html) and the presentation (css). In 2017 he received the Turing award for this invention (among with many other awards).

Why is Tim a visionary leader?

There are many many aspects on the creation of the world wide web and his later work that are visionary. The first thing is that the web is about sharing information, not just protocols to send data. Very fundamental concepts like links and addresses were created. That he called it the World Wide Web was surely not accidental: “All I had to do on top of that to create the Web was to create a single global space, which some people said was rather arrogant…”.

So he had the vision, but also the guts to name what he envisioned. He has always seen it as a global space rather than something for a specific purpose or organization. He also founded the w3c the foundation that promotes and standardizes web technologies.

John Carmack

Why is John such a versatile person?

As the son of a television news reporter, John always has an eye how people experience software. He made great advancements in computer graphics, developed games, started a game company and pioneered virtual reality as CTO of Oculus. Beside this he is well known advocate for open source. Less known is that he also worked on rockets where he even funded an aerospace startup.

Why is John an excellent engineer?

For the development of the games Doom and Quake John Carmack made some revolutionary advancements in games and computer graphics. Doom for its realistic and 3-dimensional gaming and Quake for it’s online mode. The engine which was used for games, was also used by many other game studios.

Why is John a visionary leader?

There are many ways where John Carmack managed to bring theory and practice together. As founder of ID software his clear vision of what gaming should be like was turned into code, but also into things like how games were purchased, downloaded and played online. As CTO for Facebook’s Oculus he is probably one of the view with a clear vision and strategy towards mass adaption of virtual reality.

Larry Page

Why is Larry such a versatile person?

Page’s father was computer science professor and it looked like Larry would follow his fathers footsteps. While writing his dissertation on mathematical properties and algoritms for crawling the web he created Google together with Sergey Brin. First making Google great through search and later diversifying products which ended up in the company Alphabet of which he later became CEO.

Why is Larry an excellent engineer?

Larry for sure isn’t the best graphical designer, but the simple design of the Google website was visionary. The most recognition for his engineering effort is by creating the PageRank Algoritm which made Google superior to other search engines.

Why is Larry a visionary leader?

It was brilliant that he first developed the technique for Google search and then found a suitable business model with advertisements. His strategy was diversifying products and invest in promising future technologies. Than he used the advertisement model to create new products and companies which eventually led to Alphabet.

From very early on Larry had clear ideas on the management style used at Google. In his early years his management style laid focus on creativity and freedom of his employees (“Don’t be evil, Don’t be a bureaucrat”). Later he shifted a vision far beyond the web, investing in Chromebooks, autonomous cars, robotics and health care. One of his leading principles was the toothbrush test, “Is this something you will use once or twice a day, and does it make your life better?”

James Strachan

Why is James such a versatile person?

James Strachan is much less known then other tech guys in this all star team. This is because he doesn’t make products for consumers, but he makes the tools with which a thousand programmers make software.

At first he invented the Groovy programming language. This language can be static and dynamically typed. This means you can use dynamically types for scripting and prototyping in the style of phython/ruby and staticly type code like Java or C++.

Later he created Apache ActiveMQ, Apache Camel and Apache ServiceMix the most used tools and framework in the world for data processing and integration. In later years he focused on creating continuous delivery pipelines for Kubernetes (i.e. Fabric8 and JenkinsX).

Why is James an excellent engineer?

James created open source projects which are well programmed so that other people enhance and improve it. Each project whether it is Groovy, ActiveMQ, Camel or JenkinsX is used by thousands developers processing trillions bytes of data.

Why is James a visionary leader?

James takes fundamental programming concepts like static/dynamicallly typing, enterprise integration patterns or continuous delivery and creates open source projects for online communities that bring software tools towards a new level.

Elon Musk

Why is Elon such a versatile person?

Born in South Africa it was immidiate clear that he needed to go to US to be in the forefront of tech. Even if this would mean he first had to go to Canada because he was still too young. He studied economics and physics and is well-known by his employees of his throrough understanding on technical matters.

He leads very diversified range of tech companies in areas like the internet (ZIP), finance (Paypal), automotive (Tesla), Energy (Solarcity), Aurospace (SpaceX), Infrastructure (Boring Company) or Neurology (Neuralink). In between he ignited also the research on hyperloop transportation.

Why is Elon an excellent engineer?

Elon Musk didn’t start by programming like Bill Gates or Larry Page. He is believed to be a self-taught engineer in a broad sense. Mostly focusing on the area of aurospace engineering and creating mechanical and digital products.

Why is Elon a visionary leader?

The following video says it all:

Demis Hassabis

Why is Demis such a versatile person?

In his teen years he captained the english team in many junior international chess championships. Competing with the top of the world. Already as teenager he worked as a game developer before studying computer science at Cambridge.

After graduation he combined game development with artificial intelligence. The topic of intelligence sparked his interest to return to university earning a degree in cognitive neuroscience. Working with new techniques like fMRI on topics like memory.

Than he turned to business again, co-founded Deepmind where he is CEO. A company that later became part of Alphabet (like Google). With Deepmind there were various accomplishment as the AlphaGo software that beated professional Go players and eating a Neural Turing machine.

Why is Demis an excellent engineer?

Demis programmed from an early age. As one of the younger in the team he is really a digital native. Programming is simply a form of writing. Working as a game developer, machine learning and deep learning algoritms and as since 2017 a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Why is Demis a visionary leader?

There are a lot of programs which rely on computational power. Demis realized that just computational power isn’t enough in a world of endless posibilities. Not enough in a game of Go, not enough to calculate folding of proteins, and surely not enough for general artificial intelligence.

He made a path raising from specific kinds of intelligence and improving algoritms towards more and more complex levels combining his knowledge in computer and neurocognive science with his enterpreneurship. Solving every time a piece of the puzzle towards practical and general artificial intelligence.

The Team

With the group of remarkable people in tech we can finally create the setup for our team. Maybe not all know the roles in tech, but we translate it to soccer.

1. Larry Page: Goalkeeper

The goalkeeper oversees the entire field. He knows every role and neutralize competitors when needed.

Similar player: Peter Schmeichel

2. Anders Heijlberg: Right Fullback
3. James Strachan: Left Fullback

The outside fullbacks will often move up and down the field understanding the deep strategy and making them valuable for the whole team.

Similar player: Philipp Lahm

4. Linus Torvalds: Center Back

The central defender manage the whole team from behind and let them operate as team.

Similar player: Paolo Maldini

5. Ken Thompson: WingBack

Like the other defensive player working on the fundamental technologies, but in a more offensive role.

Similar player: Franz Beckenbauer

6. Bill Gates Defending Midfielder (Captain)

Intercepting the ball and passing forward. Sometimes doing the dirty work and sometimes making great passes. As captain he is the one who speaks to the group and argues with the referee when needed.

Similar player: Lothar Matthäus

7. Tim Berners-Lee Right Midfielder/Winger

Keep the field wide, high running capacity and great passing skils.

Similar player: David Beckham

8. John Carmack: Central/Box-to-Box Midfielder

The most technical player, distributing the bal to other players, while still be able to score goals.

Similar player: Zinedine Zidane

9. Elon Musk — Striker

The one that’s closest to the goal, keeps his nerve and put all presure on the goal to make a perfect score.

Similar player: Christiano Ronaldo

10. Alan Turing Center forward

The most creative player. Good in dribbling, passing and scoring.

Similar player: Lionel Messi

11. Demis Hassabis -Attacking midfielder

The attacking midfielder is between the midfield and the offensive line. They must know how to score goals and dribble well to avoid the opponent’s defenders.

Similar player: Johan Cruyff


So there we have it, our team is complete. We learned a lot about their skilss and their contributions to tech. The team remains just a fiction as all the great soccer player in our team. Dream on!

I wrote this blog in honour of my father. He is the opposite of an engineer, but a great writer and soccer fan. He taught me to learn from others, but always go your own way.



Raymond Meester