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The Most Influential People in the Engineering Industry, and What We Can Learn From Them

Written By: Anna Lucas

Engineering is a very important profession. In a modern technological world such as the one we live in today, we need engineers to bring ideas into reality. By applying the principles of mathematics and science, engineers develop solutions to the world's biggest technical issues. But an engineer is only as good as those who teach them, and so it’s important to have people in the engineering world that us studying engineers can look up to and learn from.

This can sometimes be a challenge, however, when it seems as though every “smart” person in the news just happens to be an extremely accomplished engineer. And so, it can be difficult to decide who’s ideologies line up with your own and whose interests are similar to yours, in order to narrow down those who you should look up to. So, in this article I have detailed five of the most influential engineers in the world, what their engineering accomplishments are, and what their political and social ideologies are, and what we can learn from them and their failures and accomplishments.

5. Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella, the current executive chairman and CEO of Microsoft, is an extremely intelligent and accomplished man who we should all look up to. With a net worth of over $820 million, Nadella was born and raised in the Southern Indian city of Hyderabad where he attended Hyderabad Public School for the duration of his k-12 education. After graduating from high school, Nadella attended the Manipol Institute of Technology, where he earned a degree in Electrical engineering. After earning his degree, Nadella then made the harrowing decision to leave his family and friends behind in India, to immigrate to the USA. After arriving he went on to attain an MS from the University of Wisconsin, and an NBA from the University of Chicago. Finally, in 1992, Nadella joined the tech-giant Microsoft and moved to Silicon valley. Soon after getting this job, Nadella created the cloud/cloud computing, a program which Microsoft still uses today by many major companies for computing, analytics, storage, networking, and more. Thanks to this idea, Nadella was promoted to the vice-President of Microsoft's Research and Development department, then to the President of Microsoft’s Systems & Tools division, and finally to the CEO of Microsoft.

Satya Nadella’s political and social views definitely lean toward the Liberal side. Nadella has been quoted as saying, “That’s where I hope these liberal values that we’ve kind of come to… It’s capitalism, quite frankly, has only thrived because of market forces and liberal values, both acting and I hope India figures it out, the good news at least as I see it is it’s a messy democracy and people are debating it, it’s not something that is hidden, it’s something that is being debated actively but I’m definitely clear on what we stand for and what I stand for.” Nadella also pushed for a reform in terms of racial injustice, calling for equality.

4. Steve Wozniak

Steve Wozniak, one of the co-founders of Apple, is a very intelligent, and resourceful man. Born in San Jose, California. Wozniak attended Homestead High School in Cupertino, where his teachers described him as precocious yet undisciplined, with a knack for mathematics and electronics. After graduating from High school, Wozniak attended the University of Colorado - Boulder for one year before he dropped out and moved back to California, where he attended a local community college for a few years, before finally graduating with a degree in Electrical engineering from the University of California - Berkeley. After graduating, Wozniak took on a few odd jobs related to engineering to pay the bills, such as creating a device Wozniak, and his new friend Steve Jobs, called the, “blue box”, that allowed you to hack into your telephone network and make calls without having to pay for long-distance calls, which they then sold to college students. At this time he was also working for several small electronics companies in the bay area.

While working for these tech companies in the bay area, Wozniak joined a Bay Area tech group called the Homebrew Computer Club, a group who Wozniak’s friend Steve Jobs was already a part of. At around the same time he joined this group, in the tech companies Wozniak had been working at, he designed his own microcomputer, one of the first of its kind, however the company was not interested in his design. After bringing it up at the Homebrew club, however, Jobs was so intrigued and impressed with the design that he and Wozniak decided to start their own company selling them, Apple Computers. After sales became more promising and their company was beginning to take off, they then designed Apple II which combined Wozniak’s engineering abilities with Jobs’ aesthetic, to create the brand we know as Apple today.

Wozniak’s political and social views, similarly to Satya Nadella, lean heavily toward the left. We know this because, Wozniak has previously said when talking about Donald Trump that, “I watched what’s going to be an ad, I guess, of him making comments about women and I was just crying out loud, right here in this chair in my office, just crying out loud at the things that he said.” and “Some of his ideas might be okay but I probably don’t agree with most of them. The Republicans to me just don’t match my own personal ethics.” Socially, Wozniak believes that the problem of racism and inequality across America should be a main priority for influential leaders like himself, and has called upon numerous leaders across corporate America to recognize the importance of addressing racism and inequality in the country. Wozniak has also called on businesses to take concrete action, saying “words are just words.”

3. Rose Amal

Rose Amal is one of, if not the, most influential female engineers in the world. Born in Medan, Indonesia, Amal attended High school in her hometown. After she graduated, Amal made the decision to leave Indonesia and move to Australia where she attended the University of New South Wales and earned a Bachelors of Engineering with a specialty in Chemical engineering. After earning her degree, she then went on to complete her PHD at the University of New South Wales, also in Chemical engineering. Not quite sure what her research would be focused on as she made moves to begin her career, Amal became a lecturer at the University of New South Wales in the school of Chemical Engineering.

Amal continued to lecture all throughout her career, and was made a full professor of Chemical engineering at the University of New South Wales in 2004. When she wasn’t lecturing, Amal studied, researched, and experimented in many different fields of Chemical engineering, writing over 450 publications of her work. Her work focus spans from fundamental Chemistry, Material Science and specialized Photochemistry, and also completed work on fine particle aggregation, photocatalysis and nanoparticle synthesis. These specialties allowed her to then make her way to her current specialty, and the reason she is on this list, clean energy. Dr. Amal dedicated her life to not only studying these many different fields, but researching how they could be used to help contribute to the creation of environmentally friendly fuels. Currently, Amal’s focus is centered on the use of nanotechnology for solar application, specifically the collection of solar power using nanotechnology, and nanotechnologies used for other types of clean energy conversion.

2. Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerbeg is the creator and CEO of Facebook (now called Meta), as well as the owner of several other major social media companies. Mark Zuckerberg was born in White Plains, New York and was raised in the nearby town of Dobbs Ferry with his three siblings. Zuckerberg always exhibited a love for technology, and at age 12 he created his first site, a messaging program called Zucknet. In order to harbor his love for technology, his parents hired a private tutor to teach Zuckerberg about computers, and he also started taking graduate classes at Mercy College. Later, Zuckerberg attended the famous, elite school Phillips Exeter Academy. While here Zuckerberg created his second site, an early version of the music streaming site Pandora.

After graduating High school, Zuckerberg was accepted and enrolled in another elite school, Harvard University, where he majored in Psychology and Computer Science. In his sophomore year at Harvard, Zuckerberg created even more sites. On his way to creating Facebook, Zuckerbeg created a site called Facemash, which was used to compare the faces of two different students on Facebook and allowed other students to vote on their attractiveness (nice one, Mark). The program became extremely famous among Harvard students, but was later shut down by Harvard administrators. However, based on the buzz that was created among the school thanks to this website, Mark got the idea to create a social networking program called The Facebook. Along with his friends Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin, they created a social networking site, using Facemash as inspiration. And, after dropping out of Harvard and moving the site to be headed in Palo Alto, California in late 2004, The Facebook had reached 1,000,000 users. Then, by the end of 2005 the site had reached 5,000,000 users, and Zuckerberg had offers from hundreds of companies asking to advertise on his site. He relented, and now Facebook is one of the biggest social media sites in history, and makes an estimated $117 Billion dollars a year.

In terms of Zuckerberg’s social and political views, he has stayed mostly silent when it comes to these topics. Some consider him to be a democrat, as there were huge scandals in the 2016 election which went all the way to congress in which Zuckerberg was accused of meddling in the election by suppressing facebook posts and ads that supported the convervative candidate, Donald Trump’s, campaign. However, he has never spoken on this, and it still remains unknown which party Zuckerberg supports.

1. Elon Musk

Elon Musk is one of the brightest minds that today’s world has to offer. Born in Pretoria, South Africa, Musk was raised with his two siblings, Kimbal and Tosca. In his childhood, Musk was cited as saying he spent as much as 12 hours a day in the library reading books, and teaching himself engineering and rocket science. At the age of 12 Musk created his first video game called Blaster and sold it to a magazine company for $500. After graduating from High school, Musk went on to briefly study at the University of Pretoria, before moving to Canada at 17 years old. While in Canada, Musk studied at Queen’s University in Ontario, before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania where he finally finished his degree in Physics and Economics. Musk then enrolled in Stanford University to earn a PhD in Physics, however after deciding that participating in the creation of the internet was too much of an opportunity to pass up, Musk dropped out of Stanford University after just two days. After this, Musk then went on to create his first major company called Zip2, a map/directional app. After selling this company to Compaq for $307 million, Musk went on to create the website with his brother Kimbal, which was then sold to Ebay in 2002 for $1.5 billion, which he split with his brother, and turned into what we know now as PayPal.

Using the money that Musk earned in the selling of PayPal, he then used half of the money to start SpaceX. With the end goal to make life an interplanetary species, SpaceX designed, built, and launched their first rocket, Falcon 1 in 2006. After its failure, SpaceX tried again with their second rocket Falcon 9, which also failed. Out of money, SpaceX fired their third rocket, the Falcon Heavy, which Musk later said that this rocket either worked or SpaceX went out of business, and once the rocket launched, it worked, and Musk successfully created the world’s first self-landing, reusable rocket. In 2004, Musk also became a major investor and developer, and eventually the CEO, in the company Tesla Motors, where the company designed and created the world’s first electric, self-driving car. Musk is also currently in the process of buying the company Twitter, where he hopes to create a more user friendly, uncensored social media platform.

In terms of Elon Musk’s political and social views, Musk is an outspoken conservative. In a tweet that Musk released in May of 2022, he said, “ In the past I voted Democrat, because they were (mostly) the kind party. But they have become the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican.” Socially, Musk has been outspoken about the Energy crisis and his opposition for Fossil Fuels. Musk has also made obvious social statements by not supporting the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, and having frequent meetings with the governor of Texas, an extremely far-right politician.

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