Eastern Foundry’s CTO / Credit: courtesy of co.

In the world of technology journalism and media, the focus has long been on profiling the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The narrative is simple, but it’s also immediately captivating and memorable; to have a single person represent a brand. And yet, while legendary Steve Jobs is hailed as the face of Apple by most, a significant audience will still argue that Stephen Wozniak, Apple co-founder and de facto CTO, was the “true” author behind the original Apple I, Apple II and eventual Macintosh personal computers.

In short: the impact of coders, developers and designers at top tech firms needs to be spotlighted more often. And this attribution is especially necessary today, during a time when “software is eating the world.”

In an effort to honor the hard working CTOs behind the D.C. area’s rising tech scene, we’ve assembled a list of seven innovators that stand out for the influence and capabilities they bring to their companies.

Here’s 7 D.C. Tech CTOs to know 

Zachary Hanif

  • Company: Eastern Foundry
  • Location: Arlington, Va.
  • Industry: government procurement marketplace and accelerator
  • Previous experience: Novetta director of applied data science, Endgame Inc. senior researcher
  • Influence: Hanif was brought on to Eastern Foundary in October from Novetta, as the local accelerator continues to quickly expand. Today, he oversees all technical aspects of the company, ensuring that member companies find the right tech development strategies and overseeing native tech operations. In addition, he acts as an advisor to the Eastern Foundry executive team in weighing the value of a startup’s technology for investment. A Georgia Tech alumni, Hanif is seasoned in data analytics and visualization, cybersecurity and machine learning.
  • Summary: Eastern Foundry is an accelerator and government procurement marketplace that brings together innovative, veteran-led startups and other promising tech companies with Federal clients. While the accelerator is industry agnostic, portfolio companies are typically small government contractors.

John Kopcke

  • Company: Ellucian
  • Location: Fairfax, Va.
  • Industry: education technology
  • Previous experience: JDA Software CTO, Oracle SVP, AGILUM Healthcare Intelligence board member
  • Influence: Kopcke boasts more than 35 years as a software developer and technical lead. Today, he works for rising, cloud software education technology developer Ellucian. The company creates higher education software, services and analytics for use by college students and professors. With more than 2,400 institutions in 40 countries as customers, the company is growing at a fast rate in the U.S. because the procurement process for innovative technology solutions is becoming easier in public schools.
  • Summary: In the mid-2000s, Kopcke worked as an SVP for Redwood Shores, Ca.-based Oracle, which has risen to prominence over the last 15 years. Kopcke was responsible for the product and “go to market” strategy for all Oracle Business Intelligence and Performance Management products. The business unit worked to promote Oracle’s tech with analysts and the press, among other things.

Joshua Szmajda

  • Company: Optoro
  • Location: Lanham, Md.
  • Industry: e-commerce, reverse logistics
  • Previous experience: Biotest Laboratories CTO, Betterway.net senior programmer
  • Influence: Szmajda is a young, web application architecture guru that works on e-commerce, inventory management, automatic pricing, marketplace integration and automated merchandising products. Optoro is known as one of the fastest growing companies in the local tech scene, having raised more than $50 million in venture capital for their reverse logistics B2B software that offers retailers a way to realize returns and organize overstocked items. He graduated from UMD in 1999 and is also the founder of the DC Technology Leadership Forum, founded in 2013.
  • Summary: In recent months, Optoro has made a critical pivot. While the reverse logistics software they’ve pioneered will continue to be a flagship product, the company is now also dabbling in the direct wholesale e-commerce space in similar fashion to overstock.com. This separate business entity is called BULQ.com. It’s unclear how involved Szmajda is in this venture, be he was likely pivotal in the early creation of the platform and continues to guide infrastructure development. In April 2015, he was recognized by Tech Bisnow as one of “the great CIOs and CTOs in the area.”

David Ihrie

  • Company: the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) and Mach37
  • Location: Herndon, Va.
  • Industry: cybersecurity, data analytics, broadcasting, broadband infrastructure
  • Previous experience: Semandex Networks VP of government programs, Irregular Thinking CEO
  • Influence: In March 2012, CIT CEO Peter Jobse brought on Ihrie to look after the organization’s technology services/products and for the expertise he boasts in multiple disciplines. As a senior executive, he leads the development of commercialized tech products for both CIT and Mach37 along with being a consultant to CIT GAP Fund, the organization’s venture capital arm. Ihrie reviews the technology built by startups and advises investment decisions.
  • Summary: The MIT alum works as a consultant with clients, portfolio companies and other advisors to steer the development of profitable technology. CIT GAP Fund has invested in a number of D.C. tech companies, including Nvite and ThreatQuotient. Mach37 has now graduated 22 companies in total, with 11 having attracted seed funding since graduation.

Michael Beckley

  • Company: Appian
  • Location: Reston, Va.
  • Industry: cloud software, programming language platform, developer tool
  • Previous experience: MicroStrategy product manager
  • Influence: Beckley is the co-founder and CTO of Appian, where he’s been responsible for creating the company’s flagship cloud-based platform. Appian has developed a programming language of sorts that can be best described as a sort of content management system (CMS) like SquareSpace. It allows individuals without coding experience to have a framework to build programs and applications. The company’s clients hail from both the federal and private space, but it’s really become popular between federal agencies—where the pace of adopting new technology and hiring innovative developers is slower.
  • Summary: Prior to Appian, Beckley spent 3 years with prominent business intelligence and analytics software developer, Tysons, Va.-based MicroStrategy (MSTR).

Tim Oates

  • Company: CircleBack
  • Location: Vienna, Va.
  • Industry: CRM, machine learning, data analytics, AI
  • Previous/current experience: also a computer science professor at University Maryland Baltimore County
  • Influence: Oates is a longtime academic and expert on AI and machine learning technology. He’s a published author for Entrepreneur magazine, having written about the irrational fears surrounding the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) in the modern age. Today, Oates heads tech development at CircleBack, a competitor to D.C.-based Contactually. CircleBack’s B2B cloud-based software acts as a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, enabling efficient notifications to predict and follow sales leads, among other things.
  • Summary: The company has quickly grown from relative mystery, raising $12 million from local VC firms TDF Ventures and Grotech Ventures in July after being founded in 2012 . CircleBack employs artificial intelligence and machine learning to organize, update and track important contacts regardless of whether an individual changes jobs, phone numbers or even relocates across the country. Whether it’s e-commerce, advertising, cybersecurity or cleantech, the demand for AI and machine learning experts is in massive demand. Locally, Oates is a central figure to watch moving forwards, as his talents will likely be sought after by other industries.

Julien Stamatakis

  • Company: Senseware
  • Location: McLean, Va.
  • Industry: IoT hardware, internet-connected sensors, cloud software
  • Previous experience: Innovative Integration co-founder, Cyclotron Research Center researcher
  • Influence: Earlier this year, IoT (Internet of Things) energy management startup Senseware raised a $1 million seed round from a group of undisclosed angel investor. Stamatakis, who is also a co-founder, helped build the software from the ground up. Over the past several months, Senseware has become a household name in the D.C. tech community. Founded in 2012, the startup develops Internet-connected sensors and off-premise software, which can measure conditions in a physical environment. The young startup has been able to sign a number of significant clients, including Booz Allen, Enterprise Community Partners and the Montgomery County government.
  • Summary: In recent news, the company launched a redesigned website and plans to expand into new verticals, like the agriculture and healthcare sectors. “We feel great about our position in the market. Existing solutions are expensive and time consuming to install, with our wireless system and patent pending universal sensor interface we believe Senseware can be the standard platform for aggregating real-time data about the physical world,” CEO Serene Almomen previously told DC Inno.