Meet Our Team: Stan Zakharin, Principal Software Engineering

Stan Zakharin is a full stack software engineer who joined GivingData after a three-year stint building software applications for financial services companies like JP Morgan Chase and GAIN Capital. After joining GivingData, he quickly put his engineering skills to use for grantmakers, but we just as quickly discovered that Stan is more than a great coder. He's also a systems thinker who has architected breakthrough automation and workflow solutions to help us scale our platform. His recent promotion to Principal, Software Engineering underscores his contributions to our company and the GivingData community.

What was your journey to becoming a software engineer? 

I've been a software developer since I graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Computer Science in 2013. During my senior year, I interned at JP Morgan Chase and was offered a full-time position after graduation. In the world of software development, a person's tech stack more or less defined the trajectory of their career. I was fortunate enough to be randomly assigned to a team that developed within the Microsoft ecosystem of technologies, which led me on the journey that eventually culminated in joining GivingData as a web developer. 

For the first half of my career, I worked for companies in the financial services industry. Although the experience was invaluable, I felt like I was a cog in a giant machine where my input did not really have any meaning. I supplemented my career learning web technologies through personal side projects, and this is what eventually sparked my interest in web development. When I was ready for a change, the promise of remote work at GivingData caught my interest, but the idea of contributing to grantmaking software that could have a positive impact on people's lives is what caused me to apply. After four years at GivingData, I can surely say that I made the right call.

Stan (left) gets in some quality outdoor time with colleagues at the GivingData fall retreat.

What is the biggest difference between the work you're doing now and the work you did in the financial services industry?  

The biggest difference is that GivingData has cultivated an atmosphere where new ideas and innovations are encouraged. Creative and inquisitive individuals have an outlet to express and implement their ideas, and for me personally that provides meaning to my work. This is in stark contrast to my previous roles, where everything is more or less built to specification without any personal input. To grow and scale a company like GivingData, there are myriad technology challenges to tackle, and I'm glad that the leadership recognizes that each team member has their own individual strengths and can each help solve these difficult problems through their own contributions. 

What's been one of your most exciting projects here at GivingData?

Honestly, there have almost been too many large and exciting projects to count since I've started here. The last four years have been very exciting from the perspective of the development team because we have worked heavily on improving our architecture and infrastructure to handle scale and future growth. One of the major problems we ran into a few years ago was how to onboard and initialize the infrastructure for our new clients. Each of our client sites runs on a dedicated instance of GivingData, and each instance requires a number of resources, all of which have a diverse set of configurations. The manual creation and configuration of these resources is something that I had identified as a problem, and I pitched the creation of a tool that could automatically create and manage all of these resources. If you're a client whose GivingData instance was created after Summer 2018, your site was probably created using this tool.

What does GivingData's mission mean to you? 

The statement “To advance the use of data for the common good” is something that really resonates with me and truly reinforces my decision to begin working at GivingData in the first place. We've all seen examples of tech companies in the news that overstep their bounds and go out of their way to collect and analyze as much data as possible, and this data is a gold mine for many that do not stand “for the common good.” I am infinitely grateful that GivingData instead leverages the vast power of data to help grantmakers serve truly benevolent purposes, and I stand with that mission.

You were recently promoted to Principal Software Engineer. What are you most excited about in this new role?

In a way, the promotion is a validation of my efforts and direction up to this point, and I am quite excited about the future opportunities I will have to continue improving the product and helping the company grow. Even though we've come a long way in the last four years, I believe that the opportunity for technological progression is limitless and I look forward to being a part of that.

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