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Employee Profile: Dave Taflin, Principal Software Development Engineer

Dave Taflin likes to dot his I’s and cross his T’s. He insists on lining his ducks up in a row. He believes there’s a place for everything and that everything has its place. Do you see a pattern here? Dave is a very organized guy, which is a good thing considering he’s Tecplot’s principal software development engineer, a position that requires organization, discipline and time-management.

Organization and Time-management are Important Skills in the Navy, and at Tecplot

So where did Dave hone his organizational and time-management skills? For that, he can thank the United States Government, more specifically the U.S. Navy. Dave spent the first five years of his post-college life as an active duty surface warfare officer and he recently completed 20 years in the Navy Reserve, retiring as a commander.

Dave Taflin at the Zoo

Dave Taflin enjoys a Team Event at the Cougar Mountain Zoo in Issaquah, Washington.

When asked what skills he developed in the Navy are beneficial to his work today, Dave quickly said organization and time management. “In the Navy, I typically had quite a few balls in the air at once, and had to keep track of them all. I also had to apply some creativity to come up with solutions to problems. And working on a ship, with its extremely tight quarters, taught me how to work well with others and manage professional relationships. These are all key skills that I apply to my work every day at Tecplot.”

A Goal-driven Individual

Dave is also a goal-driven individual, another character trait refined throughout his Navy career. “The Navy rewards you for setting and achieving goals,” he said. “As a sailor, as you become more experienced, you take on leadership roles and learn how to supervise people and manage projects. An individual excels by being willing to learn new things and take on positions of responsibility, just like in the corporate world.”

Real-world life-skills acquired during his long Navy career are not Dave’s only impressive credentials, however. He earned a BS in aeronautical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which he attended on an ROTC scholarship, and an MS and Ph.D in aeronautics and astronautics from the University of Washington. This powerful combination of military experience and academic achievement made Dave an extremely attractive employment candidate to Tecplot, which hired him as a programmer back in January 1995.

At Tecplot for More Than 20 Years

With such a dynamic resume, you might wonder why Dave has stayed at Tecplot for more than 20 years. “I stay for a number of reasons,” he said. “I really like the work and the truly interesting things our customers do with our software.”

As an example, Dave cited a project he worked on with NASA. At the time, the space agency was studying a Mars re-entry vehicle. “NASA was investigating the possibility of dust contamination way up in the atmosphere,” he explained.

“To support their investigation, we modified Tecplot’s particle-path calculations to include the effects of mass and the possibility that the particles would burn up, or ablate, upon re-entry. Using this modification, the NASA engineers were able to study whether dust particles of various sizes would contaminate the payload under various flow conditions. Call me odd, but I think that’s pretty cool stuff,” Dave joked.

Super-smart People

Dave also enjoys interacting with his co-workers, who he says are all super-smart people, and he respects the company’s leadership. “Mike [Peery] and Don [Roberts] have always been committed to the concept that our actions should match our values, and they emphasize the importance of work/life balance. Even though I’ve had other opportunities over the years, I simply have not wanted to leave,” he said.

Today, Dave’s primary responsibilities are as a C++ and Fortran programmer, and as a key advisor on software architectural issues and product design decisions, mainly for the company’s flagship product, Tecplot 360 EX. “The most challenging aspect of my job is balancing the demands of adding new features to the code with those of supporting customers’ use of existing features in increasingly complex workflows,” Dave explained.

Boy Scouts and the Navy

When not at the office, Dave spends most of his free time with his fast-growing family. He and his wife of 24 years, Cathy, have two children – Jennifer, a college sophomore, and Benjy, a high school senior. Since Benjy still lives at home, Dave and Benjy enjoy a great deal of time together, primarily centered around Benjy’s pursuit of becoming an Eagle Scout.

“I was a scout leader for about 11 years while Benjy was growing up,” Dave said. “It’s always been a dream of his to build on his Boy Scouts experience by becoming an Eagle Scout. It’s hard work. It requires many of the same skills I learned in the Navy – discipline, organization and goal-setting. When he earns his Eagle Scout badge early next year, it will be a very impressive achievement. I couldn’t be more proud!”

Tecplot in the “Sweet Spot”

As for Dave’s view on the future of his long-time employer, he believes Tecplot will flourish because it operates in the “sweet spot” of technical software. “The computer simulation field continues to grow, and we will grow right along with it,” he said. “The analysis of Computational Fluid Dynamics data will always be our ‘sweet spot,’ but we will pursue opportunities in related fields and markets that are just beginning to employ CFD in their design process. I’m really stoked about our future!”