Joyce Meng's Blog

Our Featured Givologist of the Week - Phil Gavlan (CTO)

[b]We’re starting a new series featuring a Givologist on our team![/b] As a 100% volunteer-run organization, we depend on the skills, talent, and passion of the many men and women who join our team each year. We’re constantly inspired by our volunteer network, and hope that by sharing their stories, we will encourage everyone to start thinking about the impact that they can create today! James Davermann – our resident blogger – recently interviewed our newly joined Chief Technology Officer Phil Gavlan!
[b]Q: So tell us a little bit about yourself? Where’d you grow up? Where’d you go to school?[/b]
A-So born and raised in California-lived up and down California from Southern California to Northern California, and never went to college; I got a job right out of high school
[b]Q: So, what do you do for Givology? [/b]
A: I sit on the Executive Team as the CTO, managing all the technical needs for Givology. That includes everything from Managing the Server to making sure the website’s up and running properly to managing whatever projects the developers work on.
[b]Q: Awesome. Is that your day job as well?[/b]
A: I’m a Sales Engineer and Systems Administrator by trade
[b]Q: How did you originally become involved with Givology? [/b]
A: I actually worked with Jen Chen at a company in NY for about a year. This was last year.
[b]Q: How long have you been with Givology? [/b]
A: 5 months. I’ve been the CTO for about 4 weeks, though (laughs)
[b]Q: Are there any particular projects that you’re looking to pursue that you think will enhance the overall Givology brand and experience?[/b]
A: My main focus really has just been stabilizing the site, and putting it in a top class in terms of processes and documentation in the development life cycle-so really making it faster, making it scale, and making the development process more streamlined in order to bring in more developers and start building some more fun stuff on top of our current platform and making it a lot easier than its been in the past [to do so].
[b]Q: Do you have your own personal favorite philanthropy or is there anything you’re looking to pursue specifically while a member of the Givology team? [/b]
A: You know, one of the main reasons why I accepted the position and love Givology so much is my own interest in cultivating educational opportunities in other parts of the world where education isn’t so readily nor easily handed down. But it’s not just making sure that children get an education or find futures for themselves, or helping a country develop-It goes even a step further than that and has to do with retaining a culture or language in other parts of the world. Without readily available access to education in those parts of the world, you’ll start to see interesting cultures and languages slowly disappear just because certain countries aren’t doing well…and that’s a total waste. I’m really supportive of Givology’s mission because giving these kids an education will ensure the very survival of their cultures and languages and enable us all to enjoy them as well.
[b]Q: Have there been any Givology functions or events that you’ve been a part of that you can’t wait to do again and would recommend to all of our incoming members?[/b]
A: One that I was lucky enough to be a part of was…it was in NY while I just happened to be there…it was sort of a Brazilian themed day booze cruise-it was actually a lot more fun than your typical booze cruise…it was a nice opportunity to get to know the organization and the team in a more relaxed social environment and something I was happy to be a part of.
[b]Q: Have you yourself done much international traveling since you started looking at global Philanthropy? [/b]
A: you know, not myself. Maybe because much of the global philanthropy I’m interested in is ethnically driven for me personally, so a lot of it is in the Middle East and as you know it’s very difficult to travel in and out of the Middle East (laughs), so haven’t gotten much traveling done in the region.
[b]Q: Do you have family from there?[/b]
A: Oh yeah, my family’s from Iran. Their nationality is Iranian but ethnically they’re Assyrian. Not actually being from Syria but Assyrian…so we actually still speak Aramaic (technically Neo-Assyrian, which has evolved from the ancient Aramaic) and practice much of the same culture from the past several thousand years and we’ve fought hard to retain that even though we don’t have a country…and the way we’ve kept it going the past 2 decades especially has been to send a ton of money to Northern Iraq, where we have a large concentration, and actually building a school and organizing buses to take the children to and from remote villages to take them to school, and just in the past 2 yrs we’ve transcribed complete curriculums into Neo-Assyrian & Aramaic and have been able to teach in our native language-something we haven’t done formally in over 100 yrs. So this is why I’m so passionate about getting education into the hands of children and it means a lot to my people as well only being 3 million worldwide and a diaspora for almost 2,000 years.
[b]Q: Do you find that with such a small number of you worldwide, it’s still easy for you to gain access to things of cultural significance for you?[/b]
A: In terms of global communication we’re not quite there yet, but in the US weve got pretty good channels in the bay area, the central valley, LA, Chicago, and NY…and we’ve also got large concentrations in Australia, Sweden, The Middle East. Withing those pockets we’ve done a good job of cultivating communications but we’re not quite global yet.
[b]Q: I was actually going to ask you whether you had anything interesting about yourself you wish that other people knew, and while this definitely takes the cake, is there anything else you’d like to share? Could be a hobby or anything else, really-so long as its out of the ordinary…[/b]
A: Well as a techie guy people tend to think that I’m a nerd first, but I’m actually a musician first and a nerd second
[b]Q: Pretty cool…Any particular instruments?[/b]
A: I’m actually a classically trained pianist and rock drummer.
[b]Q: you’re like a modern day Renaissance man[/b]
A: I dabble in everything. I’ve dj’d, spun breakbeats, played chess professionally for a couple of years…you know, you get bored you try something new.
[b]Q: you’re right up there with the Dos Equis guy[/b]
A: Well, not THAT interesting but hopefully soon…
[b]Q: As a Givology decision maker moving forward, do you have any specific objectives or any comments on where you’d like to see it go?[/b]
A: More than anything I love the fact that we’re a digitally focused automated volunteer driven non profit that allows us to run on very little overhead. I’d like to see this model become the standard in the future and hand the technology to grassroots organizations worldwide that would have never had access only a decade ago. Really just taking that automation and sale to another level is my personal goal. We’re really ultimately just a sales channel enabler for grass roots organizations and the potential is there to really help capitalize them into fast growing non-profits with real impact potential.
[b]Q: Can’t wait to see a smart phone app, Phil. You going to be working on one for us? [/b]
A: That is part of it. Being able to quickly donate using smart phone apps is definitely something I want to see
[b]Q: anything you’d like to say to those out in Givology land?[/b]
A: I’m still new…I’m really happy to be here, really excited. I know Jen and Joyce really well at this point, and worked with them very closely. I’m an open book and always available so feel free to reach out to me with any questions or suggestions as I’m always willing to hear from you guys.
[b]Q: well, Phil…that’s a wrap. Thanks for your time and I really enjoyed the interview. Will try to do it justice when I type up the transcripts![/b]
A: Anytime, and the pleasure was all mine. Hope your mom had a great Mother’s Day.

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