Meet The Team: Aaron Tarnow, Sr. Software Engineer

To say that Aaron Tarnow, our new Senior Software Engineer, has a variety of interests would be an understatement. In high school, he was lighting tech for the drama club and saxophone section leader for the marching band, and says he “walked the line between the nerds and the grunge kids.” He recalls spending his weeknights at rehearsal and band practice and his weekends “hanging out in parking lots or waiting to see my friends’ bands in various places down the Jersey Shore.” Aaron is a person that gets along with all types of people — an incredibly valuable trait in almost any field.

A natural born leader with interests across the board, there were many paths Aaron could have taken, but of all his extra-curricular interests, his love for theatre is the one that stuck around — he minored in Drama while obtaining his B.S. in Computer Science at CMU. “I’ve been a software engineer for over a decade and I use what I learned there every day,” he says.

Aaron spent the majority of that decade as a Senior Software Engineer at Autodesk, Inc., the makers of well-known 2D and 3D modeling software AutoCAD and dozens of others. His particular role was on the Reality Solutions team, where he worked with various reality capture devices like photogrammetry and laser scanners to automatically create 3D design data of existing structures. Pretty cool, huh?

In his work, he is dedicated to finding a good process and creating clean code. “I believe that a team is happiest when it’s working on coding, not sitting in meetings or worrying about deadlines, and a good process manages both external expectations and internal time so that engineers can only be worried about engineering.” He is a forward thinker who strongly values being prepared for anything (something that likely stems from his work in the theatre). For him, this translates to his belief that ”the best code in the world isn’t the cleverest, or the shortest, or the fastest; it’s the code you’ll be able to change most easily if the next time you touch it is a year from now.” Focused on team morale, organization, and long-term adaptability, it’s no mystery why Aaron has been so successful as a Senior Software Engineer for over for the better part of a decade.

When he steps away from his computer, it’s usually to head back to the theatre. He acts as the technical director of a comedy theatre in Pittsburgh, and participates and a lot of other local theatrical work. He’s particularly passionate about immersive theatre, of which he’s technically directed many local shows and admits that, if it were feasible, he’d still do all the work he currently does in the comedy scene even if he weren’t paid. “I know this because I do it now, and I barely get paid for it! Local non-profit comedy doesn’t pay well, kids!” he adds with a laugh.

When he does take the time to step away from both the office and the theatre, he enjoys taking biking and hiking trips with his girlfriend, exploring local Pittsburgh parks and trails further out into Western Pennsylvania. Or, by less vigorous means of transportation, they also take frequent trips back to New York to Rangers games and, you guessed it, Broadway shows.

Even his interest in joining our BenefitMany team stemmed from his life in the theatre. Until recently, he served as the vice president of Comedy Arts Pittsburgh, a nonprofit project founded in 2014 to advance the art of comedy here in Pittsburgh, particularly focused on “shining a light on talent with various perspectives and voices.” Thus he is fully aware that the work BenefitMany does is “both necessary and completely unaffordable to so many great organizations.” He finds it frustrating that these nonprofit companies, which he believes are “doing more good for humanity than most businesses” operate with the smallest amount of resources, with staff members who are grossly underpaid, if not fully volunteering. “I’d go so far as to say it’s a societal obligation for those of us with particular skills to lend those skills to those communities,” he says.

Now on his fourth month on the team, Aaron is excited to be part of the BenefitMany team to work with clients who have a mission statement that makes the world a better place. He has a particular investment in doing work that serves underserved and underrepresented communities.

Aaron aims to help clients do more, with less. What he believes is most important when starting out with a new client is finding the shortest path to the minimum definition of success, and then working with the client to build from there. As does the rest of the BenefitMany team, he values working closely and consistently with his clients, stating that “We will always know more tomorrow than we do today.” And his passion for building the right thing quickly can help his clients “get something up and running,” which, he notes, will save them the time and money he is all-too-aware they need to save in order to succeed with their mission in helping others.