Zack is Saylor’s data engineer and has been with the team for 4 years now. He plays an important role, preparing data for analysis, so the other teams within the organization can make informed decisions that better serve our students! Read his story below.

Saylor Academy: Tell us about yourself. What is your professional background? How long have you been with the team at Saylor?

Zack McKinnon: I’m originally from Michigan, but moved around a bunch as a kid. I ended up getting my undergraduate degree in Nashville, Tennessee where I studied math and political science at Vanderbilt. I then returned to Michigan for graduate school. I spent about 5 years in DC after that, 4 of which with Saylor; so essentially Saylor is the extent of my professional career. But, more recently I decided to move to Philadelphia and buy a house! 

SA: Can you tell us about your job here? What is it that you do at Saylor Academy?

ZM: I’m the data engineer for the team. So anything in the data pipeline, from ingestion down to presentation, I have my hands in; but, a lot of my work is team-facing. I put together dashboards, create alerts, present things at data meetings, and then recently I have been doing some workflow automation; so trying to make tasks that other people do repetitively less burdensome, by automating a good portion of it. 

SA: Tell us what a typical workday looks like for you.

ZM: So there are 2 technologies I use on a daily basis; one is Redash and the other is N8N. Redash is what I use to query any of the databases that we need to use to better understand student behavior like Moodle or Google Analytics. So with that, I can create tables for myself and others to do analysis on, or create data visualizations like pie charts, bar charts, etc, which I present at data meetings. The other one, N8N, is the tool that I use to automate workflows for other people. So, a good deal of coding, a lot of sequels, and a bit of python and javascript. 

SA: What do you like the most about your position?

ZM: I would probably say my co-workers. The tech team in particular, and then the broader team. I have friends, good professional acquaintances, and everyone is very kind and helpful.

SA: Do you have any hopes for the future of the organization?

ZM:: I would just say continue to grow, but stay faithful to our mission of free education to all.

SA: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

ZM: I’m currently renovating my house; basically every room has been close to gutted, but it looks good now. I’m a painter, I play soccer during the summer, and I captain a kickball team. I’ve got a dog who needs to go to the dog park every day. Also traveling, but who doesn’t like to travel. 

SA: If you had to stick to 3 foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

ZM: Hummus, Quinoa, Bread. 

SA: Since the end of the year is coming up, do you have any New Year’s resolutions or something specific you are determined to accomplish in 2022?

ZM: Probably get back to the gym. I used adopting my dog as an excuse to not go, but I need to not do that anymore. 

Want to learn more about the people behind Saylor Academy and our mission to provide free education to all? Check out our other employee interviews here and learn more about our mission here!