If you’ve read “Good to Great,” having a Team Member who holds a doctorate in biomedical molecular neuroscience in a technical writing position for a portable hybrid power company will make complete sense. If not, here is the grossly abbreviated version of this Jim Collins must read: your company is the bus; the person or c-suite who runs the company is the bus driver; good companies have gotten the wrong people off the bus; great companies have the right people in the right seats.
David Zacharias, Ph.D., is in the right seat on the Solar Stik®, Inc. bus. His background is rich—teaching yoga, organic farming, caster of bespoke jewelry all while holding a doctorate in biomedical molecular neuroscience—and he says every day in his current role as Solar Stik’s Technical Writer he draws upon his 30 years of previous work experiences.
David joined the Solar Stik Team in 2014. Since then, he’s implemented MIL-810G standards into Solar Stik manuals and has created an easy-to-understand diagram for programming the PRO-Verter 5000 and 7000—the most complex products in the Solar Stik lineup. It’s not just the technical writing about solar power generators and systems that makes his work invaluable to the Solar Stik Team; it’s his skill as a translator of engineer-ese and his measured approach to all priorities, even when hair-on-fire deadlines are looming.
Every Solar Stik technical manual begins with David perched on his office chair in Sukhasana (seated cross-legged with each foot beneath the opposite knee) and a bottomless cup of coffee that’s long gone cold. Here’s a little bit more from David, in his own words, about riding the Solar Stik bus.
Q. How did you find Solar Stik, or did Solar Stik find you?
A. It was fate that we found each other. The long series of strange events that resulted in my being hired is a good story. Probably the key connection was that Jason Zumstein, the principal engineer at Solar Stik at the time, was also a friend and one of my yoga students. He knew my background and thought I would be a good fit. You really can’t have too many friends.
Q. There’s a phrase at Solar Stik that comes up often, “Authorities in our field, but students of application.” How does that resonate in your work?
A. I think we are authorities in our field precisely because we are students of application. We work hard to understand the needs of our customers and to design the simplest and most effective solution. We continue to learn from our customers after the sale, too, when we work through issues or answer their questions. Being a “student of application” is one of the coolest things about working at Solar Stik. Every day is an adventure with new “problems” to solve that require thoughtful analysis of a customer’s needs in the context of the way our power systems function. Fortunately for me, everyone at Solar Stik is an excellent teacher. We all have an open mind as we listen to our customers, whether we are designing a system to meet their needs or helping operate the system after it’s installed.
Q. Why are you in the right seat on the bus?
A. Some might look at my background and imagine there could not be a seat for me on the Solar Stik bus. However, the essentials of what I do every day at Solar Stik are the same as what I did as a scientist and a teacher. For one, I translate technical jargon into a language that can (hopefully) be understood by anyone. For another, as a Systems Support Specialist, I help to solve issues people have by asking specific questions to get to the right answers. It’s the same method I used as a scientist to answer questions.
I’m also lucky to be part of the education and training team at Solar Stik. We create our own multimedia training materials and use them to teach people from all around the globe how to operate and maintain our power systems. I have been a teacher in some capacity or another for over 30 years. The basic principles of teaching are the same whether it’s in a university classroom or the warehouse of a security company. I love teaching. It is so rewarding to see the light bulbs come on.
Q. You worked for Merck, a very large, publicly held company. What was it like coming to Solar Stik, a small, privately held business?
A. Coming to Solar Stik was wonderful because of the really smart, enthusiastic people I get to work with. The culture at Solar Stik is amazing. I look forward to coming to work every day, even four years into my time here. It just keeps getting better. A culture like we have here is rare. It’s a culture that arose directly from the character and personalities of the founders. At Solar Stik, honesty, integrity, and kindness are the rule rather than the exception. I learned a lot of valuable life lessons from my time at Merck, and I am grateful for that. Those lessons make me appreciate the culture here at Solar Stik all the more.
Q. One last question: you’re an avid birder. Do you have a favorite bird?
A. Choosing a single bird would be about impossible, but I do have a favorite family of birds—the Corvidae. This family includes crows, ravens, magpies, rooks, and a few others. They are incredibly smart. When I’m watching them, it feels very much like a two-way interaction.
Story and Interview by Ceal Potts, Marketing Specialist at Solar Stik, Inc.