David Szerlip is the Product Owner for riskCanvas, a financial crimes compliance suite used by some of the largest financial institutions worldwide. He is a subject matter expert in financial crimes detection and investigations, with a particular expertise in sanctions evasion and counterintelligence. Prior to joining riskCanvas, David held various positions in national security policy and intelligence at the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the Treasury Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Defense. In these roles, David worked extensively on U.S. sanctions and security policy toward North Korea, Iran, Burma, and others. He received an MA in Asian Studies from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University in 2010 and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.
Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?
I serve as the Product Owner for riskCanvas, a financial crimes and terrorist finance detection software suite used by financial institutions worldwide. I set the development priorities for the software, work with clients and industry to understand evolving requirements, and collaborate with the development team on design and user experience.
How does your current position compare to what you thought you would be doing when you first started your degree at the Elliott School?
I never imagined in a million years I would work in the software industry, and certainly not lead the development of a multi-million dollar product. However, the leap into this role is not as odd as it may seem on its face. Coming out of Elliott, I worked in national security organizations in the DC area that very much relied on my education and training. In these roles, I gradually developed an expertise in financial crimes and “follow the money” investigations and intelligence. When I decided to move away from the DC area, working with the financial industry was a natural next step, given regulatory requirements that the industry monitor, investigate, and report suspicious financial activity to the government. Eventually, I ended up on the technology side looking for ways to improve the detection and investigations of financial institutions—which aligned well with the work I did for the U.S. government in the area because better investigations by the industry leads to better investigations/intelligence for governments to use to fight criminals and terrorists.
What part of your career do you find most rewarding and why?
When working for large organizations within the U.S. government, sometimes it was difficult (or at least slow) to affect change or cause an impact. Months of work would often run into bureaucracy or politics—though plenty of very rewarding work done. Working for a startup-like software firm and serving in my role, I love being able to see tangible changes VERY quickly. Changes I request or new features we devise are often available to use and deploy in hours or days. And, while the scale of the impact may be smaller than working in national security, I still feel like I am able to contribute to the fight.
In your experience, how has a graduate degree related to international affairs been valuable?
My degree from Elliott was invaluable for my work in government. I trained with some of the world’s experts in Chinese and Asian security issues, and I immediately was able to apply that knowledge in the government. Though I may not be working directly in that field anymore, my graduate degree put me on a path to where I am now, and I truly believe I would not be here without it.
Favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
I am an amateur photographer, and rainy days are my favorite time to go out and capture different perspectives of the world.
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The #ElliottProud profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights graduate program alumni to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.