There’s nothing more exciting than growth. And growth involves bringing the brightest and best talent onto the team.

We want to welcome the latest addition to the Horizons team — Rick Sharma. Rick will be joining us as a Senior Instructor and brings over a decade of teaching, software engineering, and entrepreneurship experience.

Enjoy his full bio & interview below!

Tell me about yourself and your software engineering experience?

I’ve been interested in programming and software for a long time now. Back in high school, I began programming for the first time and learned to work with config and bat files on my system — primarily to avoid having to call my dad every 10 minutes for help. After I first started, I got hooked. The idea of telling a computer what to do and building products was an addicting one.

I quickly tried to use my newfound super powers in other fields. I was a big video game guy (League of Legends to be precise). I tried to reverse engineer a bunch of video games in an attempt to get the cheat codes. A friend of mine taught Java at Columbia University at the age of 16 — I went and learned Pascal with him for a bioinformatics project on cancer research. I loved code.

I went to the City College of New York for my undergraduate degree and decided to study mathematics but still did a lot of programming. I took every graduate level class they offered and also built a strong interest for Algebraic Topology. I realized I had to continue to pursue my love of CS and math, so I decided to do my PhD at Johns Hopkins University — Computer Science with a focus on Scalable Machine Learning. There, I worked on award-winning research funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the Distributed Systems Lab.

I decided to then put some of my academic knowledge to use. I joined a company called Jurispect as the Senior Backend Engineer and helped design and architect their entire software infrastructure. Jurispect is a regulatory intelligence platform that empowers users to monitor the changing regulatory landscape in a single interface. After leaving Jurispect, I co-founded a company called Voo, a venture-backed social recommendation engine that suggests things for you and your friends to do (featured in Fortune and Yahoo as a top social app).

I’m currently a mentor/advisor to 3 different startups and work with them on fundraising, technology, and hiring.

You said you love teaching. Tell us about your teaching experiences.

Yes, I absolutely love teaching. It’s one of the reasons I joined Horizons. I’ve been teaching since the age of 19 (yes, crazy I know). I first taught an SAT course at Montclair High School (yes, the same school where Mean Girls was filmed). I tutored physics and math privately.

At the City College of New York and Johns Hopkins, I taught calculus, differential equations, and probability theory and was a teaching assistant for classes on computer network fundamentals, data structures, big data, and scalable systems.

I even taught a class called Math for Poets.

I’ve taught everyone from 4-year-old child prodigies to students with learning disabilities. Horizonites are next!

Good transition. So why Horizons? Why did you choose to come here?

It’s simple — the vision, the product, and the team. And most importantly, the students.

I’ve taught a plethora of computer science classes. I understand what skills college kids have today when they leave and go look for jobs. Many are not very prepared. Horizons was addressing this directly, and not just by giving students industry-relevant skills, but also by giving them real perspective around the world of technology. Learning to code is one thing. Learning to build real software products, learning how to navigate the tech landscape, and understanding all the opportunities that exist…that’s something else entirely. And that was the vision Horizons sold me on.

The program they had built was already doing incredibly well. Students from top universities from around the country had been attending and seeing valuable results. Horizonites were learning how to use cutting-edge and actually relevant tools from industry and leaving the program able to build fullstack web and mobile applications in Javascript. These guys knew what they were doing.

My favorite times at JHU involved working with driven, high-potential students and challenging them to learn even more. Horizons students are exactly the type I love working with.

The story behind the team was also an important factor for me. Darwish and Abhi had known each other for over a decade and had worked on a startup together in the past. Mustafa and Darwish were coworkers at Optimizely prior to Horizons. The team was balanced with respect to business focus and product focus. Most importantly, I saw that the team cared deeply about changing education. They saw that the currently system was broken and wanted to fix it.

That resonated with me.

I also saw myself adding quite a bit of value on the Horizons team. I come from an academic background with teaching experience, but also have startup exposure. I’ve spent thousands of hours in the classroom working with students on computer science fundamentals, so I bring a lot to the table when it comes to teaching methodology, curriculum development, etc. It’s a match made in heaven.

The Horizons team now consists of world-class technology talent from both industry and academia!

Great — any final thoughts or words of wisdom?

For folks who end up taking the Horizons program, you’ll hear plenty of words of wisdom from me. I’m looking forward to meeting all the students and introducing them to the world of technology!

Ricky (Rick) Sharma is a Senior Instructor at the Horizons School of Technology. Rick studied Mathematics at the City College of New York and pursued a PhD in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins University. He has perfect test scores on the SAT and GRE and is a recipient of the Belden Medal, the Roy Robinson Scholarship, and the Israel Drapkin Memorial Award.


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