Zach Sheppard is a TA for CS 6035: Introduction to Information Security. Keep reading to learn more about Zach!
What do you do professionally?
My background is in public education and higher education. I've worked in a variety of technical roles from developer and engineer to technology director in public schools and technical colleges. I currently work for ClassLink as an engineer on their sales team. I get the privilege of working with public education leaders to advise and design solutions to reduce the distance between a student and critical educational resources.
Why do you TA for OMSCS?
I was never a model student, mostly because I was never truly engaged. During my undergraduate and graduate studies, I discovered I had a passion for teaching, and OMSCS is a great opportunity to give back. During the program many TAs who were typically fellow grad students were extremely helpful. It's not an easy job, but I enjoy teaching and enjoy helping students get to that moment where everything "clicks." Through my experience as an OMSCS TA I have been able to move to an adjunct instructor role at a community college, and look forward to continuing to provide a positive experience to the next generation of developers and engineers.
What is your advice for future OMSCS students?
Start early. On everything. OMSCS is unique in the fact that students aren't doing research in the classical sense but instead are doing very hands-on experiential projects. These projects are very in-depth and can look deceivingly straightforward. I always had success starting projects early to ensure when I did get stuck I had enough time to balance the project, other courses I was taking, and my full-time job. OMSCS students typically have a lot going on in their lives, so this tip might save you!
I'd also recommend to connect with classmates. Unlike a normal masters program, OMSCS students have a wide range of experience with some students early in their careers and others late. It's common to see other OMSCS alumni recommending classmates for jobs - we're a tight knit group!
What's your favorite memory from your time in or working with OMSCS so far?
The moment where the project you have been working on for hours, days, weeks... finally compiles and you meet all of the autograder checks. The 3 hours of sleep and extremely difficult day of work the next day is worth it when you finally figured out how that algorithm worked.
That, the day I was accepted, and graduation day. Now that I've been "out" for a year, the rest of it seems like a blur!