Blazing Trails in Teaching Talend: Meet Rick Sherman

Community Manager


Rick Sherman is an author, educator, and a managing partner of Athena IT Solutions.  His book, Business Intelligence Guidebook: From Data Integration to Analytics, was published by Morgan Kaufmann in 2014.  As an educator, he has worked as an adjunct professor for over thirteen years at Northeastern University and teaches classes on business intelligence, analytical architecture, data integration and data warehousing. He has more than thirty years of experience in big data and warehousing solutions. His experience along with his passion for educating others makes him Talend’s Champion of the Quarter.




Educating with Talend


Rick Sherman teaches classes as an adjunct instructor at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.  His classes are so popular that Northeastern had to institute a cap on the number of students allowed to enroll. In his classes, students learn Talend through hands-on projects. “We're trying to teach them how to design and implement data architectures enabling business intelligence and analytics.” He goes on to explain, “I use Talend to show them how to do data integration, how to integrate data from different databases and data sources, and transform data to be consistent.”


As a part of their education, many of Rick’s students use Talend in a co-op (paid internship) experience. “It's been quite successful because the employers get people who in this particular case, already have undergraduate degrees, usually have work experience and are getting a great education at Northeastern. Then, of course for the students, they get some real-world experiences. Now they want to move up the ranks and be more of an architect or a more senior designer and developer. They don't want to just crank out code; they want to do some more sophisticated design and development work. This gives them the ability to get that exposure.”


They also get paid as a part of a process that leads to future employment.  “They [the students] get paid fairly decently. So, these are all STEM related folks who certainly are hardworking, smart. I have employed many Northeastern co-op students on various customer projects with great success from both customer and student perspectives. Of course, I trained them, and they know what I want.  It's kind of cool. It's been great for my classes. I know lots of colleagues who have employed co-ops and they are very happy with the level of expertise and professionalism.”


Talend University Alliance


How is all of this possible?  In part, it is because of a relationship now further defined in the Talend University Alliance program. Rick has been using Talend in the classroom since before the Talend University Alliance program was created and can be credited, in part, with inspiring Talend to create the program. “I was fortunate that Talend and I worked out an agreement before they had their program. Talend has been providing free licenses for my classes, such as Talend Data Fabric for years. The Talend University Alliance is a continuation of the great relationship with Talend supporting me in teaching student and now also available to other universities.”


The Journey that Lead to Consulting


As previously mentioned, Rick is a founder and manager of Athena IT Solutions. His job as a consultant, in working with customers, inspires him to use Talend in new and innovative ways in his pursuit to meet customer needs. “So, I started off as an engineer, then switched over to computer science, and then consulting. Since I got into consulting, I stayed in consulting. I enjoy that a lot. We have different customers in different industries. It's interesting to work with new customers and to get new business problems. We often get brought into most firms to come in and fix things - to revamp their architecture. Other times they want different things that they haven't been able to do in the past, such as self-service business intelligence, data preparation and, of course, integrating data from their latest cloud and big data projects.” 


In his thirty-year career, Rick has noticed some trends with issues in data management, areas where Talend really shines. “Most companies don't understand how inconsistent their data is; how difficult it was to integrate data in the past. But the data inconsistency and data integration challenges do not go away with the cloud, big data and machine learning applications. Each of these applications all help improve the business, but eventually businesses realize that they have to start getting the data from each of these applications integrated together to get a more complete or holistic picture of their business. That is how they get the highest return on investment from the digital transformation so many are undertaking.”


“The interesting thing that we encounter quite a bit, is how do we get that data (which people didn't even realize was inconsistent) and transform, cleanse and make it consistent enough to enable businesses perform more in-depth, comprehensive analytics enabling business value. The fact is that businesses usually are quite aware of the consistency of data now. So, it's been a lot easier to work with people to get them to realize that they do need to make the investment in integrating data.”


Data warehousing and integration combined with business intelligence has a long history. “If you're going to a successful business, they have been around for a long time. They're going to have lots of applications and lots of data. Different owners come in and different people come in. So, are a lot of changes. It is a lot of moving parts, so that those are the areas that I think we do the most and we have the most success. They are the biggest challenges and the ones that I enjoy the most. If we do a business intelligence project, I'll let other people do the business intelligence stuff and I'll do all the data integration work.”


Out of the Office, On the Trail, and In the Kitchen


When it comes to baking, biking, and skiing, Rick continues his pursuit of excellence. “I mountain bike every day for about an hour – this is about 3,000 miles a year. I'm about a mile from a 2,500 acre-federal wildlife preserve with mile of trails. The cold weather months do not leave him inactive." I love cross-country and downhill skiing but I am much better at cross-country.


In order to feed all of that activity, Rick bakes pies. “I love making apple and rhubarb pies. The key to baking is to try a lot of different things and learn what works and what doesn't work. We have four apple orchards in town, so I get much better apples and a wider variety than a typical grocery store. And my wife grows rhubarb, so the fresh ingredients certainly help my pies.”