Humans of Harker: Computer science through the lens of business

Incorporating his established knowledge of technology with business, Nikhil Sharma (12) elaborates on the concepts’ interrelation


Emily Tan

“I believe that the business side is the best means by which to advance the CS side because you can take a community of people who love CS, and that stays constant. But, if you focus on bringing it to everywhere imaginable, then that suddenly creates an ecosystem where even more people can access it,” Nikhil Sharma (12) said.

Chatter fills the room as students flood into office hours for their respective computer science classes. Eyes focused on the screen, Nikhil Sharma (12) begins typing new lines of code into his program. He turns to the whiteboard, drawing complex diagrams in black ink. Turning to his partner Arnav Joshi (12), a determined grin lights up Nikhil’s face as they bounce ideas for their hackathon between one another. 

Coming into high school, Nikhil was seen as a reserved and quiet individual who kept his interests to himself. Nevertheless, as he began exploring the concepts of business in relation to his love of computer science, he began opening up to share his ideas with students all around the world.

As a sophomore, Nikhil and Arnav organized a hackathon called Harker Hacks. Through the process of bringing that event to school, Nikhil realized that he wanted to make setting up hackathons much easier for other students.

“We realized that there is no reason that everyone else who is organizing a hackathon should have to go through that same process because while we were successful, it was definitely very painful, long, and tedious,” he said. 

Encountering numerous challenges, Nikhil was pushed to approach corporations to gain the sponsorship money required to host the event.

“We had to get corporate sponsors and we started by cold-calling them and emailing them but that didn’t really work. There were a lot of failures before we actually started to turn things around,” Nikhil said.

To encourage students to organize events of their own, in their sophomore year they decided to create a nonprofit organization called 18Tech Ventures which aims to help other students organize hackathons of their own.

“We thought it would be a great thing to create a nonprofit to help other students who are interested in starting a hackathon and supporting them from a marketing, legal, and organizational standpoint,” Nikhil said.

Together, Nikhil and Arnav have hosted close to 50 hackathons both in the United States and internationally. Through his work, Nikhil has realized the positive effects that he has been able to have on students around the world.

“It’s really rewarding to see all these students, who otherwise may not have an opportunity to pursue their passions, actually work on developing their ideas in a safe, creative environment amongst their peers,” Nikhil said. “While students may not be accepted as much in the business world, they have some of the most creative ideas and have very unique takes on the problems we are facing.”

Additionally, Nikhil has learned the value of communicating with others rather than keeping his ideas to himself. 

“I’ve had to work with so many people, literally hundreds, to make all of this possible. So, I’ve learned to be a lot more open with what my vision is and with working with others to actually make it possible,” he said.

Nikhil’s close friend Rishi Dange (12) describes Nikhil’s balanced personality.

He manages to balance his ambitious, hardworking side perfectly with an element of carefreeness and enthusiasm. From the outside, Nik may initially seem like the smart yet quiet kid, but it’s easy to see that he really is a very lively and passionate person as soon as you talk to him even once,” Rishi said.

Emphasizing that every person should learn computer science regardless of their interest, Nikhil encourages students to learn about the impacts of its methods.

Even if you’re not going to pursue CS, it’s really useful in teaching you the fundamental paradigms through which you can think through problems, through which you can solve different issues,” he said. “I think what’s more important is not the CS aspect itself but actually learning how to think because that’s fundamental in understanding how to solve any problem.”

Anu Datar, Nikhil’s mentor for hosting the hackathon and his teacher in her data structures class, explains how Nikhil has developed after meeting a supportive group of friends.

He’s hardworking and he does things, but doesn’t really talk about it. Initially, when he came into AP CS DS he actually struggled a lot with asking questions and he was quite shy, but I think he found his type of people and then I’ve seen that he’s blossomed,” she said. 

In the future, Nikhil still wants to continue helping students through his nonprofit because he wants to bring opportunities to those that otherwise might not have had the chance. 

“I’ll definitely continue working on 18Tech Ventures especially when I’m over 18 because I now realize the struggles that someone under 18 might face. Even though I have opportunities open to me, there are still millions of people under 18 who still want to pursue their passions, still want to do the same things I wanted to do at the same age,” he said.

Building on his passions, Nikhil has seen the impact of melding business and computer science in bringing a community together. Furthermore, he has realized the value of spreading computer science and wishes to bring it to people all around the world.

“I believe that the business side is the best means by which to advance the CS side because you can take a community of people who love CS, and that stays constant,” Nikhil said. “But, if you focus on bringing it to everywhere imaginable, then that suddenly creates an ecosystem where even more people can access it.”