Can competitive coding get you placed?

In the recent times, there has been an upsurge in nonconventional hires. Dropouts, candidates with low CGPAs or candidates from unknown colleges are getting hired into the best tech companies in the world. Most recently, Anudeep Nekkanti, from the almost unknown Anil Neerukonda Institute of Technological Science, Vishakhapatnam, did the unexpected by landing a job with Google. He's joining them at their Zurich office.

It makes you wonder, that have we stopped judging candidates based on the colleges they study in? To eventually realize that, with growing tech we have actually begun with providing them a platform where they could prove their skills.

Competitive coding has grown as one such skill.

An avid competitive programmer, Anudeep's passion towards competitive programming really comes through in this quote of his in an interview -

"Programming is fun, programming is easy. My failure at IOPC 2012 made me start it. I thought I will do well in IOPC 2013 and stop programming. That is how I started it. Very soon I started to like it, then I got addicted to it. I enjoy the feel that I get when I see “Accepted”. That awesome green color. My heart beat raises whenever I submit a solution. I get goosebumps. It was that fun that kept me going. Don’t do it, Play it. Enjoy it, it is a fun game. After 21 months, I am still deeply in love with it. Right now I am preparing for world finals. I am doing problems from various on-line judges like Topcoder, Codechef, Codeforces."

Stories such as this are far and few, but they're increasing.

The influence of competitive coding is bringing about a real impact on the lives of talented programmers. Platforms like our own have given developers showcase their talent without the constraint of the institution, experiences or academic record. Anudeep Nekkanti too had and 8.4 CGPA and people with much higher grades than him didn't make it to Google.

So is competitive coding enough to make it into the top companies in the world?

Absolutely not.

Good performances in competitive coding can help you get noticed by the tech giants of the world, but you still have to go through those 8 rounds of interviews.

And you have to clear each of them.

Once that is done, you've also got to be a culture fit, and that you can't even prepare for.

The point is, that to be good at something you must be interested in it. Interest helps you not get disheartened easily and trust me, competitive coding will dishearten you. Interest will help you practice longer and harder. Interest will give you the stamina to do 10,000 hours of practice. Interest will make you good.

Besides, being good in only competitive coding won't make you a valuable asset to a company. Many things like, working with a blurred problem statement, working with a team, iterative building etc require experience that one wouldn't find in the competitive coding environment.

In conclusion, I think it is fair to say that competitive coding experience will give you a leading edge in a job interview. If not anything, you will be well versed with data structures and algorithms, which most top end companies look for. But that alone isn't going to be enough for you. If you want to land a top job, you're going to have to love doing it.

How to monetize your programming skills

Anudeep Nekkanti describes it perfectly -

"I see that a lot of Indians are putting a lot of effort into competitive programming (mainly for placement offers) with not so good results. Trust me, do it with complete concentration for a month, by then you will exactly know if you have to continue in this field or not. If you feel you should not continue, stop it, do not hang on to it hoping for offers. Use your time on other stuff."

About the Author

Raghu Mohan
Raghu is an engineering grad handles Marketing at HackerEarth. Prior to this, he was an editor at YourStory.com. When he’s not working, you can find him at the nearest music shop having a jam session.
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