Want To Stand Out Amongst Software Engineers? Try Competitive Programming
In a world full of established talent and up-and-coming self-trained coders, it can be difficult to stand out as a senior software engineer. However, if you’re looking to stand out at work among your peers, or seeking an edge against the competition in job interviews, one important avenue you should consider is competitive programming.
Participation in competitive events will provide you with a range of benefits that will make your resume more attractive to employers, increase your skill set, heighten your visibility, and give you a unique wellspring of experiences from which to draw from in your job interview—as well as later, in your career.
Here are some powerful ways competitive programming will help your career take off.
Competitions will make you faster and more focused
Maxim Buzdalov, international coding champion and Associate professor of computer technologies, notes that the fast-paced problem-solving that happens in a competition teaches you “how to be more focused on the task and not only complete it quickly, but accurately,” because otherwise, of course, you will lose.
This training and practice garnered from quick, accurate problem-solving is a real asset in the workplace, and wins in competitive events will provide tangible evidence to future employers of your skills, precision, and success.
Competitions will increase your ability to work in teams through exposure to other coders
As Forbes suggests, often coders work in very small groups and only see the code of a few other peers. This isolation can lead to both overconfidence and laziness. As in most things, it is important to both recognize when others have something to teach you and allow yourself to be challenged.
When you compete in international trials, you are exposed to an elite cadre of coders from around the world. This provides you with a unique opportunity to learn from them as you work with and against them.
Competitions are often composed of teams, which provides a special opportunity to meet, work with, and learn from the best of the best in your field from around the world. This is an invaluable experience that can make you different from other candidates.
Competitions will prepare you to solve interview questions
Top programmer Nitin Gangahar credits his participation in competitive programming for adding a wide range of benefits to his career. One of these, he notes, is the preparation to respond confidently to interview questions.
Gangahar notes that “your skill set rises, for sure, when you are solving problems on such a regular basis, and hence, it helps you to solve interview questions as well,” adding that this is a huge advantage for job seekers. Getting practice on potential interview problems is indeed an idea recommended by many interview coaches.
Competitive programming will make you a more desirable employee
The kinds of problems that you will be called on to solve, and the kinds of debugging, fixes and answers that you will generate, are exactly the kind of work that major corporations are needing to be done.
Big companies like Google and Amazon know that your success in a competition is a credential that attests to your ability to work quickly and accurately as part of a team. The lines on your CV that list your accomplishments and wins in competitive programming will not go unnoticed by interviewers and decision-makers.
You will receive invaluable exposure to top employers
As Buzdalov makes clear, the major competitive programming competitions are always attended and watched closely by employers such as Apple, Facebook, Google, and IBM. These major companies also often sponsor competitions for the unique access they provide to both established and rising talent. Big tech companies understand how valuable these competitions are to finding new talent.
Buzdalov still participates in competitions as part of his training and mentoring of his students. While he’s happy in academia, he knows firsthand how much companies recruit from contests. “At this point in my career, I am tutoring learners, but I still receive job offers. Even though I am not looking to join the corporate world, once a year, Google checks in to see if I am interested in working with them!”
So wherever you are in your career path—just starting out or experienced coder—it’s a good idea to research programming competitions and give them a try.
Doing so will increase your visibility, marketability, and value to your current and future employers.