What is the most interesting challenge you competed on at Topcoder and why?
My first challenge. I didn't know what to expect and was very interested to find out how Topcoder worked.
What is your most memorable Topcoder challenge and why?
Probably the last 2 challenges right before the Stage 4 deadline for TCO17. Because of those challenges, I managed to qualify for the finals. Realizing that I qualified was a memorable feeling.
Who do you think is the most fierce or talented coder at Topcoder and why?
Wleite, hand's down. I admire that he has won or ranked well on nearly all marathon matches (sponsored and normal) even though the match problems are diverse. Marathon matches used to be primarily about optimization. Nowadays, the sponsored matches are based largely on Deep Learning and Machine Learning. The fact that Wleite continues to dominate in these matches shows his adaptability, ability, and interest in learning new things. In my book, he is THE 'top coder' at Topcoder.
What is the programming language you most relate to and why?
Python. It's currently the most common language for Machine Learning and Data Science.
What do you do when not working?
When I'm indoors, I listen to music/audiobooks, watch videos, dabble around with music production, and have random chats with my family members. When I'm outdoors, I go to the beach often because it's not far from where I live.
Where do you work? Tell us about your space(s).
Mostly at home. I work from my good-old gaming laptop (which has an awesome GPU for Deep Learning work). My workspace is nothing fancy because I like being able to take my laptop with me and work from anywhere without being too attached to any particular 'ideal' work environment.
If you could give your past self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Nothing. Every experience, whether it's positive or negative, counts towards informing us about the world and ourselves. You should learn some things from experience instead of being advised by someone, even if that someone is your future self.
What kind of music do you listen to while working on your solutions?
Considering that I'm a super amateur music producer, I love listening to music from across many genres. I mostly listen to EDM, Dubstep, Bollywood, and remixes. Also, for some reason, I love listening to Russian pop music while working, particularly MOLLY and Serebro.
What is the dream project you want to build, design, or solve for?
There are many projects that I dream about. The most important among them is probably something that can help fight corruption and make democracies stronger.
What's the best tip or piece of advice you can share with other members at Topcoder?
Try to understand the problem well. It's okay to perform embarrassingly bad initially.
What does Topcoder mean to you?
It means a lot. Besides the payments and occasional trips, it allows me the freedom to live a life that is truly mine while remaining up to date with the latest technology in the industry.
What are you most excited about for this year's TCO Finals?
Apart from meeting and reuniting with other Topcoder members, I'm looking forward to being in Texas for the first time. Also, I heard that there are going to be Startup related events and an innovation summit. This sounds like something new and interesting, and I'd love to see it first hand.
Do you strive to be at TCO every year and if so, why does it matter to you?
Honestly, no. I just compete on the challenges that come up when I think I can win, and I have time to compete. In the process, if I get opportunities like these, I grab them with both hands!
What was your secret to getting a ticket for the TCO finals more than once?
My laid back approach to TCO is not a great influence for members who really want to go to TCO every year, but, I'll share what has worked for me. Keep doing challenges that suit you, especially when you are in the groove.
What's the one question and answer you wished we would have asked you, but didn't?
Question: What could be some new additions to TCO? Answer: Maybe a few hours of direct meet and greet with tech companies who are looking to hire people from Topcoder. Or, connecting TCO members that are interested in startups with potential investors/local entrepreneurs/potential co-founders/local startup hubs.