A couple weeks back topcoder was a sponsor for a super cool event called the TechOlympics. The 3-day event is catered to High Schoolers in programming, and runs onsite competitions for prizes. Right in the topcoder wheel house.
I was lucky enough to get an introduction to Adam Loeb, who won the topcoder portion of the event. I asked Adam if he would be willing to do a quick interview for our blog and he happily agreed.
First off, a little background on Adam. He is a senior in High School at Lakota East in Ohio, and has a pretty unique, and extremely impressive claim to fame. Adam aced the AP Computer Science exam with a perfect score. A feat that only 19 students world wide also achieved. When he is not getting perfect scores on tests, Adam likes to do what every senior in High School likes to do.
Homework, studying, hanging out with friends, taking strokes off of his golf game, and of course, answering interview questions for the topcoder blog. Something tells me he’ll be making a few more appearances on the blog over the next few years.
Without further ado, here is my interview with Adam Loeb.
Q: How old were you when you started programming?
A: I started my sophomore year of high school (so about 2 and a half years ago)
Q: What got you started in programming?
A: I took Computer Science 1 at my school and discovered that I loved creating things and solving problems. Programming was the perfect opportunity to do this.
Q: What do you do in your free time? (If you ever have any)
A: I golf, play trumpet and ukulele, participate in various physics and computer science related competitions (including Science Olympiad and TSA TEAMS), work as an INTERalliance intern at GE Aviation, participate and lead in many clubs at my school, help to create innovative solutions for the INTERalliance as a member of the IT team within the INTERalliance Leadership Council, and hang out with friends/play video games. Oh, and I do enjoy programming every once in a while 🙂
Q: What was the first app you built?
A: I have not officially deployed any apps. Although one cool app that we are currently working and won the Showcase with at TechOlympics is a typing tutorial. It think it has a lot of potential, and myself and a few friends will probably be pursuing further options with it.
Q: What is your favorite language?
A: C# – mostly because I’m the most familiar with it, but I also really like Visual Studio. It’s a very nice tool.
Q: If you could go back in time and be a founder of any tech company today, which would you choose? And why?
A: Google – They are extremely innovative and their services are amazingly well executed. Microsoft or Apple would be pretty cool as well.
Q: You’re a senior in HS, have you decided where you will be attending College?
A: I have not officially decided. I’m still looking at a few places including Carnegie Mellon, University of Illinois, Purdue, and Ohio State.
Q: What is your dream job?
A: I’m not sure yet! I haven’t had a chance to experience enough of the world yet. Although I do know that I want to do something related to writing software, I’m still trying to figure out if I’d rather work for a big company like Google, or a startup. One of my major goals is to work at Google, Microsoft, or Apple at least once. I am a huge fan of all three companies, and it would be amazing to have an opportunity to work at one or more of them.
Q: Do you have an idea for an app or company you want to start?
A: I actually have a list! I plan to start some of them with some friends over the summer. If any of them are successful, I’ll let you know 🙂
Q: How did you hear about TechOlympics?
A: I am a member of the INTERalliance Leadership Council, so I actually help in running TechOlympics. I ran my own “Mystery Coding” event and helped with all the logistics around the 500 student convention.
Q: Was this your first year competing?
A: Yes. This was the first year topcoder sponsored an event. Last year I helped run the Speed Coding equivalent, so I was unable to participate.
Q: What was the best part of the TechOlympics?
A: Winning the topcoder portion was a definite plus. Also winning the Showcase was a huge honor. And of course the various breakout sessions were fun and insightful, but I also really enjoyed hearing from the participants about how much they were enjoying the convention. When you have a part in putting something like TechOlympics together, its a really good feeling to know the other students are having a great time.
Q: What was the problem set, and solution that made you win?
A: The last problem in the first round was probably the hardest. Thinking back, it wasn’t too bad, but in the moment, I just could not get it to work! I had finished the first two problems incredibly quickly, and I figured this one would set me apart and put me in the finals if I could figure it out. I submitted it as time expired, and I still have no idea if it worked or not! But it was pretty close.
I also struggled with the first problem in the finals. It took me about 30 seconds to code once I figured it out, but it took me several minutes longer than everyone else to finally figure out the obvious solution. Of course I managed to come back in the other two problems 🙂
Q: What was the biggest challenge?
A: In the finals of the competition, the biggest challenge was staying focused. We were programming out in the middle of the main hallway of the convention with people standing around watching us and talking. It was really fun, but hard to not get distracted. I actually wore sunglasses through the entire final round of the competition! It was initially just to be funny because my friend brought me some from the GE booth, and the second place winner (Josh Clyde) said he would wear an identical pair because we were from the same school. Josh took his off at the start, but I kept them on because they sort of blocked out everyone else and helped me to focus on the problems.
Q: Loaded question here 🙂 Are you going to continue to compete on topcoder?
A: Ha! I sure hope so! At the moment, I’m pretty busy, but I really do enjoy competitive coding.
Q: You mentioned you like video games. What are some of your favorite games?
A: Minecraft – as “little kidish” as it may sound, I really like the creative aspect, and it lends itself well to playing with large groups of friends. I also really enjoy puzzle games such as Portal. As for board games, Monopoly is probably my favorite.
Q: What websites do you frequent?
A: Youtube and Facebook for fun. Also Stack Overflow is pretty helpful when programming.
Q: Stack overflow is great! Any other favorite online communities?
A: I’m honestly not sure right now. I’m not really active in any others. At least not yet!
Q: Finally,what tech company or piece of technology give you the most inspiration to continue your path into programming?
A: I think apps in general have inspired me quite a bit. Especially for mobile phones, apps have shown that anyone can program and be pretty successful. Sure it may require a little luck, but I believe with enough persistence, one can really make an impact with a cleverly coded app. As for companies, really, Google, Microsoft, and Apple definitely inspire me.
Thanks for your time Adam. I look forward to doing this again one day!