A Career at Topcoder: A Senior Designer’s Reflection

In the beginning, the reason I joined Topcoder design was money because challenges offer good prize money. With the skills and knowledge I had at that time, $300 per month was a realistic target for me.

As a newbie, competing in such a competition is hard. This was a completely different world since I just quit my full time job as a manufacture engineer with no experience in UI/UX design.

The warm and friendly environment at Topcoder helped me through hard times. With fellow designers, copilots, and Topcoder admins helping me by answering my questions in the forums.

Topcoder admin Adam, in particular, reached out to me via email. They gave me supporting words and wanted to hear our (members) concerns. Their encouraging words and guidance made me feel welcome. I wanted to do more, I wanted to grow as a designer, I wanted to do my best, and Topcoder helped me to achieve that.

Topcoder taught me to dig deeper into the problem, to understand better, and to take a different perspective to solve the problem.

With many big companies becoming Topcoder clients, they brought new experiences for learning new things by working on their projects – something I couldn’t get at any other place.

I got the money, I got the knowledge, I got new friends and apparently it didn’t stop there. Topcoder has the Topcoder Open (TCO) which is the best event I’ve ever known.

My Topcoder Journey

In 2011, it started out as an addiction to Topcoder.. money, money, and money was all I focused on. One day I was surprised that I qualified for the TCO12 since I had only been focusing on getting checkpoint prizes.


Yoki at TCO12

Experiencing the TCO for the first time in 2012 was an unforgettable memory. I met other designers from around the world. Because I was just newbie at my first TCO, I wanted to take this chance and visit the US as my vacation since I felt I would not do well against the best. I only had 3 hours to complete in the 1st round, which was impossible for me. But my goal was to not end up at the very bottom of leaderboard.

After the 1st round finished, I saw myself at the 2nd position from the bottom of leaderboard.. mission accomplished :))

I was curious and challenged to get to better position, so I focused to create a better design which brought me to a better position in the 2nd round leaderboard.

During the final round, I was not thinking about winning or losing anymore. All I wanted was to make a good design which I could be proud of. Finally I made that design and even surprised myself when I realized I had reached 2nd place in the final round.

The TCO excitement didn’t stop there, I had very great time with my new friends. After the event we even visited Disney’s Magic Kingdom!! Even now I feel like it just happened a couple of months ago.

My first TCO changed my life and it gave me a new energy to compete more at Topcoder. I kept my target to pursue checkpoint prizes, one phase at a time. I kept winning and losing a lot, but I didn’t care.. I already loved and enjoy working as a Topcoder freelance designer.

Now I always find a way to get qualified for TCO as I want to meet my friends and I want to compete with the best designers. So many beautiful memories with friends happen at every TCO.

Being a UI/UX designer for more than 7 years with Topcoder has changed the way of thinking that helps me solve problems not only in design, but in real life too.

I never imagined working for big name clients like GE, IBM, NASA, etc. They bring innovation, new technology, and learning opportunities which I never would have experienced elsewhere.

Like many other members, I also have losing streaks at Topcoder – more than anyone knows :)). Losing is the one thing that makes winning become so sweet in the end. But actually I never lost anything as I still gain many things even when I lose.

Valuable Tips for Newbies

Take time to analyze your designs every time you lose, understand the feedback, try to create a better solution, and you will bounce back even stronger and hungrier.

Try to forget the pain or victory you’ve been through from previous challenges, and put your energy on new ones. Your first target is only to complete the required screens and get the checkpoint prize.

Over time, you’ll gain momentum, confidence and you will believe in yourself every time you complete during the challenge phase. You need to take that momentum to work on every new challenge.

With all those experiences I got from Topcoder, it made me become a “not so newbie” designer. Now I can share my knowledge, skills, and story with other people who are just starting their designer life. It’s a privilege to share my Topcoder story since I know many Topcoder members have the same experience, feeling, and emotion.