August 6, 2021 Coding Software For A Famous TV Show With vdave – The Topcoder Nation Show #7

Anyone familiar with computer science affairs knows that only a select breed of individuals develop the talent to perform well in relished careers such as working at the big three (Google, Facebook, Microsoft), competitive programming, or writing code for famous TV shows. Our guest has done those three. I introduce you to Dávid Vagos (vdave) from Hungary. 

He is a veteran of the marathon track, since he joined and witnessed the first-ever marathon problem held at Topcoder fifteen years ago. He has been working at Google for almost a decade, but is very enthusiastic and proud of his recent achievement in his competitive programming career, which is qualifying to his first TCO (2020).

“It was after fifteen years, so it’s a good lesson for everyone. To never give up. I participated in these marathons for fifteen years and then finally I managed  to get into the TCO finals. During that journey there were many points where I said ok I’m not doing it anymore, I’m too old, I don’t have time. Eventually it made sense, I ended up in the TCO”

vdave, on qualifying to TCO after fifteen years of trying.

It is interesting to study his patient journey to achieve such a milestone. He took it in a relaxed manner, relying on the compound effect of skills until accruing the experience needed to rise to the top.

He teaches us how to approach marathon problems and where to spend more time, emphasizing research rather than actual coding.

There are definitely gems of wisdom to study and integrate into strategies for tackling those problems. Enjoy the treats.


These lessons, tips and advice captured my attention, they may also help you:

  • David created the software for a famous TV Show watched live by millions – The One Million Pound Drop.
  • He started coding on a Commodore 64 computer (thirty years ago) and fell in love with coding games.
  • C# is his default favorite language owing to its organization and elegance. He landed his first job in C# while he knew actually nothing about it. He learned along the way and mastered the tool.
  • He spends a significant amount of time understanding the problem and researching rather than actually coding.
  • He suggests trying several ideas for the same problem to win matches, not fixating on a single one.


  • Creating software for the Million Pound Drop TV Show: 03:50 – 08:42
  • His experience working at Google: 09:45 – 10:28
  • Tinkering with a Commodore 64 and coding games: 10:28 – 12:50
  • Landing a job for C# without knowing C#: 13:00 – 14:42
  • Learning by doing as a strategy for new programming languages: 15:20 – 16:30
  • His first steps in Topcoder through SRMs: 17:50 – 18:55
  • SRMs vs Marathon Matches: 19:20 – 21:05
  • Understanding marathon problems: 22:00 – 23:20
  • Decomposing a marathon match solution process: 23:50 – 26:35
  • The best time for trying different ideas on a marathon problem: 27:08 – 28:12
  • The challenges of his first TCO competition: 29:58 – 31:45
  • Why it took him fifteen years to qualify for his first TCO: 31:50 – 35:35
  • His participation on the first marathon problem in Topcoder: 35:38 – 37:20
  • Admiration for top competitors (wleite): 38:47 – 39:35


We held an AMA (ask me anything) with vdave. Curious community members asked questions for him to ponder. Watch the video from 41:00 to check out the replies to questions such as:

  • Why haven’t you started writing problems yet?
  • Have you competed against Psyho? Does that add any pressure?
  • Which competition is better? SRM or Marathon? 
  • What’s the toughest problem you have ever solved?
  • What makes a good data scientist?
  • I feel intimidated by marathon matches. What is the best way to get started?
  • Are there any resources to practice marathon matches?


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Peace out.


Are you living the gig economy lifestyle at Topcoder? Want to join fellow members? Share your story, your travels, and experiences about the ultimate goal of working at Topcoder; the freedom, the flexibility, and the earnings that make it happen! Join Topcoder Nation.

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