Interview with chekspir

You’ve been a member of Topcoder since 2009, but only active since 2014. Why did you get involved only then?
Well I was looking for another source of income and Luis (mahestro) shared some Topcoder pictures on his Facebook page, and then I remembered about the company. So I entered the site (I had to recover the username and password, hehe) to see what work opportunities were available, and I joined a challenge. I won 2nd place in that challenge — and $700 dollars. After that, I joined another one where I only earned $100 for checkpoint. Since then, I have become an addict. I’ve wanted to join every challenge I could but it wasn’t easy; I was working at a company as a front-end developer and my only chance to compete was at night. It has been a process since then.

What languages were you coding in at your job, and what made you chose Topcoder for the long term?
I was working PHP as backend, but I also have some front-end skills such as: HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, AngularJs, and libraries like Bootstrap, Foundation, jQuery, etc. I always divide my life into 3 stages:

  1. When I left Venezuela to work in Colombia and start over.
  2. When I got married.
  3. When I quit my Job to be a full-time member at Topcoder.

Before leaving my company, I was feeling stressed about doing the same tasks every single day. I felt like an “Oompa Loompa” and a prisoner of life. When I was in Indonesia for TCO15, I talked with Adam about being a copilot. Then on January 2016, the opportunity was presented, so I took it as the perfect chance to do something new. Topcoder for me has been more than a company; it has been another college, a life-changing experience.

As a new member, I remember you had a fast rise up. One year after joining you had qualified for the TCO15 finals in Indonesia. Any advice for other members/newcomers on how to get to this level so soon?
It was a surprise for me as well. When I got Jessie’s email about TCO, I could not believe it. Honestly I can only speak from my personal experience, as I don’t think I have the level required to give advice; I’m still learning every day. The best way to improve is to be patient and disciplined and join all the challenges you can, even if you don’t know the technology required. I have lost in a lot of challenges — a lot. But I haven’t lost the spirit. For example, I had never designed an iOS application before joining Topcoder. I competed on a couple of iOS design challenges before winning my first one. But I learned a lot in the process. Basically read, research, ask questions, even silly ones; push yourself to the limit.

You are now on the Top 5 designers for LUX and GET (GE Transportation) leaderboards and are working consistently in these types of big challenges. How do you manage to come up with good concepts in a short amount of time and deliver such a polished interface?
I like those kind of challenges a lot. I think they are challenging, and usually are very cool problems to be solved. Those challenges require 2 or 3 days to be completed. So what I do is take the first day to read the specs, ask questions, and research the problem and the solution. Then I start designing on the second day. And to be honest, I always finish the designs just a few hours before the deadline. I don’t know why the best ideas always arrive during high-pressure moments (hehe).

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
It is really hard to say where I will be in 5 years because I’m changing my plans all the time. I like to live one day at a time but also plan the next one. However, I’m pretty sure that I would like to be a dad by that time.

Tell me one aspect of design that you always give high priority.
I always give high priority to the small details. I like pixel-perfect designs. I don’t like when a design is not consistent on small things like font sizes, margins, paddings, the location of elements in the screen, etc. For me, those small elements are really important and make a design stand out.

Which online design magazine do you check daily and what do you like most about it?
I’m a big fan of “Smashing Magazine” — since 6 or 7 years ago. I used to check it almost daily. They have really amazing articles about design in general, front-end coding, advertising, design trends, etc. For inspiration, I like to see what’s new on “Dribbble” and “Behance”. But also, being the husband of a fashion designer, I see a lot of fashion TV shows. Even when it is not my field, I really enjoy watching them. I have learned a lot from her and her favorite TV fashion shows.

What would you tell a friend of yours who has no idea about Topcoder to convince him to join the site in 7 words or fewer?
Want to be free? Join Topcoder.

What is your working motto?
I don’t have a personal motto, but Kari (Mrs. Chekspir) always tells me, “Come on, you can do it! Never give up!”