And this day has come as well – May 7th. The first anniversary of me becoming a member of the Topcoder family. On one hand, I cannot believe it passed so quickly, on the other hand, I feel like I have known some of the members for a much longer time. Besides self-indulgently celebrating myself, I thought that as we are in Design Month, I would share some of the stages I went through with those guys who have just arrived here and would like to improve and learn.
If you happened to have just registered or already submitted to some of the design challenges chances are that you feel a bit frustrated by the process, you might even have failed screenings. Don’t worry, I did the same. I failed and I learned from it quickly how I should prepare my submissions in order not to. I found an old e-mail thread with mahestro where I was desperately trying to save my work from being ignored because of my screening results, which today makes me laugh. The best part that you learn at this stage is how helpful, friendly and forgiving the copilot team is.
How to proceed from here
Consider every single input or feedback you get from anyone – from member through copilot to Adam (he is the design God at Topcoder) if you dare talking to him. Research a lot. The internet is full of resources for basically any profession, so go and exploit it. Join the Topcoder Community Slack and subscribe to the Design Newsletter. And most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP!
Of course, it depends on your experience as a designer how long does it take you to get to the next level. If you put in the hard work, believe me, you will start winning. Firstly, maybe some checkpoints then possibly final placements. The community will start to know you better, and they are extremely positive and encouraging. Since I was not a beginner in design, I reached this stage fairly quickly. My first win was the improvement of the Topcoder profile settings. I got the notification during my vacation on the way to Italy. I will never forget that feeling .
How to proceed from here
Try different types of challenges! Web design, mobile design, application front-end etc. and never ever skip a RUX challenge… I know, if you have just tasted Topcoder life, all these may sound gibberish, but you will get used to it and will celebrate on Slack with us if Adam will announce one of these crazy RUXes. You might also try to deviate to other tracks. For instance, bug hunts can be really fun. Especially if the subject is your previous work… like I won the bug hunt for the Topcoder settings page as well.
By this time, you are probably addicted to Topcoder. You love the competition but at the same time realize that the Topcoder family is not just a nice marketing phrase. Members are caring for each other and we are happy for the others’ success. Even if you don’t see your handle in the winner announcement you know that there is always another challenge that is possibly waiting for you to win. Still you are keeping an eye on the TCO leaderboard and waiting for the stage to end before someone else takes your place to win a trip to the ultimate onsite challenge in the USA. To be honest it is not even the challenge that is the most important in TCO for me. I knew that I had no chance to win. I was actually scared to death to compete onsite What the most exciting part was is that I could finally meet my friends who I only knew through Slack and forums. And it was awesome! They were just as I imagined: lovely, funny sisters and brothers of mine. Fun fact: my first ever RUX win happened in Austin after TCO18 when I travelled with some members after the official event. I was under the shower when my daughter came in and said that the guys say that I won the RUX. We were all screaming – me under the shower and the others in front of the door.
How to proceed from here
Firstly, if you’ll be on this level, you won’t need my guidance any longer. Secondly, in my opinion, not everyone would be interested in the further stages, since they require more time, responsibility and discipline. I am one of those people who likes to see things in a whole system, so I really wished to be able to learn more about the background of the Topcoder process. I wanted to know more about the clients and how their requirements reach the community and how they get the output back. So, I eventually applied for a copilot position.
Back in the deep water came a steep learning experience for me again. I had to learn the systems we use to manage challenges and additional rules that apply. In addition, I finally got to understand things that I didn’t while I was competing, like why sometimes things take longer or why we cannot know who the client is. I also got introduced to many awesome members from the background of Topcoder and got a picture of how many people are working hard to make the platform the best of its kind. My first challenge was an internal one (making sure that the newbie doesn’t mess up a client project), the redesign of the TCO scoreboards. It was such a great feeling seeing the results live in Dallas at the end. Now I have a chance to work on really serious projects and communicate with clients as I am being trusted, which feels great. Just recently another circle has been closed. I am copiloting a challenge for the same client I submitted my first design for and won my first bug hunt with.
How to proceed from here
I don’t know yet. I still have a lot to learn. But I am sure it will be fun and productive.
While I am thinking about my last year’s achievements, I realize that I have 2 more bonus stages, roles to share with you that do not fit into the above timeline, as you might have a chance to reach them earlier or later.
MVP – Bonus Role 1
In 2018 Topcoder decided to have members get nominated each year by the community for an MVP role. MVPs are a prestigious group of elite Topcoder members which gives them the chance to be the voice of the members as well as get a little bit involved with the improvement of the platform. I really feel honored to be one of the 6 members that got selected in 2019. For people who have this kind of internal urge like myself, this is a great opportunity. Not to mention that we can visit a Topcoder event each year.
Design Pool Member – Bonus Role 2
I have some plans regarding the future. I would like to establish a better work-life balance because as a freelancer it is really hard to say no to the almost endless opportunities. It is even harder if you just love what you do. At the moment I am the only actively competing copilot on the design tract and at some point, I might have to decide between competing and copiloting, or who knows what other opportunities I might get in the future.
I would also like to thank each member who helped me in any way in the last 365 days. I never experienced so much patience and genuine helpfulness in my professional life. And I would like to say a special thanks to my hands down favorite bestie Topcoder girl, DaraK, who is always there for any crazy question, comment or whatever I have to make. I seriously think that there are more of her, because the amount of superior quality work she is doing is amazing. When I became a copilot, I asked her if she would be my mentor which she kind of turned down as she considered herself a beginner, but I still kept on going to her with my questions and I think that was a great choice… Daniela, you rock!
To conclude my reckoning Topcoder gives its members a chance to reach from point A to point B if you are ready to sacrifice some energy. The time it takes to do that depends a lot on your commitment. Since there are so many things to do here, I don’t seem to get bored at all and am looking forward to the next mountains to climb.
Speaking of mountains, to start my second year tomorrow I will jump on an airplane and land in India to meet two crazy members I also made friends with, mahestro and Ravijune, as we are going to spend a couple of weeks together again trying to experiment with remote work in a sense when not only the work is remote but the places as well we are going to. Beware guys, you never know where we might end up so stay tuned for more on this topic. It will be serious fun I can assure you.