October 7, 2020 Preparing Topcoder Community Members to Tackle New And Edge Technologies

At Topcoder, we’re often asked if our community members have experience or can do quality work in a certain technology. What you may not know is that even if our community members don’t have experience in a specific tech stack, we have specific ways in which we can ramp-up our member-base in short order so that they are primed to deliver for you. Like stretching before a big game, ramp-up challenges help get Topcoder’s community warmed up and ready to execute on the work at hand. We recently spoke with Rashid Sial, Topcoder’s Global Head of Expert Services, about our skills ramp process and we thought this Q&A would be valuable to share with you.

Q&A with RashID Sial – Global Head of Expert Services

Why is crowd an effective way to explore new technologies and proof-of-concepts?

In a word. Speed.

When you don’t have the in-house expertise or the time to go out and hire someone, you can turn to Topcoder to quickly and at low cost, examine new technologies or build proof-of-concepts.

With a centralized crowd vendor like Topcoder, you can experiment with very low risk and extreme velocity. Juxtapose that against the traditional process of trying to hunt for talent internally or having to source and approve a net-new vendor and you can see that going to the crowd is a much easier and faster path for you.

What is a typical ask of a customer when it involves a newer technology? 

Basically our customers want to know 3 key things. 

  • Is this feasible?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?

And we’ll be honest about it. If a technology is just a poor fit for our community, we’ll say so. In addition, if the technology looks like a good fit, however we just don’t have those skills collectively inside Topcoder yet, that’s when we’ll share our process to host a few ramp-up challenges to draw in a cadre of developers that can quickly get around the newer tech. 

How do we effectively do work for our customers in a technology that our community is unfamiliar with (at the time of the ask)?

Again it starts with being honest with our customers. Not every technology is going to be approachable with crowd. Often the most important questions are around: Is there open access to the technology stack, and SDKs, or API documentation that exists so that distributed individuals can consume it and work in it with little or no restriction? 

If the tech stack looks like a good fit but we find the expertise isn’t there yet for the community as a whole, we have a process in place to ramp the community into the work. 

Typically, we’ll bake 2-3 ramp up challenges into the front end of a project plan, so it’s part of the timeline. These challenges are designed to introduce the technology purposefully to members and allow them to quickly ramp on how to apply this language or apply this technology skillfully. 

Throughout the ramp up challenges, we’re purposely increasing the complexity or the additional skills or additional knowledge of what you can do with the tech. We craft ramp-up challenges to attract the right amount of talent, so the customer gains the assurance that when we get to the project work, there’s a core group that is skilled and ready to participate. 

The Adobe COVID challenge series is a great recent example. 

Thanks to Rashid Sial, Topcoder’s Global Head of Expert Services, for sharing his wisdom with us. 

Annika Nagy

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