September 24, 2018 So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Five years, give or take, with a few short (long, awesome, bohemian) sabbaticals along the way I have done this weird thing called Topcoder Design. Something that I could never really explain to people. “I am a competitive designer” comes out as “indoor skydiver” or “ferret wrangler” to most. Pretty sure the “competitive” is throwing them…but I was proud of competing, so why dumb it down? Anyway.
TL:DR: I am leaving.
For those looking forward to seeing me in person at TCO this year, sorry to say, that won’t be happening. Bad news done away with…the good news is that I am beginning my new job at a Game Development Studio on the 3rd of October. This whole adventure has called up some deep, reflective thinking on what my experience has been while working as a full time designer for Topcoder. Five years!
A little about my career path before Topcoder: I was a game developer (artist) and climbed high in the ranks of that industry until I exited, vowing never to go back. To keep me out of trouble I chose Topcoder, which allowed me many freedoms. Chief amongst those was the freedom of choice. Specifically, to take part in challenges that interested me and avoid those that didn’t, a massive luxury in life. At the same time I was developing design disciplines and processes that entertained and challenged me. Another luxury.
However many luxuries on offer, Topcoder is still a School of Hard Knocks. If it weren’t for some specific people I would have given up a long time ago. For the new designers, or shy designers, here are some of my insights on who to look out for to get you going, keep you energized and make your whole experience great!
Shaolin monk level of design kung fu. Specialty, gentle touch technique. If Adroc asks you a question in your feedback, that is the moment to dig deep and strive. He takes the greatest share of my gratitude in helping me do what I love with design. High concept, ideation, insane…stuff. If you see him on a LUX/RUX, drop everything and give it your all, and then some.
I recut my proverbial “design” teeth on many of Fajar’s challenges. He is always helpful and has rescued me from some very unlucky situations, as well as being a beacon of encouragement and wit.
The Mountain Mountain (he will know) Challenge was a major contribution to me getting my foot in the door with my new position. I did tell you all how important that competition was… Mahestro and I worked hard on that challenge, as a team, just supporting and encouraging each other when it was needed.
And that collaborative effort re-ignited my eagerness to work within a team again. To re-embrace team based collaboration.
I now count him as a friend. It tears me up to not be able to make TCO this year. But let’s talk 2019!
Dynamite comes in small packages; this barely expresses DaraK’s potential. She has just started picking up speed as a co-pilot so watch out for her challenges. Ima miss you little sister. 2019!
Eriantoongko, Gh3ablo and Iamtong
Compadres! Gonna miss competing with/against you guys. 2019! Most probably will be attending India/Indonesian a tourist. You are forewarned. Nope, going to skip on that “live rice”…not going to happen!
Tgerring, Chekspir, Systic and HighDef
Thanks for challenging me to continuously aspire higher with the theory, technicalities and tools of the trade. 2019!
So, to new designers and designers who have been involved for a while…there is an unspoken secret here at Topcoder.  
The “work” helps you develop as a designer. The variety, choice and frequency will constantly challenge you. However, my biggest regret about having to walk away from it all is that I will not be able to participate in this unique experience with some very special people. That I will miss out on the memories, laughs, frustrations and elations.
Reach out. Connect. Strive. Fail. Learn. Succeed.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.  
I am taking you all with me where I am going.
Ferret Wrangler


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