July 13, 2017 Topcoder Open: Solving Technology Challenges, Conquering Geographical & Timezone Barriers!

One of my favorite moments from TCO16 is this picture where all women finalists came together on stage to step up the geek quotient of the finals event.
While it’s easy to pass it off as yet another group picture at any technology event, it’s a great example of how diverse and inclusive the Topcoder community is. Women from different countries, different continents – masters at their own skill, all collected under one roof – for a single cause. At a time when the world is facing cultural, regional and ethnic challenges, it is incredibly hard to build and maintain camaraderie among a global community of such magnitude – I believe Topcoder has done a commendable job on that front so far. While diversity is one aspect, there are other challenges too.

Geographical Barriers

Circa back to almost two decades earlier when I started software development, one of the most common phrases I heard was – teams need to be co-located to produce best results. Since then, while the software development industry has somewhat settled on a distributed team model, it still by and large focuses on groups of people working together at the same location and interacting with teams at other locations.
Topcoder has pushed these barriers to the limit in the sense that it’s individuals (not teams) distributed across multiple locations working together in tandem to produce cutting-edge products and applications for clients.
A quick look at the current TCO17 finalist pool indicates attendees from these countries
– China
– India
– Spain
– Poland
– Ukraine
– Indonesia
– Nepal
– Bosnia
– Venezuela
– And several others
Talk about geographical barriers and you don’t need to look beyond the past or present TCO finalist pools to affirm that these boundaries have blurred and hold no real significance any longer.
Of course, there’s a lot of national pride for any competitor to be representing their country at a prestigious event such as TCO finals. But from a community perspective, the USP is that everyone is treated at par.

Timezone Differences

The other big challenge the technology industry faces in general is to align teams to work across timezone differences. Topcoder has pioneered the distributed workforce model and as an example, I’ll quote (shameless plug) one of my most successful projects on Topcoder as a copilot had a team which comprised of
– Co-pilot in India (Asia)
– Design co-pilot in Venezuela (South America)
– Project Manager in UK (Europe)
– Client in USA (North America)
– Developers – Russia, Australia and few other locations
So much so, it sounds impossible to count the number of timezones you deal with. Right? Wrong – the truth is that once you define a process, set overlap times and follow it for a certain duration, it is no longer a challenge.

Technology Challenges

Of course, there are hundreds of examples of client success stories on Topcoder for how they’ve leveraged this vibrant community to solve interesting and complex technology challenges. One of my favorites is the GE Transportation challenge as I had the good fortune of witnessing it live at the TCO16 finals.

I can’t wait to see the Topcoder community come together again at TCO17 finals once again in order to defy geographical barriers and timezone differences with a single purpose – solve technology problems and help customers innovate and build awesome products.
I’ll be there, what about you?


Guest Blogger


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