My Life After Topcoder
There are episodes in people lives that define changes and at the same time affect their personality and course for another long period. These are called life-changing events. As simple as the introduction of The Big Bang Theory changed the way scientists saw the universe, or as dramatic as when Miss Lewinsky decided to speak the truth to the world; lives were just not the same after those events. My name is Luis [mahestro] and I will tell you how Topcoder became a life-changing event for me.
THE LOVE STORY
I met Topcoder back in 2007 when I was still finishing my university studies in Computing Engineering. It was love at first sight. I immediately felt a lot of interest in UI/UX development. Unfortunately we couldn’t build a solid relationship then because I had a girlfriend already (another job). I managed to compete in graphic design competitions (Studio) whenever I had spare time, one contest per month usually. I had the chance to qualify to three Topcoder Open onsite finals in Las Vegas. If I had to put it in simple words, we had the most meaningful affair I ever had because I learned a lot during my escapes with Topcoder. Anyway, Topcoder had to wait to change my life much later when I was ready for it, for so many opportunities.
A few years later lots of changes started to happen. The first one, I quite my job. In spite change may feel scary sometimes it can help us grow. I had no idea of how good a change could be when I did that. I quit my job and worked with side projects. I decided to do things I enjoyed and made me feel happy rather than doing things that could make me rich faster as I initially planned when I believed having a life was about. I started to do things I had left behind, such as running, playing soccer, playing video games, meeting old friends, visiting my hometown and family, performing side projects. A lot of ideas started to flow immediately, and one very important thought, I understood being successful was not about the money you can build, it’s all about accomplishing goals you establish in your life. And there it was, right after the Topcoder Open 2011 ended I saw it. This is what I want to do. This makes me feel happy. It was then when I realized I had built significant relationships with talented people all around the world thanks to Topcoder, I had learned most of my technical skills motivated by competition. I don’t want to sound too romantic but someone has to say this: Topcoder is a land of opportunities, for software related enthusiasts at least. Aladdin could have easily shown a whole new world to Jasmine by inviting her to join Topcoder if she was a coder, even if she wasn’t.
I already had a training for being a Copilot – long story short, a role that helps clients to connect with the community – and I decided to try it full time. Luckily I was very welcomed. As any new environment, it was tricky at the beginning but it turned out to be a perfect suit for me, like diamonds for women, irresistible.
END OF DRAMA (Highlights)
The title of this post is quite dramatic but you’ve made it here, so congratulations, we got right to the point where I describe how Topcoder changed my life -
I became professionally stronger. I came in as a graphic designer hobbyist. I became a Project Manager and UI/UX consultant. It’s what I do now behind the scenes. I improved my design skills, acquired knowledge in user experience through lots of research and practice, learned modern web and mobile trends and good mechanisms to be always up-to-date regarding to technology, very much related to evolution capacity.
I’m not afraid of competition. When I was a kid (5 years ago… yeah right) I avoided any kind of competition. All I can say now you better stay away from me if you’re planning to start a competition of any kind. In spite a competition environment as Topcoder may be unhealthy sometimes you learn a lot about how to handle it and face it with experience. It’s all in the mind.
I’ve had incredible work opportunities. If my Luis from the future would have come to me when I was a kid and told me “Yo little Luis, Facebook and Google will come one day knocking at your door and will ask you to work for them. You’ll have an important choice to make”. First, I wouldn’t have understood a penny what he (I) was talking about, none of them existed back then. And second, I wouldn’t have believed it until it happened.
Unthinkable projects. And again, if someone would have told me I was going to work with NASA – forget about it. I feel glad to have worked with all the clients I’ve met so far, it’s just I never thought I could work with some of them because of the odds, such as DARPA, ESPN, Amazon, Harvard, among others. I’ve been involved in very special projects I can’t still believe. I can’t talk about them, shhhhhhh, sorry for that.
I’ve met truly talented people. Seriously, I think some of my Topcoder friends can see The Matrix. Although I am Neo, so, sorry for them! I’m so proud I had the chance to shake hands and exchange knowledge with such extraordinary people.
My passport is full of seals. I first stepped foot in another country other than Venezuela thanks to Topcoder. I had my first overseas experience at the age of 23, also my first flight experience. This is quite an interesting story actually – for another time (I missed my flight). From then I’ve been lucky to explore many cities in the US.
International crasher. With all of the developed friendships it’s not so hard for me to find a couch where to crash in many places of world. Let’s say I have at least one available couch on every continent. I’m everywhere. I work from home usually but I have this very flexible work scheduling capability and location independency (working any place that has internet connection, as simple as that) that has allowed me to travel a lot and being more open to runaways.
I’m physically healthier. With this schedule flexibility comes a lot of benefits. One of them is I can dedicate time to have extra activities besides working.
I can’t dismiss economy, it’s been very good. The rewards at Topcoder as a competitor or copilot are TopPayments.
The highlights are actually a longer list but we can summarize with the above. Today I can proudly say my professional career has a very defined twist period, it’s before and after Topcoder. My life before Topcoder was perfect, I loved it. My life after Topcoder is not perfect but it’s awesome and better in many ways.
As an extra curious thing to this article; days ago I watched a video that randomly collected remarkable memories (pictures, posts) from my life since I joined Facebook (2008, almost the same when I joined Topcoder). If you’re on Facebook you probably saw these videos of your friends because they were celebrating 10 years of existence the past week and launched their lookback feature. The thing is my lookback video content is 70% Topcoder related. From the hundreds of pictures I have in there, from the thousands of things I’ve written, most of the highlights had something to do with Topcoder. If I believed in coincidence I would say what a coincidence.