Being Paid To Learn, The Nerd Nirvana – 03/2013

Member since 08/10/12. Specialties include Ruby, Java, Heroku, Force.com, and Google App Engine.

I love learning new things, I love making sense of things that I thought I wouldn’t be able to understand. Cloud development was one of those things that I was going to ‘get around to’, and then I found [topcoder].

Software Engineering in general is a very demanding career path. It is demanding since the pace of change is relentless. Sometimes you feel a bit like that Greek bloke pushing the big boulder up the hill. You can spend years mastering something only to find that what you spent all those years mastering is now completely redundant().

You must effectively give yourself up to a life of study. Most careers you can hope to master in your lifetime, I don’t believe with software engineering this is possible. You are metaphorically running, to stand still.

With studying I definitely find that there are limitations to the amount of knowledge that I can take in without suffering ‘Study Fatigue’. My brain just becomes unresponsive. It literally feels like if I try and push anything more onto my brain stack, important things will start popping off… Mashing knowledge into your thought box is hard and fairly boring.

Now I tell you what makes studying a lot easier. Having definite goals, and the promise of rewards. Now I know a big thing about [topcoder] of course is the financial rewards. But this isn’t guaranteed, so there must be more to it than that. For me the added extras are the fairly quick turn around on the challenges, and the feedback I can receive. This topped off with the chance to look at other peoples code solving the same problem is great. Staring at other’s code can be pretty tedious, but it’s much more interesting when it’s actually solving a problem you are intimately familiar with. It’s not a chore!

To any potential students, I would say that [topcoder] represents an amazing opportunity to get some concrete experience of real world development. You’ll get peer reviewed, and get real feedback on your efforts. I’m studying a software engineering degree part time and I get a buzz from getting my assignment feedback. This buzz has now been been dwarfed by the excitement that I feel when it’s coming up to [topcoder] results day. I’m getting feedback, getting paid and getting to experiment with modern technologies. Plus the community atmosphere really makes it feel like you are participating in something, and that your contribution matters.