Journey of a Three-time TCO Marathon Champion: Part Two
Topcoder and programming contests continued to be my part-time hobby/occupation while I tried other things. Both of the two biggest adventures (I guess I could call those professions) were related to gambling. At first I tried myself at skill gaming (I still remember when I played final round in a tournament with 4K players and my mouse’s batteries died in the middle of the round — I easily broke my all-time record for the amount of profanities I said within a single day) and then later I switched to poker, which seemed like a great idea, since again it involves travelling to a lot of events. After many unsuccessful attempts, when I finally gained enough ground to call myself a pro, some very bad things happened to the poker world. This, with the addition of the Polish government introducing the bill that effectively delegalized all forms of online poker, motivated me to quit poker once and for all.
Again, I found myself with too much time on my hands. This time around I turned to Topcoder where I signed up as a co-pilot for a big project. My job required me to prepare contests, exchange tons of emails with the clients and last but not least, pretend that I know what I’m doing. So far, this was the closest thing to a real job that I have ever had. I had the pleasure to work with two both smart and nice people – mystic_tc and bchops. Even our clients were great — I always heard a lot of horror stories about ignorant clients that act like they are the only human beings involved in the project, while everyone else is just a stupid and replaceable machine. They were the absolute opposite. Imagine their situation — they are respected veterans in their field and suddenly they have to work with some random smartass half their age that they never met in person. But worst of all, despite having no expertise in their specialization, he quickly jumps into questioning the validity of the methodology they have been using for years (yeah, working with me is really painful). But even with those favorable odds, I still didn’t like what I was doing. It seems that after so many years of doing responsibility-free things and working on my own, I just can’t find enjoyment when working in organized structure.
So here I am now. More experienced than ever. Older than ever ;) And still clueless about what I want to do with my life. Topcoder allowed me to experiment. At first I rediscovered programming after being completely bored with it. Then, I understood that I love solving tough problems and I actually don’t really like coding — it’s just a tool that I’m obliged to use. It allowed me to finally drop out of my studies (which were invaluable since I met a lot of great people there, but they were total waste of time in terms of gaining knowledge), yet be considered an expert in the area in which I studied. It also showed me my weak and strong points, and I can apply this to other areas of my life. It allowed me to better understand myself.
One thing that I discovered, is that I like sharing knowledge. As a direct result, I started my own blog. Throughout my programming contest career, I had to learn almost everything on my own. While the internet is such a great source of knowledge, it still doesn’t contain answers for every possible question — usually there’s an abundance of answers to simple questions, but often lack of (or often even incorrect ones) for tough ones. My over-ambitious goal for this blog is to shrink this gap. In other words, I want to write about things that I’d find useful back when I was starting my adventure with problem solving. Despite the difference of several years, there is still very little amount of information available on many important topics.
Currently, my relationship with Topcoder is restricted to competing in sponsored marathons and qualifying for the TCO. Sponsored matches are a great mix of fun, learning and winning cash for me. They allow me to stay independent, while I still have a lot of free time to try other things. As for “other things” — remember when I said that I want to make computer games? I decided that now is a great moment to get back to my childhood dreams. I’m in the process of founding a small game studio, which will focus on indie PC games. Since I’m going to have a unique background as a game designer, the idea is to create games that will focus on AI and procedurally generated environments that will put every AAA title to shame. So, I’m both very excited and scared to death that I’ll fail miserably. But don’t worry, I’ll still have some time left for the contests. I promise :)