How I Reinvented Myself As A Cloud Developer – 11/2011

Member since 01/08/12. Specialties include, Javascript, Mobile, Google App Engine, and Design.

It was a foggy January morning and I woke up early as usual to prepare for the day that lied ahead – meetings, meetings and more of them. For somebody who’d always been passionate about coding, I’d been living in another world dealing with project deadlines, deliveries, resources and everything sans coding.

It was purely by chance that I stumbled across [topcoder] and the site’s headline struck a cord – “Participate in challenges, build a diverse portfolio, learn something new, and earn a little cash money on the side too.“ Not only would it give me a chance to brush up my coding skills, it would also provide an opportunity to pit myself against some of the best developers from all over the world and the best part – if I’m good enough, I’d have an opportunity to earn handsome rewards for my efforts. 

Clearly, it was too good an opportunity to miss out upon, especially for someone who considers coding to be his first love in life! What followed in the last nine months has been an incredible journey of how I reinvented myself as a developer, thanks to [topcoder]!

The Beginning

A year back, I didn’t qualify as a expert by any stretch of imagination but I did know how to find my way around and get things done. I was comfortable in technologies such as jQuery Mobile, JavaScript and most modern Web 2.0 technologies in general. I shook off my apprehensions and registered for the “Mobile Discussion Boards with jQuery Mobile challenge”. 

The requirements were clear and there was enough guidance provided for starters such as me. It took me roughly 8-10 hours to complete the challenge requirements and by the time I submitted, I already had a sense of accomplishment of having learnt something new. Of course, I did not know if I would win especially as I was up against Kenji776 – one of the greatest [topcoder] stalwarts (and it’s no surprise that he still tops the all time prize money list as I write this).

Nonetheless, a couple of days later, the result came out and I was happy to know that I’d won my first ever [topcoder] challenge. Not only did I learn how to use jQuery Mobile on, I got some decent rewards for it as well. I have to admit that this victory kind of rubbed off and it got me hooked on [topcoder] for good.

The Journey

Since then, I’ve participated in challenges varying across, Google App Engine, mobile and a host of other technologies. While some of the challenges have been easy to crack, I’ve literally pulled my hair off on a number of others, however the common denominator has been learning, and exposure to bleeding-edge technologies and fair compensation.

It would be a mistake to assume that my [topcoder] journey has been all about coding. I’ve always had a flair for design and this prompted me to participate in several [topcoder] design challenges as well. While I’m not a professional designer by any means, I do have an eye for detail and some knowhow of how to create visually appealing user interfaces and experiences. In that sense, [topcoder] has provided me an ideal platform to pit myself against some of the top-notch designers from all over the world and build upon my design skills.

While I’ve never believed in the numbers game, I have managed to climb up the ladder and get myself a place in the Top 5 ‘All Time’ list (as of now). More than anything else, it’s an honor to be ranked among some of the best developers from all over the world.

The Competition

Developers always get a kick out of people who challenge them. They love competition as it helps them assess their strengths and weaknesses – I’m no different. I think the overall quality of competition is what stands out for [topcoder]. There are folks from all over the world – each a master of their own art – be it wcheung from Canada (Ruby, Play, Groovy), cloudchallenger from India ( stuff) or all-rounders such as logontokartik and kenji776 both from United States. All in all, a great global mix of developers and a versatile set of technologies – can’t really ask for more.

The Community Spirit

Given the intense competition, one would assume that most challenges would end up as cat fights! In that context, I’m amazed at the [topcoder] community spirit where most challenge results are fully respected and there’s been healthy competition on almost all challenges that I’ve participated in.

Of course, [topcoder] isn’t perfect, nothing is – but I’ve a firm belief that it’s one of the best developer communities that I’ve been a part of – professionally managed, fair and well executed.
There’s no doubt that a lot of credit goes to the team that manages [topcoder] on a daily basis – Jeff Douglas, Dave Messinger, Sal Partovi, Tim Hicks and several others who chip in from time to time.

The SoCoMo Playground

At the end of the day, I view [topcoder] as my SoCoMo (Social-Cloud-Mobile) playground. It’s said that this triple play would define the future of computing and I love the fact that [topcoder] routinely throws up new challenges to help enhance my skills in all three arenas. It has been a fascinating journey so far and I’m sure the road ahead is equally challenging yet interesting.