Programming challenges to boost your coding game!


Mar 01, 2018

Man coding at a laptop

Software development is a hot field to be employed in right now, if you can code you shouldn’t have problems finding a job. It’s all nice and dandy until you realize the speed at which this sector is evolving. Programming challenges are the answer.

To keep up with all the new trends, solutions, tools, and market’s needs you need to be constantly acquiring new skills, learning new tricks, broadening your knowledge. It’s a demanding occupation, but this is what it takes to stay on top. How can you do all of that in an approachable way? Enter programming competitions, a new way to tackle problem-solving and skill development.

What are programming challenges?

There are two perspectives we can approach this concept from. Let’s start with you taking up a habit of solving a set of small problems daily. If your usual tasks consist of developing apps for Android try getting into iOS ecosystem by building a simple app for it, one step at a time. Discovering the secrets of a different platform you will start to look differently at programming in general, it’s always good to let yourself leave the comfort zone of usual practices. Are you a frontend developer? How about trying to be a QA department employee once a day? Try writing automated tests for your code and see how that approach affects your outlook on programming.

Learning new things by yourself is fun, it’s peaceful, you do everything at your own pace. But we’re talking programming challenges here, Challenges with a capital “C”, so how about we turn this up a notch? Let us introduce you to hackathons, the perfect formula for your self-improvement journey. Be it online or on-site (more on that in our article) a hackathon is a great opportunity for you to expand your skill set in an intense environment. In short, such an event, when held on-site, lasts usually for a weekend, and requires a team to build a working project, start to finish, during that period. Being presented with time restrictions as serious as those problem-solving is a necessity, and so is the art of improvising. Necessity is the mother of invention after all, and you will find out exactly what that means when you take part in a hackathon. An online challenge of this kind can last from anything between days to months, and aside from the fact that teams don’t compete while being in one location, all the same rules apply.

Should I go with online or on-site programming challenge?

The choice is entirely up to you, after all you want to learn, not torture yourself, so pick whichever you’re more comfortable with. An on-site hackathon will make for an intense period of problem-solving that will lead to broadening your skill set, but, in a way, the same can be said about online programming competitions. Despite lasting for up to a few months, developing a working project from scratch in that time, depending on its complexity, it may still prove very complex and demanding. Online or on-site, you’re bound to gain experience and learn new things.

What is it like to attend an on-site hackathon?

Prepare to be tired. There’s no point in sugarcoating this, when you’re faced with the challenge of developing a working project in a matter of 24 to 48 hours here’s no sleep, and if there is, it isn’t much. Energy drinks are your friend, pizza is your fuel, and high levels of adrenaline is your new normal. Such hackathon will usually be held during the weekend so coming to work on Monday will be difficult, but it’s all worth it! You will usually be a part of a team of four to six people that includes developers, designers, product managers. A team full of programmers will fail at presenting their project, and a party without programmers will not be able to build anything, you need to find the balance.

What to expect from an online programming challenge?

First of all, you will be able to sleep in a more friendly surrounding, in your bedroom, and this alone is a huge advantage. Having the comfort of being able to plan ahead in terms of weeks, if not months, instead of just hours, highly increases the maturity and refinement of what your final project will be. In contrast to an on-site hackathon, you will not have to physically meet with your team, collaborating remotely is a very viable option here, which vastly improves your chances to gather talented people to work with.

What’s in it for me?

Our main goal here is to propose new, creative ways of expanding your skill set, you really are going to learn that way. But let’s not fool ourselves, if there’s a prize to win you want to win it. Unless it’s a charity-oriented hackathon, each and every one of them offers some kind of award, and this can either be cash, gadgets, or both. It doesn’t matter how well-paid your job is, a quick surge of money is always welcome.

Aside from that immediate gain there’s also a hidden gem to hackathons, especially the on-site ones, and that is the social aspect. Being surrounded by a crowd of strangers there’s bound to be a person or two that is going to be your new best friend, your new business partner, or your new employer. Programmers, designers, and product managers are not the only people to attend those events. Representatives from HR departments might have an eye on you, observe your actions, and if you do well enough, they might invite you to a job interview for a pretty amazing position. Hackathons are a social networking goldmine that you need to get your hands on.

You’ll learn to turn concepts into products. Building a whole website or a desktop app requires developing many features, functionalities, and creating a bridge connecting all of those into a complete package. During a hackathon you will only be focused on one core idea that needs to be “materialized”, so going back to basics will improve your skill of visualizing the process ahead of the time to start planning your workflow beforehand.

Next area in which you’re going to improve, and that’s not something you might have thought of before, is your social skills. Being forced to get your point across, and to do it efficiently is crucial when facing the time constraints of a hackathon. If you’re not good at that kind of communication you will have to overcome this shortcoming of yours quickly. Being thrown in at the deep end like that is just the reality of these events, and it’s a good thing, as you’re not only faced with programming challenges, but everything that comes with coding as well.

Lastly, you can just test yourself. You are a very talented software developer, your code is flawless (well, almost), and your job is a dream. But the thing is, that’s all in a comfortable environment that you’ve gotten used to. What happens when the time is running out like crazy? How well can you cope with stress? Do you work more efficiently under extreme pressure or do you feel overwhelmed and give up? There’s only one way to find out, you have to experience this first-hand.

Sounds great, where do I sign up?

Hopefully we’ve convinced you that taking part in a programming challenge brings much more to the table than just the possibility of winning the prize. Aside from improving your coding capabilities you will also work on soft skills that, believe it or not, are equally as important in this profession. If you want to gain from such experience yourself we invite you to visit our hackathon list and pick just the right event for yourself!