Competitive Programming Label from An Employer’s Perspective

Last Saturday night, a student shared a random joke (idk whose joke this is. If this is yours, hey I dedicated this writing for you!)

“I am going to get back to the right path (red. competitive programming). Since it looks like that companies label talents through competitive programming (a.k.a CP) achievements”

To give you some context, at that time, all students who already secured their internship at Dekoruma, have CP achievements (TOKI alumni, got medals from international programming olympiad, gonna represent their uni and country in international CP competition). Along with that, some startups gives priority seats for CP students.

Why does that ‘prioritization’ exist?

Imagine you are a first year student, who has no internship and software project experience, even you have no GPA yet. There are hundreds of internship applicants in a startup with its fast paced environment. It is almost impossible and inefficient to invite all of them for an interview. For first year students, past CP achievements (usually from high school informatics olympiad medals) help us to ‘judge’ the applicants, only on screening process.

How about other students (senior students / others with other achievements)? Congrats! You can show more on your resume: your projects, internship experience, GPA, tech community membership. Let me reveal my personal preference between technical skills

Tech projects on your free time > Internship experience || Competition achievements (including competitive programming) > GPA || Tech community membership

Well it’s not an exact formula. Sometimes I need to improvise on certain cases

  • I don’t take GPA seriously, but if your GPA is 2.0 and you have no outstanding achievement, I am worried about your commitment. *Sorry for being judgemental :(
  • I value internship experience in strong engineering team (e.g this team) above simple project taken from any framework’s getting-started tutorial.
  • I value a bunch of projects on your free time above CP experience with no outstanding achievement

Should I take CP path to ‘brand’ myself?

If you are passionate about it, yes please do. Otherwise, no. Haven’t you heard enough ‘follow your passion’ quotes? Do the best on the tech field you love; machine learning, mobile development, ui/ux, you name it. Even it’s ok if you love to learn all of them (taking breadth-path instead of depth-path). The only key is consistency. Well, when you love what you do, it is more likely for you to be consistent, right?

I bet you already heard a zillion times those passion and consistency advices. Then why do you still question yourself?

Being inspired by our friends’ achievements is different from tying your value to others’ approval. Keep getting inspired, stop questioning your self-worth, start doing what you love consistently. A right path for others is not always a right path for you.