August 21, 2009Culture · Compute · Hacking · Recruiting · Academics

Facebook on TopCoder

Tim Stanke
Facebook engineers are a fiercely competitive group. Competition helps drive many of our core values, including moving fast and making a big impact. It seems natural, then, that we’re involved with TopCoder, a company that runs online programming competitions ranging from hour-long algorithm contests to longer competition-driven application development. TopCoder gives programmers around the world the opportunity to show off their coding kung fu, sometimes for cash and sometimes for bragging rights. We have a lot of past and current TopCoder competitors among our ranks at Facebook, myself included. The competitors here have a variety of backgrounds: some have spent years before college training specifically for competitive coding and others picked it up fairly late in their formal education. I fall into the latter category, and had my first experience in competitive programming through TopCoder in the middle of my college career. A friend had harassed and shamed me until I finally agreed to compete against him, and I went in cold with essentially no preparation other than my basic programming knowledge. I lost, but it didn’t really matter. It just made me want to get better.
Faced with an objective measure of how I stacked up against the people around me, I started preparing for the contests more seriously. I put in hours each day cranking through practice problems, learning tricks and approaches that I never encountered in school. Long story short, TopCoder went a long way to get me motivated and interested in writing awesome code (assuming my code had been, until that point, sub-awesome). I can’t say I’d have landed a job as a software engineer at Facebook without the learning that the competitions provided. So, I’m personally excited that Facebook is sponsoring the next TopCoder single-round match (SRM 447). Seasoned veterans and newcomers alike will get to duke it out in real time to see who can solve the toughest problems the fastest. We're planning on distributing cash prizes to top performers, and all competitors will have the chance to opt in to be contacted by Facebook recruiting if they put on an impressive show.
Anyone interested in competing in the Facebook sponsored match on August 25th (or any other single-round match) should take a look at TopCoder’s docs on how to compete. Their practice problems, accessible from the Arena applet, as well as Facebook Puzzles are great fodder for getting your brain and your fingers warmed up and ready to compete. Keep an eye out for Facebook engineers in the Arena during the hour before the match; we will be around to chat and answer any questions that come our way. Hope to see you all there, and good luck!

Tim Stanke, an engineer at Facebook, will see you in the Competition Arena.

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