Advice from a Google engineer: Join a coding competition

Google's Coding Competitions are back for 2021 with multiple opportunities for participants to improve their programming skills by solving algorithmic problems designed by Google engineers. Sadia Atique is a Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) based in Munich, Germany who works on the Corporate Engineering team and actively contributes to competitions like Code Jam and Kick Start. We recently sat down with Sadia to learn how she got involved in coding competitions and why she thinks you should consider doing the same.

Do you remember your first coding competition? 

When I decided to pursue a degree in Computer Science at my university in Bangladesh, I had very little computing experience. Once I was familiar with coding, I started participating in competitions to build my skills while also having fun. I attended a programming camp which really drew me into the world of algorithmic problem solving and contests. Competitive coding is just like any other sport where you get that rush of adrenaline from trying to solve extremely challenging problems.

Sadia Atique

Googler Sadia Atique

Did you participate in any of Google's Coding Competitions before joining the company?

I participated in both Code Jam and Kick Start during university since I was passionate about eventually landing a role at Google. While I found Code Jam problems to be particularly tough, I was frequently a top scorer in Kick Start, which I hoped would help me get noticed by a recruiter. I was actually too afraid to apply on my own — luckily one day a recruiter reached out and the rest is history! These contests are a great investment of your time — plus they’re free, so why not?

Why did you get involved with Coding Competitions as a Googler?

Since I participated before I was hired, the Kick Start team contacted me to see if I was interested in contributing to critical problem development work. I jumped at the opportunity, first with Kick Start and then with Code Jam. Google's culture encourages engineers to use their skills and apply them toward the greater community, not just individual work. I really value this because the community aspect of coding competitions means a lot to me. It's a place where I feel like I can learn from others and keep growing, but where I also deeply belong. 

How would you compare Code Jam and Kick Start?

The quality of problems, level of commitment to problem preparation and cheating detection mechanism that keeps things fair are uniform between Code Jam and Kick Start. For contestants, the main differences are in problem difficulty and contest structure. 

Code Jam’s structure also makes it highly competitive — only 25 contestants make it to the World Finals — whereas Kick Start is accessible to folks wanting to try a new round almost every month. 

What advice would you share with someone thinking of registering for the 2021 season?

I’m clearly biased, but I think coding competitions are an excellent way to spend your free time. You  build problem-solving skills while learning new techniques and thinking creatively. And my competitive programming mindset has given me an ability to "think outside the box" to better approach unexpected situations. Competitions also help you build stamina, resilience and confidence — it takes a lot of patience and dedication to sit through hours of algorithmic problem solving! 

I also hope failure won't stop you. There were times I had to submit a problem 30 times before it was accepted, but I never stopped trying. I hope down the road you'll find these experiences to be as useful and inspiring as they have been for me.

Code Jam kicks off its season March 26 with the 30-hour Qualification Round (participants only need a few hours to compete). Registration will close at the end of the round, so be sure to register today. Kick Start registration is also now open throughout the year — we encourage coders of all levels to register before the first round on March 21