CodeChef SnackDown 2015 Team Profile – Team Pinky and the Brain

3 min read

After a gruesome multi stage battle of supremacy between 8K teams that registered for “CodeChef SnackDown 2015” we finally have our finalists in our sight. There’s only one step between them and the crown of ultimate “CodeChef SnackDown 2015 Champions.” Now, we know who are finalists are, but do we actually know them? Do we know when they started their programming journey? What motivates them? And what programming language do they use? These are some of the many questions that always intrigues us about all the programming geniuses. And we we just got our opportunity.

So,  sit back and enjoy the team profiles of all the CodeChef SnackDown 2015 Finalists:

Team Name: Pinky and the Brain
Team Members: Nikola Djokic & Nicole Widmer
Institution/Organization: Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich
SnackDown 2015 Rank: ROW 25

Q: When did you start coding and how did you learn?

Nikola Djokic:I started coding approximately in 2009. I was participating in math competitions and heard that there exists an Olympiad in informatics, so I wanted to do that as well. I learned programming just so I could compete, I practiced by competing, and so far, 99% of the code I’ve written is competition-related.
Nicole Widmer: I started 3 years ago, I learned it at university and then taught myself through the internet.

Q: Could you name and share your first programming contest experience?

Nikola Djokic: The Swiss Olympiad in Informatics was my first contest. I was of course quite clueless, as were most of the other participants. The point of the Olympiads is learning, not winning – and it was quite a good way to learn.
Nicole Widmer: I first did a lot of contests on codeforces and topcoder. At the start, those were quite hard, but it’s getting easier with time.

Q: How often do you code on any given day & weekend?

Nikola Djokic: I usually do about 2-3 online competitions per week. Sometimes I practice using old Topcoder or Codeforces tasks, so in total I probably average 2 tasks per day.
Nicole Widmer: I’d say about an hour on average, but it’s more like 3 hours during contests and then nothing for a day or two.

Q: What was the biggest hurdle on your road to where you are today?

Nikola Djokic: Competitive programming isn’t very popular in Switzerland. Almost everyone I know from the Olympiads has stopped competing after doing the Olympiads and ACM, so the only place to discuss contests is online forums. This isn’t a very big hurdle.
Nicole Widmer: Studying the language in a way that I could actually remember how I code stuff, and getting used to find algorithms.

Q: What do you think biggest mistake competitive programmers make?

    Nikola Djokic: Many people approach competitive programming with the attitude “I want to get a good Topcoder rating so I can put it on my CV and get a programming job”. The only people I know who are good at competitive programming are the ones who do it purely for fun.
    Nicole Widmer: In smaller contests/not that far into contests with multiple stages, people do not proof their solutions, they just do what comes to their mind first. Often, those solutions are too slow for the specific problem.

    Q: What programming language do you use and why?

    Nikola Djokic: C++, because that’s what most people use and that’s the one I learned first. The language only matters a little bit, so the effort to learn a new language isn’t worth it.
    Nicole Widmer: C++, because they taught this at university.

    Q: What advice do you have for other competitive programmers?

    Nikola Djokic: Multiple people have asked me something along the lines of “I practised every day for x years, why am I still so bad?”. If I find an answer, I’ll let you know.
    Nicole Widmer: Proof your solutions!

    Q: What do you like the most about CodeChef? and what would you don’t like in it?

    Nikola Djokic: Codechef doesn’t really stand out, it’s just one of 100 contest platforms. However, each platform holds so few contests that I have to use all 100, including Codechef. Until that changes, it won’t matter if your platform is good or bad.
    Nicole Widmer: I like the type of feedback you use. I also like that you can see which problem has been solved by how many teams. Finally, I really appreciate that you can actually make teams. This is one of the only contests you can do this, and I prefer coding in teams over coding alone.

    Q: What factors do you believe help you win?

    Nikola Djokic: I’ve never won an international contest so far, so I’d like to know the answer as well.
    Nicole Widmer: The people in our team study physics and math. We are used to proofing everything, and we know a lot of theorems that can potentially help to find solutions to harder problems easily..

    Q: What motivates you to compete?

    Nikola Djokic: Competing at any sport is fun, competing at something you’re good at is even more fun. I hope I’ll be good at programming one day.
    Nicole Widmer: Being able to compare yourself to other people all around the world. Also, I think it helps a lot in my future work field.

    Q: Where do you see yourself 5 years down the line?

    Nikola Djokic: I’ll be getting paid to write code, while still competing in my spare time.
    Nicole Widmer: I’d like to work somewhere in particle physics research, possibly also cosmology. In 5 years, I should be finished with my masters degree and possibly already with my phd, and hope to work at one of the particle colliders in our country.

    That, ladies & gentlemen is Team PinkyAndTheBrain for you. We thoroughly enjoyed their responses and hope you did too.

    With that we move on to our next team, and although we will be sharing the interviews of all the teams, do let us know which team do you want next.

    We will be back soon, so keep watching this space.

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