Our leaderboards include coders from all kinds of backgrounds… even accounting! CodeChef talked to Taranpreet Singh, a coder and former CA student who traded his lucrative career as a Chartered Accountant for the thrilling world of programming, about his experiments with competitive programming and his journey so far.
As early as 10th grade, Taranpreet became interested in HTML programming. “At that time, designing HTML forms was a novelty,” he said, “My curiosity about where form data ends up, led to me not only learning PHP, but even developing a full-fledged online service website.” Unfortunately, the project was later dropped and Taranpreet fell victim to a common problem for Indian programmers, a lack of guidance and a good internet connection.
“I sometimes thought this was the end of my coding,” he continued “But destiny had other plans. In 12th I came across a programming competition called Eureka at CMS Lucknow, the turning point because it required C++ or Java. At this point, I explored Java, and won the competition.” Taranpreet attributes his win to the support of the IP dept. head of his school, who provided invaluable help and guidance when this young programmer needed it most.
This first win was only the beginning for Taranpreet. The Standard 12 (Higher Secondary Certificate) exams loomed large as did the CPT (Common Proficiency Test that all aspiring Chartered Accountants in India appeared for). “Google Codejam came in the way of my resolution and I found myself participating in a round (1A) two days before my Boards exam. Months passed and the day I attempted CPT, I joined CodeChef,” he explained. He has never looked back since.
Soon enough Taranpreet found himself at a familiar crossroads. “I had been pursuing CA, but I was spending a fair share of time towards developing programming skills, with no clear idea of how to utilize them,” he confessed, “It was not that I disliked CA, I was reasonably fine there, but I liked programming more. It was easier to stay up at night programming than solving taxation problems.” At this point, Taranpreet realized that he wanted to pursue programming. “My performance in Chartered Accountancy was not the best, but I was doing quite good on CodeChef, better than I had expected. So, I decided to switch, because I realized I’m much better here, than Accountancy. So, I myself made the choice.”
Fortunately, Taranpreet’s family did not oppose his decision, allowing him to make a smoother transition. “It came as a surprise to them, even though they already knew I was better off in programming. They took the change really well, for which I am still grateful,” he admitted. He is also deeply grateful to his mentor who provided guidance, “I had been studying CA, mostly self, so the only teacher aware about me switching is my school, IP department head, Mrs. Ambica Soni, the one who always guided me and supported me to grow into who I am today. She was, as she is always, supportive of my decision. I am quite lucky to get her as my mentor.”
Has becoming a dedicated programming student changed Taranpreet’s attitude towards Competitive programming? “In essence, no,” he asserted, “I still do programming with almost same attitude and approach toward computer programming.” But there are positive changes in his life that impact his work. “Now, I can give much more undivided focused time to programming. Earlier I had to divide time, and there was stress too. Now I feel quite relaxed and can focus on programming as much as I want. College environment means I have friends doing programming and not doing accounting, which is another thing that changed for good. So, all in all, I have no regrets switching. Life has changed for the better. I am developing my skills, and doing other things too, which I had to leave because of CA.”
As a six-star coder at CodeChef, Taranpreet has plenty of insights for anyone interested in competitive coding, “Don’t be afraid of Wrong Answers or Time Limit Exceeded or Runtime Errors” he advised, “There’s a well-said rule that we either win, or we learn. We lose only when we do not learn. If you get WA or TLE, it is not something to be depressed about, but an opportunity to learn. The person who never got WAs has never tried anything new.”
To those contemplating a career shift like his own Taranpreet advised, “Be sure about where you want to go and visualize your future. It is quite easy to decide to leave a field because you are frustrated, but quite hard to find a field which you love, where you can have a future. People may say, ‘grades don’t matter’, but don’t always believe them. Grades are not the most important factor, but they can help provide better opportunities. No matter what field you choose, if you have a passion for the discipline as well as the willingness to learn and cultivate the skills needed to excel, then you can be successful. But hard work is very important, especially in programming, as you will be competing against people who have had an earlier start and are much more experienced than you are.”
We’ll leave you with Taranpreet’s parting words which are wise beyond his 19 years:
“You can pursue your passion, with or without your job or education. It’s never too early nor too late to make choices. I don’t know what situation you are in, but I would like you to ask yourself a question. Are you happy?”.
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