The Sri Ramaswamy Memorial (SRM) Institute of Science and Technology is a popular college based in Tamil Nadu that offers courses from humanities to technology. Over the weekend, I got in touch with the CodeChef SRM College Chapter leader Devansh Goswami, an avid CodeChef coder. A short introduction for the uninformed, a CodeChef College Chapter is an initiative to inculcate coding among students of a college, run as a coding club by student leaders, faculty, and supervised by CodeChef. To know more about College Chapters, head in over here.
Coming to the interview I ask Devansh about his hobbies. He tells me that other than Competitive Programming he’s passionate about playing the guitar, web development and computer vision.
Getting to the important question, I ask him how he discovered Competitive Programming. You notice a shift in his voice as he replies with full sincerity.
“So, as I am a computer science student when I joined college I saw a lot of senior students who were getting placed in big companies, I wanted to know what is the secret, how do they differ from the others who applied for the same job”
It is not just Devansh, many students know that Competitive Programming (CP) helps students in the final years more than others. He also stressed that the hiring aspect is what got him interested in it in the first place.
Devansh further explained, “A lot of the people had the same GPA and practiced pretty much the same thing, had the same skill; the only thing that was different was how much they practiced Data Structures and Algorithms and CP in general. So, all the people who cracked the top placements were 5-star coders on CodeChef and other platforms”
Next, I ask him what his favorite part about CP is. He thinks a moment before answering,
“Okay, so CP tests a lot of things in an individual. Other than his logical thinking, it also teaches you time management, and then other than that, even if you understand the question, how you break it down and structure your answer, that is also very important, according to me.”
I ask him whether he can remember any defining moment in his CP journey; his reply is pretty instantaneous, “Yeah, when I joined CodeChef!! Because now I am also partaking in Long Challenges and stuff and I’m organizing a lot of coding competitions, which is a lot of fun, so yeah”.
Talking about CodeChef, I asked him how he came to know about it, whether it was random web-surfing for a CP site or something else and he told me the story of the same.
“Uh, basically in college, or at least in SRM, in the second semester we get a set of 100 questions that we need to solve before the semester ends, and these 100 questions have different difficulty levels, they start from easy, in which you just have to do some output and input, and it goes all the way from array to Data Structures. So, this was the time when I was exploring a lot of languages, and that was how I came across CodeChef”.
Well, we certainly think he came to the right place 😉.
I ask him how he learned about College Chapters and what motivated him to start one of his own. He told me that one of the main reasons he wanted a College Chapters was so that he could lead something of his own and how he was inspired by fellow Chapters.
“I was really inspired by CodeChef VIT because CodeChef VIT is the largest technical club in their college, and I wanted something similar. Also, I’m really full of ideas when it comes to development, and I wanted to implement them in something of my own.
Moving on, we talk about what he feels is the most significant difference in the coding culture of SRM after starting a College Chapter.
“Okay, so CP in my college is not very, you know, strong. All the coding contests of the college weren’t given a lot of importance, and the participation was very low, like a maximum 100 people. But that has changed a lot; our contests see a fair amount of participation”.
We also talk about what is his favorite part of being a Chapter Leader, “The most favorite thing is you become like an icon,” he says while laughing. He also mentions that it’s heartening to help students when they come to him with doubts and that he feels proud of representing CodeChef in his college.
Going forward, I ask him whether he remembers his very first day as a Chapter leader. He says he does and talks to me about the details of the day of their DSA session with about 70 people in attendance.
“It was all very technical, but we also had our photoshoot for the website, we used these photos in our ID cards as well, our own custom ID cards, which were accepted by the college and everything” he sounds particularly happy and proud as he mentions this last piece of information.
I talk to him about whether he feels a certain sense of responsibility towards his peers now that he is a Chapter leader.
“Yeah, I definitely do, because you know I have seen a lot of people become Chapter leaders just for building up their CV, but they tend to leave it there but my intention when I started this Chapter was to build a path for all the students, all my batchmates who want to build up their technical skills but have no idea of where to start. I wanted to lay a path for them, so yes, there is a lot of responsibility because people do expect a lot from us”.
I ask him what has been the most standout memory of his journey as Chapter leader, and he tells me about the first time he hosted a workshop. He mentions how it was a hundred-odd people, and how he talked to everyone present about the very basics of CP.
“So what I taught them was “ek sasta concept hota hai” [there is one easy concept], “aur ek mehenga approach hota hai” [and there is one difficult approach] the easy option will work, but it isn’t for the real world. In the real world, what you use is the one that is better, has better time complexities as a whole”.
For my last question, I ask him what his advice would be to someone who has just started their own Chapter.
“First of all, don’t limit yourself in what kind of event you host, don’t think that if I do this I won’t get an audience, etc. Secondly, get a strong social media presence because maybe your questions are really good, and people can learn from them but see if you don’t advertise them, no one will know. Thirdly, make your website attractive; get a dedicated web-designer because the posters you put up will bring the audience.
That was CodeChef in conversation with Devansh Goswami. We hope you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for more such interviews. Signing off, Riddhi Acharya.