Code King unveils secrets of success

Wrapped in the Australian flag, John Dethridge from Victoria recently took home the 2002 TopCoder Invitational Championship title. Builder Australia recently caught up with the #1 coder to talk about his achievement.

Builder Australia recently caught up with the #1 rated TopCoder, John Dethridge to talk about his achievement and gives some tips to help coders.

Wrapped in the Australian flag, Dethridge won the second annual 2002 TopCoder Invitational, held at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, USA on November 22-23. Dethridge beat 15 of the world's best computer programmers during the semifinal and championship rounds for the $50,000 grand prize.

Dethridge was the 4th seed and the #4 rated member among more than 20,000 developers in the TopCoder community. In the wake of the victory, he has now become the #1 rated TopCoder. Here is what he had to say:

How long have you been programming for?
Since I was 9.

How many coding competitions have you won? Where does the TopCoder win rank for you personally?
This is the first coding competition I have won, and the first open tournament I've entered. Personally, winning the title is my greatest academic achievement.

For the competition final you used C ++ as your choice of language. Would it be fair to say that is your favourite programming language?
C and C++ are my favourite languages. I like the low-level control that comes with them. Execution speed is important in most of the coding I do, so that control is important.

What do you think is going to be the "next big thing" in coding?
I'm not sure. I think that improvements in program verification and quality control techniques will gradually make high-quality code more cost-effective.

Where did you learn to code? What certifications have you attained? How important was formal education to attain your skills?
I taught myself to code. I don't have any formal certifications apart from my honours degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. Participating in research projects at university definitely helped to improve my skills, as did programming competitively.

How do you think the developer community as a whole in Australia compares to the rest of the world?
I think we have a lot of good programmers in Australia, but many take up opportunities overseas.

What are your plans for the prize money from winning the TopCoder competition?
I don't have any plans for the money yet. I'll probably just invest it until I can use it for something.

Who are you working for right now? What are your future plans?
At the moment I'm doing a Ph.D. in mathematics at Melbourne University. I probably won't look at careers until after that, unless I get some good offers.

Is there anyone in the industry you see as an inspiration? Why?
Usually it is the performance of other competitors in programming competitions that inspires me to keep getting better and stay ahead.

What language did you first start coding in?

How do keep on top of the coding?
Participating in competitions is a great way to drive yourself to be a better coder.

Do you have any advice for up and coming coders?
A strong mathematics and theoretical computer science background is important. Even if you find you rarely apply algorithms you might learn in computer science courses to real-life problems, studying them will help your coding and problem-solving abilities.

How does the coding competition in Australia compare to the rest of the world?
There are a number of world-class competitors from Australia. There were three Australians who finished in the top 25 in the tournament.

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