He’s just won one of the world’s biggest coding competitions. But Dominik Smrž hasn’t let his success go to his head. The 24-year-old from the Czech Republic remains resolutely focused on completing his Master’s degree in computer science. And on his passion for programming, of course.
In a tense grand finale, Dominik battled 24 other finalists for six hours, pushing his technical knowledge, speed, agility, and creativity to the limit. In total, the seventh annual Tata Consultancy Services CodeVita challenge saw 850,000 pieces of code written by more than 200,000 students, from 68 different countries.
As well as encouraging competitive camaraderie, the CodeVita event fosters critical thinking and a multi-pronged approach to problem solving – skills that will be vital in tomorrow’s workplace. As the champion, Dominik proved himself to be among the brightest and most creative in the competition. Here he shares what he learned along the way:
1 – Practise little and often
A mantra for many walks of life, and many successful people, this is one thing Dominik tries to keep up.
“You need to not lose touch with why you are doing it,” he says. “I would recommend trying to write even just a small program, just a few lines of code, for your own enjoyment. Try to do it every day, try to do it because you want to create something.”
2 – Don’t give up Dominik
This year was the second time in the competition for Dominik and, after last year’s finals, he was hungry for a win, fighting hard with a top 10 place in mind.
“The previous year I didn’t perform that well,” he says. “This year it was a good competition and I needed a little bit of luck in the final hour to win. But I feel that was deserved because I just kept on trying to solve the problems over and over again. What I take away from that is don’t give up – keep trying until you succeed.”
3 – Seek everyday role models
Six years older, and a programmer himself, a key inspiration to Dominik is his brother: the person who introduced him to coding. They were both largely self-taught until they went to university. He also looks to his classmates, rather than big-name tech entrepreneurs, for inspiration, taking pleasure from seeing what they create each day.
“Without my brother I am not sure I would even be into coding,” he says. “He seemed successful and I wanted to be part of that too.”
4 – Programming is the future
As technology reshapes many industries, digital skills are set to become ever more important, something TCS recognizes with its Business 4.0 Framework, which aims to help companies grow by uniting business and technology.
“More and more jobs are going to be done by machines,” Dominik says. “In the future, whatever you want to do, you will need to write some lines of code and that makes it pretty important.”
5 – Finally, find the fun
Being creative and staying true to yourself is the key to maintaining your focus, Dominik says. He tries to keep in mind what he enjoys about computing as he goes about his everyday tasks.
“With coding, all you need is the computer and you can make anything you want, like awesome games,” he says. “I like creating small things that help me with routine tasks, so I don’t have to keep doing the same thing over and over again.”
With prizes of as much as $10,000 and the chance to spend time as an intern at TCS, CodeVita is likely to keep attracting a wide pool of talented contestants as it enters its eighth edition. And Dominik thinks everyone should give it a go.
“You have no reason not to try, because even if you don’t pass the first round, it is still a place to test your skills,” he says. “The problems are practical ones, so even if you are at an early stage, with little experience, this helps you gain that experience.”
Another big upside, he adds, is the trip to India and the chance to meet people from all over the world who share a passion for code.
“TCS is trying to succeed not only from a business point of view, but also by trying to make something good in the world,” he says. “Participating in this competition will stay with me for the rest of my life.”