Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Meet Tomasz (Kos)

He calls himself the biggest gamer at Codility: our Senior Software Engineer Tomasz Wesołowski (known as Kos) is a big fan of all sorts of games, from computer games through board games to classics such as go and chess. From time to time he gets active in physical sports (particularly running), and he is currently looking forward to starting dancing classes.

Q: What was your first computer game?
TW: Alley cat – it ran on a PC (my first PC was a 386). I was 3 or 4 years old back then. Computers were not too popular at that time, but as my dad was a computer enthusiast I got to have one at home. The game was about a cat who ran around the street, jumped into apartments and made a lot of mischief. It had very simple CGA graphics and music, and was super-rewarding to play.
Q: What does your typical day involve at Codility?
TW: The first thing I do is to catch up with my email, which usually means answering API-related queries and giving advice. Then I supply myself with tea and aim for two continuous slots of work (one before and one after lunch) with random meetings in between. I use the slots for coding or reviewing other devs’ work. We have recently started pair programming as we are looking to work more closely together on projects. I see great value in pair programming, such as extra quality assurance: the ‘reviewer’ gets to review the whole thought process, not just the file changes. Also, I have recently read in Uncle Bob’s “The Clean Coder” that it keeps you out of ‘the flow’, which is supposed to be a good thing: Robert claims you should avoid this state because you get locked in on your code in a “tunnel vision” kind of dreamlike focus and are more likely to miss the big picture in the meantime. Flow is superb for learning, but not ideal for producing code. While pair programming, though, you’re forced to stay communicative, perform changes consciously and keep the whole problem in mind.

Q: During the summer you were a mentor to one of our interns. How did you like that experience?
TW: This was by far my biggest challenge at Codility to date. There I was, having been at Codility for little more than a year, and suddenly Natalia was saying, “Hey, Kos, would you like to look after an intern?” I was considered a mature enough developer to be a mentor for someone else, and this felt like a very big thing to me. Also, I think I was lucky because my intern was very talented and my job mostly consisted of bringing a reality check to what he was doing, reviewing his code from time to time and giving mostly big-picture advice. I helped mainly on the ‘what’ part rather than the ‘how’ part. Dividing my time between my baseline responsibilities and mentoring was a great challenge as well. All in all, I really enjoyed the experience and would love to do it again in the future. I enjoyed sharing my knowledge and explaining things to someone else.
Q: What has been your biggest achievement at Codility so far?
TW: My pet project – the Codility API, which is now driving some of the integrations that we’re doing. It was a lot of conceptual work. I first developed it to implement one particular integration, but I was happy to learn that my design remains useful for new users. I can’t wait for our product pipeline to move forward so that I can write better docs, close some gaps and make it available for everyone to use.
Q: In your opinion, what is the killer feature of Codility?
TW: I think it’s that I really enjoy spending time with everyone who works here. All of my teammates are inspiring; everyone in their own personal way. I find it healthy to to be surrounded by inspiring people (plus, I’ve heard it’s contagious: if I’m lucky, I might catch some inspiring-ness myself!). Also, the diversity of our library reflects this well!
Q: What is your growth plan? What do you want to achieve in your career?
TW: Ha! I’m still trying to answer that. I know that at some point I want to be a ‘creator’. I want to build something bigger in the future, but I am still experimenting with my random ideas. One of them is a platform for tabletop gamers that would allow people with little technical background to prototype and share their board game designs online. One day I will start a business around one of my ideas and drag other people into it. In the short term I’d like to improve my public speaking, so that I can give good talks at conferences or workshops (sounds like a refreshing alternative to blogging and StackOverflow).

Q: What has been your funniest moment at Codility?
TW: I really enjoyed firing the rocket after launching our new Codility UX. It worked, and it even came back, so we were actually able to launch it again! Another great moment that comes to mind was when we were making Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream, and Natalia and my girlfriend were preparing a huge bowl of ice cream mixture to be later frozen. They prepared a whole bucket of it and put it in the fridge on the day before the party. Unfortunately, the next morning it turned out that the fridge was not up to the task, and the whole bucket had to go to waste. It was entertaining to watch the girls enter Productivity Wizard Mode and successfully make a second batch in time for the party! :-)
Q: You have a final 60 seconds. Brag about something.
TW: One thing I’m quite proud of is an article I wrote about Unicode that ended up on the front page of Reddit. One of my friends really liked it and decided to post it there, and my blog suddenly peaked at 3000 daily visitors. It was quite a surprising day! I also once managed to win a tiny game development compo in around 2007, back when my grasp of C++ and OpenGL was, let’s say, “borderline productive”! :-)
Feel like getting in touch with Tomasz?
Follow him on Twitter: @KosGD
or check out his website: kos.gd

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Meet Tomasz

This Senior Software Engineer and Co-Founder of Codility might not get enough sleep, but he makes sure that the non-techies at Codility can keep up with our Software Engineers by offering them basic programming classes. Tomasz Waleń has been involved with Codility almost from day one. When he is not in the office he teaches Computer Science at the University of Warsaw. In his limited free time he takes pictures of Warsaw by night.
Q: What does your typical day involve at Codility?
TW: I dig through the code, take care of relationships with clients who have problems with candidates who cheat, and I create prototypes. The next one will be the front-end tests.
Q: As a Founder, how was the idea of Codility born, and what was the most exciting thing about it?
TW: I was always involved in the olympiad of informatics, and I thought that it would be a good idea also to test job candidates. I spoke to Greg and it turned out that we both had a similar idea in mind—to transfer what is done during programming contests to business. Some people did not believe that this would work, but it did. We started from a small room in Warsaw, won Seedcamp, and the rest is history.
Q: You have known Codility from its earliest days; what has changed the most?
TW: We have developed a lot of really necessary procedures and divided responsibilities, and everything is much, much better in order now. We no longer face situations where one of us goes on holiday and the company has to stop its operations. We are able to complete the missing pieces.
Q: What is the killer feature of Codility in your opinion?
TW: The team. We all complement each other. We have a good balance of soft skills and hard skills.
Q: What is your growth plan? What do you want to achieve in your career?
TW: First on my list is to get my habilitation degree.
Q: If you could add anything to our office, what would it be?
TW: I would install a fireplace. After all, winter is coming! Plus, it is very cosy and a source of inspiration.

Q: What has been your biggest achievement here at Codility?
TW: A lot of things that I created at the very beginning are still used at Codility. Of course, many things have changed and been updated since the beginning, but there are some functions – such as checkers and task creation – that have remained more or less unaltered.
Q: You have a final 60 seconds. Brag about something.
TW: I can boast that I had a chance to play on an Odra computer—a Polish machine from the 1970s. Naturally, I did not play on it in the 70s, but in the 90s, and the computer I played on was one of the last working ones.
Q: What game did you play?
TW: It was a plane that was bombing skyscrapers (City Bomber). One other thing that I can brag about is that some of my photos were used as decoration in a Polish TV comedy show, Szymon na Żywo.

Feel like getting in touch with Tomasz?
drop him an e-mail: walen@codility.com
or check his LinkedIn profile

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Meet Zuzana

For style advice we always go to Zuzana, our Head of Customer Support, and we can always count on her honest opinion and insightful comments. She always wanted to be a singer, but instead, having lived in four European countries (France, Ireland, Poland and the Czech Republic), she became our office polyglot. In her free time she diversifies her wardrobe, and goes to the gym.
Q: How come you speak several different languages?
ZB: I studied translation and interpreting because I realized that the only things I can be successful in are fields that do not involve any mathematics! ;-)  I was always very good at French and English so I decided to go for that. To those two add my mother tongue, Czech, plus Polish and German and we have five languages.
Q: You tried to make our developers more stylish. Did you succeed?
ZB: I gave it a try and I think I managed to make some changes, such as convincing some programmers not to wear socks in sandals. Certainly, my greatest success was to ban socks and sandals.
Q: What is your growth plan?
ZB: I am currently figuring that out; still looking for a goal to go after.
Q: What does your typical day involve at Codility?
ZB: I come early, and the first thing I do is to check my schedule. Then I take care of urgent customer queries and see what I need to check up on to make sure that the customers and candidates are happy. Currently we are recruiting another Support Specialist in the US, so I am also involved in that.
Q: What makes a good customer in your opinion?
ZB: I like all of the customers, really; they come from start-ups and modern companies and they are really easy to work with. We work in the B2B environment and the people we have the pleasure of dealing with are very professional, so I really enjoy working with them.
Q: Out of all potential employers, why did you choose Codility?
ZB: I wanted to work in a start-up because I was fed up with corporate processes and procedures and with the fact that a lot of things are done inefficiently. I wanted to find out what the start-up culture is like, and what is it like to have that kind of freedom. When I saw the job ad, I needed to do it. I wanted this opportunity to see what is it like to work in a place where you build things from scratch and test your capabilities.
Q: If you could give your position any name, what would it be?
ZB: The helper. I am the helper.
Q: In your opinion, what is the killer feature of Codility?
ZB: The whole idea of Codility. Greg was the first person to implement this idea, which came from experiencing the acute pain of tech recruiting. And he decided to solve this very difficult problem.
Q: What has been your funniest moment at Codility?
ZB: I was once nominated as Chief Style Officer by our CEO, Greg. What happened was that I was really working hard to make people stop wearing socks and sandals. It worked to the extent that, even if it was very cold and one of the developers was offered the opportunity to wear a pair of socks with his sandals, he refused, saying that I had forbidden it. There was another funny moment when one of our interns wore shorts and a T-shirt for his thesis viva and I could not help screaming: IN THOSE CLOTHES?!
Q: What’s your favorite pair of shoes?
ZB: BERTIE, that I bought on sale in Dublin: purple ‘snake skin’ sandals on a high hill. :-)
Q: You have a final 60 seconds. Brag about something.
ZB: This is a difficult one. Here we go: Once I came in second place in a French song competition. I sang Amsterdam by Jacques Brel. I am now Head of Customer Support at Codility. That was difficult; the process was very demanding. I also mastered a rabbit dish with cream sauce and knedliky; now it is my signature dish. :-) Recently I caught a bouquet at a gay wedding.

Feel like getting in touch with Zuzana?
Drop her an email: zuzana@codility.com

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Meet Marek

Marek Rusinowski our Software Engineering Intern has always been the person who likes to test new technologies that were not used at Codility before. In his free time he travels a lot between Krakow (where he studies) and Warsaw, enjoys reading both things related to informatics and Sci-Fi and hangs out with his fiancée. He constantly learns new things such as ... yo-yoing.

Q: What’s with the yo-yo? Where did you get that idea?
MR: A few years ago I started to play with it and I liked it. I decided to practice more, so I read things about it (there are even championships in yo-yoing) and watched a few YouTube videos and got really into it. I really like the fact that you can do so much with such a simple toy. At the same time it is a very relaxing activity. What I like most about learning new tricks in general (apart from the fact that they are new and reveal many new possibilities) is that, once you learn something, it is not easy to forget it and very easy to get back into practice.

Q: Last year you revolutionized our lunch system and worked on our accounting system. What was your pet project this year?
MR: I did a lot of things; not just one particular project. This year I came up with my own idea for a project, but also took care of customizing Codility for MHacks and came up with the idea of doing something cool with the candidate interface and created the facility to automatically highlight mistakes in the code and suggest names for variables, functions etc. while typing, so now I am finishing that.

Q: What did you learn this summer?
MR: I simply wanted to learn new things, and I did! I wanted to learn from others and their experiences, and I had a great chance to do that. This is a challenging job, but in my opinion if you do not go to a place where you face challenges, it makes no sense to waste your time.

Q: In your opinion, what is the killer feature of Codility?
MR: People! That is most definitely the most important factor. The other is that every voice is heard and everyone can influence the company’s direction. Anyone can suggest an improvement, project or idea and it will be taken into account.

Q: What is your growth plan? What do you want to achieve in your career?
MR: I want to be a great programmer, but I am still looking for my own specialty—a field in which I’ll be at my best and able to create cool things.

Q: What has been your funniest moment at Codility?
MR: It’s really hard to think of the funniest moment at Codility. A lot of funny situations just come up during conversations. I remember this year, during the welcoming party for Bolutife, a few of us were playing Dixit and it was really funny to hear what other people thought up during the game.

Q: You have a final 60 seconds. Brag about something.
MR: When I was at primary school I started to learn programming by myself. I did that for three years, and once I felt comfortable with my skills a friend from middle school and I created an electronic door lock together for his house. I programmed the device and helped to design the circuit, and he took care of the rest. It worked flawlessly for five years! Later, in high school I organized an IT club/workshops that I ran for two years, and I managed to get people involved to the extent that I am not in high school any more and the club is still run by other students.

Feel like getting in touch with Marek?
Drop him an e-mail marek@codility.com
Or check his GitHub profile

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Meet Sebastian

This fan of algorithmic trading likes to sleep a lot but is far from being unproductive. In his free time he prepares highschool students for the Polish Olympiad of Informatics. Sebastian Jaszczur, our Software Engineering Intern, is yet another teammate with a passion for teaching.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching others to program?
SJ: I like to create things from scratch. That’s why I enjoy programming. Teaching is similar to programming in that sense. When I teach someone I feel as though I’m taking part in creating, forming that person and allowing her/him to create something her/himself.
Q: You are currently an intern at Codility. You have your whole career ahead of you. What would you like to achieve?
SJ: I would definitely like to visit Australia. From a professional point of view I would like to work for or set up a company just as awesome as Codility. Maybe algorithmic trading would be a good idea for a business, and I would definitely use Codility for recruiting Software Engineers! :-)
Q: What is the killer feature of Codility in your opinion?
SJ: We have a great office full of beanbags. We have a hammock, radio-controlled helicopters, unlimited drinks, nuts, coffee… We all work together in an open space. If we need to, we have a place to rest or read books from our growing library – and it’s nearly impossible to read through all these interesting books. I feel that the office helps us all to be more productive, and it helps to create the most amazing atmosphere is which everyone cares deeply about their job and our customers.
Q: What do you remember the most from your recruitment experience at Codility?
SJ: It was my first serious job interview. I did not know what to expect. And, on top of that, my first ever interview was in English! That was a little bit intimidating, but it went well. The process was fun and it gave me a chance to learn a lot about myself. I received useful feedback after the process. That really helped me improve.

Q: What were your expectations regarding the internship?
SJ: My expectation was that I would have the chance to create something practical that people would actually use. During my interview I described a project I would like to work on, and I ended up doing it! For the whole internship, the fact that I have been designing something useful has helped motivate me to get up in the morning and go to the office! :-)
Q: What have you achieved so far as an intern here?
SJ: I created an interface for an internal tool all by myself – I learned how to design a user-friendly interface and read a few books about usability and usability testing. Also, I learned a lot about designing the code. I sometimes wanted to rewrite the whole thing, but that means I learned something.
Q: What has been your funniest moment at Codility?
SJ: The funniest moment was when Zuzana (our Head of Customer Support) was trying to convince some developers to wear more stylish clothes and generally to care about their looks more. It was funny to see both her persistence in giving them fashion tips and the developers’ resolve in not listening to them! In the end, I think everyone should wear what they personally like – some people prefer to wear more comfortable clothes, some want to clothe themselves stylishly, and some don’t want to waste time on thinking about either approach!
Q: You have a final 60 seconds. Brag about something.
SJ: I remember that, when at primary school, I had a dream of becoming a programmer but I did not know much about it at the time. I expressed my interest in it by drawing a picture that presented a binary code with an underlined ‘2’ – not much different from our Codility T-shirts!

Feel like getting in touch with Sebastian?
You can reach him on: sebastian@codility.com
or check his LinkedIn profile

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Meet Tomasz

When he joined Codility he was working partly in the Task Team and partly in the Development Team, which gave him the opportunity to see both sides of the story. Recently there has been a merger of those two teams, as he jokes – in order to make his work easier. When he is not working with us as a Senior Software Engineer Tomasz Idziaszek is the Scientific Secretary of the Polish Olympiad of Informatics, the chief judge at the Polish Collegiate Programming Contest, and he prepares tasks for the “Algorithmic Engagements” contest – all these events are organized by the University of Warsaw. He also helps preparing programming camps and is an editor of the popular science monthly “Delta”. In his very limited free time he enjoys playing the piano and badminton.

Q: How serious are you about badminton? Do you take part in any competitions or is it purely recreational?
TI: It is my current way to stay fit, so I am a rather amateur player, but I take part in competitions with people of a comparable skill level. In one of them I even achieved third place in doubles at the end of the whole last season (mostly for attendance, though). I think the social perception of badminton is not very accurate: people think it is an easy and effortless sport. However, the truth is that it is really demanding, both physically and technically. Otherwise it wouldn't be an Olympic sport, would it?

Q: And you play the piano. What is the best piece you can play?
TI: I like to play film music, and my favorite song that I can play is “Conquest for Paradise” by the Greek composer Vangelis.

Q: Out of all potential employers, why did you choose Codility?
TI: I was referred by Marcin (our Chief Science Officer), with whom I work at the Polish Olympiad of Informatics. What was most important for me was the fact that Codility allows me to continue being a part of the programming competitions community (Codility was in fact established by people from this community). I like the fact that my day-to-day job and what I do outside of the office are connected. I also like it that we can share our knowledge through challenges, tasks and programming lessons at Codility.

Q: What is the killer feature of Codility in your opinion?
TI: I’ll be fairly unoriginal and say that it is our team. We are a group of quite smart people who get along very well.

Q: Why do you enjoy cooperating with Olympiads and competitions? What is the most interesting part?
TI: For me, the most interesting part is preparing tasks. Polish contests are known world-wide for their original and high quality tasks. Teams from various countries use these tasks during training, even the ones that are available only in Polish. And preparing a good task can be a very challenging process. The task I am most proud of (published in the “Looking for a Challenge?” book) took me five years from coming up with a problem to the moment when I figured out a solution. You can easily get frustrated when you work for so long and cannot come up with anything satisfying, but it is very rewarding when you finally nail it. The whole process is very similar to doing research. When I was at the beginning of my professional career I thought I would stay at the university and become a researcher, but my life turned out to be different from my initial plans.

Q: What is your growth plan? What do you want to achieve in your career?
TI: I have just recently finished my PhD in computer science, and I will take this opportunity to stop for a while and think properly about this question. For one thing, I would definitely like to learn a new foreign language.

Q: You have a final 60 seconds. Brag about something.
TI: In primary school I won a national recitation competition whose final was organized in the Royal Castle in Warsaw. During my studies at the University of Warsaw, I participated in various programming competitions. My biggest achievement was winning first place at the Central European Programming Competition in 2004, which gave my team the chance to represent our university at the World Finals in Shanghai. This was the first time I met Greg: as we were in China we took the opportunity to visit Beijing, and Greg was our tour guide. He showed us the Great Wall of China and took to a cool restaurant, where we had Peking Duck!

Feel like getting in touch with Tomasz?
Drop him an e-mail: idziaszek@codility.com