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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Meet Magda

You can count on her for being up to date with current cheap flight offers. Magda Tworek, our Administrative Manager, makes sure that all the unnecessary worries are taken off our developers’ shoulders. She also spreads around the office her passion for traveling and encourages us all to go on a trip around the world. You start in one place, then go east or west and end up back in the same place. Are you adventurous enough?

Q: What is the strangest thing you have seen abroad?
MT: I was very, very pleased and surprised with the quality of long-distance coaches in Argentina. If you buy tickets for the best class, the seats can be reclined until they are completely flat and you have a proper bed! Also, they serve food and drinks inside the bus (included in the ticket price) and sometimes they organize games of bingo. On another note, when I was in Rio de Janeiro someone told me that they serve sweet pizza in one of the restaurants. A few weeks later I ended up in another pizza place in Foz do Iguaçu where they served this type of sweet pizza. I tried one with chocolate and strawberries… and I liked it!
Q: We had team members from Malaysia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Poland. Which of these countries would you like to visit most and why?
MT: Nigeria. The reason is that I have never been to Africa and I do not know much about the culture there. It is the most exotic destination of all those mentioned above. The European countries I can visit when I retire ;-).
Q: Out of all the potential employers, why did you choose Codility?
MT: There were several reasons. The team is great and the company is in a rapid growth phase. A lot is going on right now. Thanks to that, every day brings me something new. Even though my job is quite repetitive, I often face special challenges, such as hiring a colleague from Nigeria, which I have never done before.
Q: In your opinion, what is a killer feature of Codility?
MT: The fact that we really invest in people, take care of their development and make sure that all of our mates feel good here. It is very important for everyone to create a pleasant workspace. Everyone has a say in what is going on and in which direction we go. There is a flat hierarchy and thanks to that everything changes really quickly.
Q: You take care of different things in the company, including making Codility mates happy. What is the key to keeping us all happy?
MT: In my opinion, the most important thing that keeps Codility mates happy is that their work is challenging and creative. Joanna and I try to sweeten their Codility lives by making all their dreams on our office wish board come true and by organizing company parties ;-)
Q: What has been your funniest moment at Codility?
MT: I remember two really funny moments. The first was when Marcin was warming up his cold lunch (pierogi) above one of the lamps. It was at the very beginning of Codility when we still did not have a microwave. The second was when we were making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. It was cool transporting it around in Joanna’s car when it was fuming.
Q: What is your growth plan? What would you like to achieve in your career?
MT: I would like to learn more about labor and employment law. And I would really like to focus on learning languages, especially Spanish. English is great but it does not open all of the doors and people will be more open to you if you try to speak their native language.
Q: You have a final 60 seconds, brag about something
MT: I went on a trip around the world just by myself. I am proud that I had enough courage. I went to Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. During that trip I even hitchhiked on a yacht ;-)! I climbed peaks that had never before been explored or climbed, and I had a chance to name one of them. Together with some other climbers, we reached a peak and called it ‘Akuku’ (peek-a-boo). I am proud of that as we got to give it a Polish name (read more). There is one more thing. During one of my trips I swam with dolphins, caymans and piranhas and whatever else was in the water in one of Bolivia’s rivers.
Feel like getting in touch with Magda?
Drop her an email: magda@codility.com 
or check her LinkedIn profile.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Meet Bolutife

He travelled halfway around the world to join our Dev team. Bolutife Ogunsola, one of our Software Engineers, first worked with us remotely before finally joining us in Warsaw, Poland. His deep curiosity led him to engineering: as a child he would destroy all kinds of everyday objects, taking them apart to learn how they worked and then futilely trying to put them back together again! He started programming by writing code in his notebook in his spare time. These days he enjoys a good sleep, reads random articles on the internet and seeks out good comedy on YouTube.
Q: You travelled a long way to get here; what three things could you not leave behind?
BO: I do not like to carry too much stuff with me. The things I could not go without were my laptop, my cell phone and my traditional Nigerian outfit.
Q: Did you have any difficulties in acclimatizing yourself to Poland?
BO: It was not so difficult, despite this being my first time living very far from home. During my university days I lived on campus, but you cannot really compare that to this experience. It is convenient that my house is located close to the office; the public transport is easy enough to use. To be honest, I did not know much about Poland before moving here, apart from the fact that it is in Europe! I thought it would be very cold, but thankfully I came during the summer. In general it feels like a friendly place to be: people seem cheerful and they chat a lot with each other. You can find whatever you need in convenient stores, so the change is not drastic. It would be nice to learn some Polish, even though English is fairly well understood in Warsaw.
Q: What is the strangest/funniest thing about Poland, in your opinion?
BO: What I find a little strange is that I have never seen a woman carrying a baby here. They prefer to have them in strollers. People don’t have a problem with carrying their dogs, however! I have seen so many species of dogs here that I’ve lost count. Also, I take a tram every day but I have never yet had my ticket checked; maybe it is because I commute only a short distance.
Q: Before you started working here, was there anything in particular you wanted to know about Greg or any of your teammates?
BO: In every picture of Greg I had seen, he was always wearing a bandana. I started wondering if it was a Polish thing.
Q: Out of all potential employers, why did you choose Codility?
BO: I knew it would be an exciting experience. I learned about Codility through a friend who interviewed for another job and received a Codility test to solve. I went to the website and checked out the lessons and challenges. I became very curious about how the tasks were designed and how everything worked. And now I can create them myself!
Q: In your opinion, what is the killer feature of Codility?
BO: I think there are two killer features:
First - the team; I like the fact that the team is quite small. It is constantly expanding and it is nice to see it grow. Being part of a team of few people has its advantages, though. First of all, you are close to the people you work with. Secondly, there is almost no bureaucracy. What’s also great is that the atmosphere is quite relaxed. We have celebrations such as the birthday of every teammate; there have been two of those since I arrived, we even had a party when I joined. I also appreciate the age diversity in the team.
Second - our product; I think we have a great automated grading infrastructure and it keeps getting better.

Q: What is your growth plan? What would you like to achieve in your career?
BO: I would like to earn advanced degrees (Masters, PhD), and I would also like to have a job as a university lecturer. I think that when you get to teach, you get exposed to different ideas and points of view, different ways of thinking.
Q: You have a final 60 seconds. Brag about something.
BO: While I was at university, I helped to run a computer access lab (LG Design Lab) with a couple of other students. The idea of the laboratory was to provide guaranteed access to software and hardware for the purpose of teaching (programming classes, CAD, etc.). At that time, the faculty’s decision to have students run it was quite unusual. However, it turned out to be a great decision. Having student volunteers led to higher availability of the lab (despite our having to squeeze time out of our academic schedule). We also got to work there on weekends. Our responsibilities ranged from administration, troubleshooting computers and assisting in classes we were knowledgeable about (e.g. programming classes for me), to cleaning! I worked there from my 3rd to 5th (final) year at the university. During my final year, my colleagues at the lab and I entered – and won – the Google Apps Developer Challenge! The lab continues to function today. The current set of volunteers also happen to be part of the first team from Nigeria in the Shell Eco-Marathon challenge—this is something I’m very proud of.

Feel like getting in touch with Bolutife?
Drop him an e-mail: bolutife@codility.com
or check his LinkedIn profile!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Meet Gosia

Need a date? Email Gosia! ;-) This former psychology student used to organize successful speed-dating events between female psychology students and male informatics students at Warsaw student festivals, and right now, Gosia Migdał is our Customer Support Agent. She is a fan of hiking, walking and traveling, discovering new technologies and coaching others to become more organized. She works with us remotely and gives us a very fresh perspective on our US customers.

Q: You finished an intensive programming course prior to joining Codility. Why did you enroll on it in the first place?
GM: For two reasons. First of all, I have always been interested in technology and science, and I thought programming was a very useful skill to possess, as you can apply it in whatever you do. Secondly, I know a lot of programmers, including my husband, and I really wanted to understand what they find so exciting about it.

Q: You work remotely. What are the main pros and cons of doing so?
GM: I am glad that I have a client-facing position because I am constantly in touch with people. I speak to them via phone or Skype. Sometimes I go out to work from coffee shops, where I am surrounded by other hard-working people. The best thing about working from home is that nobody disrupts your work, it is very quiet and there are not many distractions. The main con is that, if questions or problems arise, there is nobody to help you right away. The time difference is a big obstacle.

Q: Out of all potential employers, why did you choose Codility?
GM: I had known Codility for a while before I applied. I visited the office and got to know the cool people who work there. I liked the fact that it is a small company where each employee has an impact. And most importantly, it allows me to work with smart people from all over the world.   

Q: In your opinion, what is the killer feature of Codility?
GM: I would say it’s the way we do assessment: how we test candidates’ code and provide the results.

Q: What is your growth plan? What would you like to achieve in your career?
GM: I certainly do not want to limit myself to only one field, and I would like to operate on the border of people and technology. A leading position where I can deal with both technology and business would be of great interest to me. I already have a lot of opportunities to do this at Codility; I just miss the technology part a little sometimes. I am very close to technology, but I only observe it.

Q: What is it like to be married to a programmer?
GM: I think it changed me in a good way and has shown me a different way of thinking. It has taught me how to be precise and consistent in my communication. The way programmers think is different from what I am used to. What is also good is that I started to learn programming and can benefit from the fact that he is a professional programmer. We learn together, and I have a chance to learn from him.

Q: What has been your funniest moment at Codility?
GM: A few days ago I was speaking with a customer on chat, and it turned out to be a very good friend of mine! :-) It’s such a small world.

Q: You have a final 60 seconds. Brag about something.
GM: Despite having never opened a terminal, after half a year I was able to build a website from scratch, including both front-end and back-end aspects. You can check out the site here :-). I do not know many people who started to learn programming at my age and have had sufficient determination to spend a few hours per day practicing. Getting started is always the toughest part. It is the time when you do not have enough knowledge, which makes you frustrated, and it can be difficult to get through that. I still have my personal website to build, which will be another challenge. I also need to brag about Codility. I think we are the best start-up in Poland. We definitely have the coolest office, and I do not know another Polish startup that has companies based in the Silicon Valley as customers. We have a cool product, we do not do any marketing, and we have customers from all over the world!

Feel like getting in touch with Gosia?
Drop her an e-mail: gosia@codility.com
or check her LinkedIn profile.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Meet Jacek

If he is not spending time with his (girl)friend(s), running remote programming classes, organizing summer programming camps or simply spending quality time with his family, Jacek Tomasiewicz is one of our Software Engineers, responsible for a large number of Codility’s programming tasks. This key member of our Task team starts his day after 10am (he is not a morning person!) and thoroughly enjoys teaching and working with young, talented programmers.

Q: You spend a lot of time teaching young people programming. Does any particular student stand out in your memory?
JTom: I remember almost all of them, especially the finalists and winners of the Olympiad of Informatics that I had pleasure in working with. I try not to teach as you would imagine a professor teaching; rather, I take the approach of being a friend. One of the benefits of that approach is the fact that, after they graduate high school, we can grab a beer together! ;-) During my university years I lived with my students and we are still good friends.

Q: What would be your advice to people who want to learn programming?
JTom: I would advise them to do everything with drive and passion. It is important to enjoy what you do because then the learning process goes smoother and faster.

Q: Out of all potential employers, why did you choose Codility?
JTom: Ever since being a kid I have liked coming up with different puzzles. For example, in kindergarten I used to create labyrinths for my kindergarten mates to solve. l really like to work with talented pupils, but I do not have time to work with all of them. At Codility I have a chance to create lessons and come up with different tasks and challenges that are later solved by many, many people. I really feel the impact I have upon them.

Q: Do you do other things at Codility besides programming?
JTom: From time to time I participate in demos that we organize for our clients, and I am often designing new types of tasks, answering questions connected to the tasks and collecting feedback from the users. I also help recruiters to pick suitable tasks that meet their needs and, of course, I publish the programming lessons!

Q: In your opinion, what is the killer feature of Codility?
JTom: You won’t be surprised to hear that I think the killer feature is our tasks, their specialization and the fact that our system can fairly assess candidates’ solutions. In my opinion it is a far fairer way of assessing people’s skills than just screening CVs!

Q: If you could speak to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, what would you ask him?
JTom: I would ask him if he would like to join our Task team. That would be so cool; he would bring us fame and unlimited spaghetti! :-)

Q: What is your growth plan? What would you like to achieve in your career?
JTom: This year I want to complete a Master’s degree at the University of Warsaw. In the long term I would like to have a legacy. In a few years’ time I would love to publish a book for young students and teachers who learn and teach programming at schools. When I am older I would really love to feel that I have achieved my goals and left something that the next generations can benefit from.

Q: You are good at card tricks; would you consider a career as a magician if you were not a programmer? :-)
JTom: Maybe not a magician, but I would consider doing something connected with puzzles and tricks. That really interests me.

Q: What has been your funniest moment at Codility?
JTom: I think it will embarrass some people if I tell this story. But so be it! At one of the Codility parties, Magda, our Office Manager, asked one of our programmers and me to open a bottle of wine. We enthusiastically got a corkscrew and attempted to open it. Well, after a while we had still not succeeded, so we passed it to some other team mates, but they failed as well. In the end, it turned out to be a bottle with a cap instead of a cork! Now, that’s a bit embarrassing.

Q: You have a final 60 seconds. Brag about something.
JTom: When I was in primary school I won an art competition even though I could not paint very well. It was an international contest, and the theme was “Artists’ craft”.

Q: And did you paint a programmer? :-)
JTom: Haha! No, I painted a sculptor who was carving a sculpture.
But seriously, what I am most proud of is the fact that I managed to convince a lot of people to study informatics and to learn programming. What gives me even more satisfaction is that most of them are happy with this choice. I am also happy about the fact that I was able to take on my studies and a job and still take care of other important things in life. I am happy that my job enables me to do all of that.

Feel like getting in touch with Jacek?
Drop him an e-mail: jtom@codility.com
or check his LinkedIn profile

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Meet Monika

If she is not collecting recipes from her family members to write her book about Polish cuisine, and is not busy with taking portraits of people, drinking coffee and checking out new coffee shops or occupied with looking after her nieces and nephews, Monika Chodakowska is our Head of Sales. She makes all of us keep the customer voice at the top of everything we do and reminds us about the importance of celebrating our successes.
Q: If you could give your function a fun name, what name would you give?
MC: Head of Sales Geeks. I really liked the name of the position I originally applied for - Sales Geek. It shows our company culture really well.

Q: What would you like to add to the list of your non-work related activities?
MC: I would like to cooperate with a charity which could make good use of my skills like helping unemployed people re-write their CVs showing them how they could sell themselves and using my market knowledge to help them discover their potential and find jobs.

Q: When I grow up I want to…? What is your growth plan?
MC: Be a better sales and strategy geek. I am also starting a food and nutrition course at University of Life Sciences in Warsaw this October so I will make sure we eat healthy in our office.

Q: Naturally, you have a lot to do with our customers. If you could describe them in 3 words what would those words be?
  1. Geeky,
  2. To the point,
  3. Practical.
     (Oh, OK that was more than 3 words)

Q: Out of everywhere why did you choose Codility?
MC: It is one of the coolest places to work in Warsaw. What caught my attention before applying was the fact Codility wants to be the first Polish global brand - I wanted to be a part of this! I went through a long recruitment process and the more I found out about Codility, the more convinced I was that this is a place for me.

Q: What do you remember most from your recruitment process at Codility?
MC: The interview with Greg. It was extremely interesting and demanding. I needed to give 200%. It included role playing that required me to sell something to a factory, a geek, environmental industry representative and a businessman during a business dinner. It was fun!

Q: In your opinion what is the killer feature of Codility?
MC: People, without hesitation. We can work from home whenever we want here, but I just like to come to the office and spend time with Codility people. Everyone absolutely appreciates your contribution and input, everyone is equal and you feel comfortable with whatever you do here.

Q: If you could learn to play a song on our CEOs keyboard what song would you choose?
MC: The Beatles - Getting Better (I like the Kaiser Chiefs version even more) because it’s one of the happiest songs I have ever heard and it goes quite well with how we work at Codility.

Q: What was your funniest moment at Codility?
MC: When I found a bug in our internal administration system by pressing some button that stopped it for a moment. Our Dev team appreciated that I found a problem rather than blaming me for causing a problem that should never have occurred.

Q: You have the final 60 seconds. Brag about something:
MC: I will describe my experience of coming back to Poland. I lived abroad for about 10 years and I came back here in February. It was one of the best decisions in my life. I feel like I am in the right place and with the right people. I still love travelling but now Warsaw is my place. You can find here absolutely all the coolest things which are happening around the globe - it’s like a micro cosmos.. Good theatres, cinemas, fantastic restaurant, places to go out, shops with any brand you can imagine.... Warsaw is well connected as well and easy to travel from. I love the moment I land in Warsaw though - I immediately feel like home.

Feel like getting in touch with Monika?
drop her an e-mail: monika@codility.com
or check her LinkedIn profile