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Kristijan Kanalaš
Kristijan Kanalaš

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How can competitions help you improve your skills

A quick note before we begin:
I started writing this post long before 2020 was a thing. So even tho in this post I talk a lot about offline competitions, at this time I highly recommend online competitions. If you do enter an offline competition, please be sure to keep social distancing and to follow your country's guidelines regarding the current situation.

Every software developer was a beginner once, some people at a very young age, some people at an age of 50.
It doesn't matter how old you are, if you are self-taught or computer science student, healthy competition can boost your developer skills. If you'd like to broaden your knowledge, gain experience or make sure that programming is for you, read on.

About competitions

There are many types of competitions, the ones that I enjoy being a part of are offline 24 hours team hackathons. As you can see by that elaborate wording there are different kinds of competitions:

  • Offline or online
  • Variable duration, spanning from 2 hours to a month
  • Team or solo
  • Different types and themes

How can you get into competitions

In my case I got familiar with programming competitions trough college. I had a few passionate professors that started working with local companies to organize competitions. I know that not everybody can find themselves in such a situation and that's why I want to tell you how you can find some on your own.

Research companies you like

Many of the bigger companies in your environment know how important for recruiting, developing talent and employer branding competitions are. So you can research a few companies you like and find out if they hold any competitions. One of many examples is Ericsson Programming Championship.

Join your local IT community

Joining your local IT community will have multiple benefits for you and one of the benefits is learning about events happening near you. Last year my local IT community center organized the first ever open hackathon in my town. Even some of my professors were participants (I must say the experience was very weird for me because I was one of the mentors at the time 😆).

Follow IT blogs

If your country has a website that is specialized in general IT news in your region, follow it right now. You can learn a lot from them and also learn about interesting events happening.
Following can also inform you a lot as promotes a lot of IT events. At the moment of writing this post it's hacktoberfest so I bet if you take a look at the events on the hactoberfest page you could find some upcoming competitions you can join.

What you need before entering a competition

If I had to say what is the number one thing you need it would be courage. You need courage to do something that's completely outside of your comfort zone but believe me it's worth it. It doesn't matter how old you are, what experience you have there is a competition out there for you.
Skill is needed but it is definitely not a deal breaker. Lets say, if you are interested in web technologies, knowing HTML, CSS and a little bit of JavaScript you could enter a competition that's more focused on the idea and you need to code up just a semi working prototype.

The benefits

  • Boosting self-confidence - expending your skill set and discovering what you are capable of doing in stressful situations really boosts your self-confidence.
  • Developing your programming skills - you can choose a technology you never have time to work on and try to master it in the allotted time. Or you can challenge yourself to go above and beyond with the technologies you already know.
  • Communication - If you are a part of the team you will have a lot of opportunities to better your soft skills. You will have to resolve potential conflicts which you can learn valuable lessons from.
  • Time and task management skills - You will have to decide who will do what on your team and to estimate how long each task will take, that way you become more efficient. You should also be prepared to cover for each other because any day can be the day when you write the code but nothing works, believe me happens a lot during competitions.
  • Making friends - meeting and socializing is as important in IT industry as it's in any other.
  • Job offers - Most of the time competitions are not just for the sake of competitions, there are always companies around that are ready to scout any potential candidates. The company I work for now got to know me from participating in their competition.
  • The reward - Usually there is a reward for the top three teams and who doesn't like free stuff on top of already rewarding experience.


I've learned a lot trough my experiences competing and as we all know there is always a lot more to learn, so I can't wait for the opportunity to form a team with my friends and participate again. What are you waiting for?

Hi 👋
Thanks for reading the post. I'm slowly getting back into writing, if you'd like to support me writing future posts feel free to buy me a cup of coffee.

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