An interview with ketzjs09

Read about our TCO17 Finalists.
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How has Topcoder changed your life?

Discovering Topcoder has changed my life in several ways. On the financial and lifestyle side of things, it has allowed me to setup my life in very unique ways, such as living in Goa long-term (my favorite place in India) and working according to my own terms.

On the tech side of things, I knew about quite a few stuff theoretically, but never got a chance to put them into practical use. It was only when I joined Topcoder, could I quickly put to use whatever I had learned. You can literally start learning about something today on YouTube and if you're confident enough, you can start using it in a real world problem on Topcoder the next day.

I don't think there's any other way I could've got a chance of working on such a large variety of problems, languages and tools within a span of just 2-3 years. I think Topcoder and crowdsourcing in general is the sweet-spot between a regular day job and having your own business, which to me feels like how work should be in 21st century.

Do you have a favorite Topcoder customer or project? If so, which customer or project?

My favorite Topcoder project has to be my first challenge. Was pretty surreal to realize that I have just earned around $200 on the internet in something that didn't look like a scam!

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you within the Topcoder community?

Being promised a geek joke T-shift from Jessie for posting its picture.

Tell us about an achievement that you are most proud of.

I think, winning the 'Living Progress – Data to Drops – Multiclass Learning and Classification' challenge. It was nice to come 1st in this competition, which had 21 submissions (the maximum I've seen in any of my challenges till now), knowing that my work would contribute to the noble cause of improving water supply in Africa.

Best music album to code to?

Strangely enough, I've been listening to a lot of Russian pop songs recently while working, like those by a girl group named 'Serebro'. 😀

I guess this is how it works: 'Russian anything' + coding = Great Results!

Who is your favorite copilot and why (and you can't pick yourself!)?

There are so many, but my absolute favorites are kbowerman and gondzo working together, because their specs are usually outstandingly clear and they don't seem to back away from implementing out-of-the-box scorecards and review strategies whenever the situation demands.

How did you get into programming?

Learned the basics in high school (mostly C and BASIC) and had some intro courses in the first year of my Computer Science Bachelor's course. But I started learning programming seriously only after getting inspired by the movie 'Social Network', which made me realize that one doesn't need formal training in some technology to start creating serious software products and that these skills can be acquired independently.

On the machine learning/data science side of things, I started researching into the state-of-the-art of Artificial Intelligence & cognitive science after JARVIS caught my attention while re-watching the movie Iron man II and I started researching what AI technologies are currently available and how far are we from the real deal. Since then, working towards strong AI has been one of my major goals in life, and in the process, I've learned about machine learning, which has allowed me to win some tightly fought challenges here on Topcoder.

So basically movies have played a huge part in my life!

Which IDE do you use and why?

if OS is Windows:
"Notepad++" #Because it's pretty lightweight and I'm used to it
"Visual Studio Code" #Overall a good editor (when Notepad++ not available!)

What books do you recommend?

My top 5 would be:
1. Programming Collective Intelligence by Toby Segaran
2. Elon Musk's Biography by Ashlee Vance
3. Benjamin Franklin's Biography by Walter Issacson
4. Albert Einstein's Biography by Walter Issacson
5. Howard Hughes's Biography by Donald L. Barlett et al.
(Yeah, I'm mostly into biographies!)

Tabs or spaces?


We asked the Finalists to use emojis in response to the following questions.

How do you feel about the TCO17 Finals?


How do you feel when you win a Topcoder challenge?


What is your spirit animal?


What's the weather like at your house right now?

What are your hobbies?



Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC)
Booz | Allen | Hamilton
Meituan Dianping

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