Founded in 2000 as a national programming competition, today CodeIT is one of the oldest contests in the world with over 2300 competitors from 20 countries. Since 2007 it has been held under the patronage of the President of Bulgaria and in 2011 it went international. The organizer of CodeIT is Musala Soft and each year a team of the company’s former participants and Informatics Olympians is in charge of creating the tasks for the competition.

We would like you to meet the team behind the 23rd season of CodeIT: Dobrin Bashev – a student at The Delft University of Technology, having achievements in national and international competitions and Informatics Olympiads; Martin Kopchev – a future student at Oxford University, a recipient of numerous accolades in the field and a four-time winner of CodeIT; Stefan Jeliazkov – a software architect at Musala Soft and leader of the team.

Who introduced you to the world of programming and when did you know it was the right path for you?’

Dobrin: At the beginning of 5th grade at the National High School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences in Gabrovo, Mrs. Galia Nedelcheva started a C++ programming class which I saw as the perfect opportunity to win a ninja T-shirt. It was later that I realized programming is extremely interesting, requires logical thinking and offers countless opportunities for development. So going in this direction was a very natural process for me.

Martin: I got into programming in 2013, in 4th grade. At that time, I was attending Mrs. Kapralova’s C++ competitive programming school in Gabrovo. I kept on competing until I graduated high school. I’m going to continue my studies at Oxford University next autumn and further develop in the field of mathematics and computer science.

Stefan: I had my first taste of programming back in 2003, when I was in 6th grade. My informatics teacher at 5th Primary School in Stara Zagora, Mrs. Himcheva, put together a team to design a website with which we took part in an international championship in Turkey. We came third there. That was the first time I coded in HTML.

How many local and international competitions have you taken part in, and which would you say is your most valuable achievement?

Dobrin: Over a 100, roughly speaking, but I can’t give an exact number. For me, each achievement comes with a different set of difficulties and challenges to overcome by applying unconventional ideas. I’m proud of all of them but the most valuable to me is probably my silver medal from the first European Junior Olympiad in Informatics – eJOI 2017.

Martin: I’ve participated in countless competitions. The most valuable achievements for me are the silver medals from the International Olympiads in Mathematics and Informatics – IMO и IOI.

Stefan: Some years ago, I took part in website development competitions in Bulgaria, my favourite topic being astronomy. At the University of Pennsylvania (USA) I used to be actively involved in the so-called ‘hackathons’ where our 3-member team once won the Microsoft special award for an application for Windows phone, as well as the audience award. For me the most valuable aspect of all these competitions is the experience itself and the friendships you create.

How would you describe the experience of participating, and later, working backstage on CodeIT?

Dobrin: I think of my participation mostly in terms of having responsibility to the competitors since they invest part of their personal time in the contest. They must get something in return – suitable tasks, challenging enough to bring satisfaction once solved. This is the main goal of our team – making sure the rounds run smoothly.

Martin: The format of the competition is unique – one season runs from October to June, there are 6 online rounds, and the best 12 contestants from the main ranking and 5 from the junior one, come to Sofia for the final. This makes participation in the contest very interesting, so I really encourage this initiative.

Stefan: I’m happy this is the kind of project that aims at challenging the abilities of many software developers in Bulgaria and abroad, making them better and giving them the chance to compete. I believe this is the way to grow in this field, to upgrade one’s skills and learn how to overcome setbacks.

Which is your favourite part of working on the competition?

Dobrin: I’ve always enjoyed answering questions during the competition. That way I can help the contestants understand the tasks better. At the same time, I must be really careful not to reveal any part of their solution. Nothing works better than ‘No comment”, you know.

Martin: My favourite part is the discussions we have with the contestants once the rounds are over. Especially the marathons, after which they discuss the ideas they had.

Stefan: The very contact with the contestants. I find their questions and the various reactions they have to the challenges of CodeIT really interesting. The final itself is exciting, too, because of the live communication. All the participants are great and very, very talented. It’s an honor for me to meet with them.

What advice would you give the participants and those still hesitating to take part?

Dobrin: To the ones participating – good luck, and I encourage the rest to give it try because I know they’ll enjoy it.

Martin: To have fun, above all else. In the rounds the participants demonstrate their abilities and challenge themselves, there’s no room for worry.

Stefan: I’ve witnessed how people who have missed 4 out of the 6 rounds do really well in the last 2 rounds and go to the final. Participants should know that it’s never too late to take part. Participation brings different things to different people – emotions, knowledge, more confidence. Quite a few participants receive awards from the lottery held at the end of each round. So, participate!

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